Are Fancy Fitness Machines Worth the Cost?

And do their hefty price tags justify their benefits?

woman using exercising bike at home
Photo: Rich Legg / Getty Images

You've probably seen commercials for the high-end fitness machines that make everything from running to practicing yoga look easy, simply because you can use them whenever you'd like. But are they worth the often-astronomical cost? We spoke with three fitness professionals to find out if their price tags are on par with their benefits, especially as you age—and here's what they had to say.

Fancy machines can make fitness more fun.

These fitness machines certainly have benefits: They offer users a chance to connect live with others from the comfort and safety of their own homes and participate in on-demand workouts, notes Dr. Chad Walding, DPT, a certified trainer and the co-founder of NativePath. In the context of the pandemic, he says, they offer connectivity in a socially isolated world. "Well-known platforms like Peloton have a big community of more than one million users," he says. "These machines make 'cardio' more fun with the online class format, so if a barrier to fitness is a lack of motivation or having trouble pushing yourself alone, this can help. And many track performance metrics and show real-time leaderboards; this data tracking is another way to motivate users to show up again and again."

But they are only worth the cost if you use them.

The best piece of fitness equipment you can own is the one that you will actually use, explains Vince Del Monte, a certified fitness and nutrition expert and BioSignature Modulation practitioner. "A lot of these machines can replace personal trainers, so if you're training every day and using them, then [they are absolutely worth it]," he says, especially if you're someone who requires motivation to stay committed to your routine. "However, if you're likely to be intimidated by all the bells and whistles, then stick with your dumbbells and resistance bands."

If you're over 50, they may be especially beneficial.

Anyone over the age of 40 should be focusing on cardio-based workouts to maintain their heart health and extend their life expectancy, notes Del Monte. "Resistance training is the secret to staying young," he explains. "Machines with resistance band work create constant tension on the muscles, which is actually easier on the body than dumbbells and barbells. These don't provide constant and consistent tension."

There are some downsides.

While they can be worth it in the long run, there are some downsides to splurging on a high-tech machine. "The downside of Peloton, for example, is that it's just a bike and only works the muscles you use when biking—mostly quads," says Dr. Walding. "It does very little for working the muscles on the back side of the body that help keep your posture upright, like your erectors, shoulders, hamstrings, and glutes." These machines also don't typically foster functional movement, which involves using multiple muscle groups at once; squatting, pushing, pulling, bending, and carrying are all examples of this. "Because of this, it does little to express a true range of motion throughout the body," adds Dr. Walding. Additionally, Liam Glennon, MS, NASM, ACSM, an expert with Perpetual Motion Training, says that effective training, especially later in life, requires constant adaptations and adjustments. "As we age, our muscles, joints, and bones age, and this needs to be accounted for in any training program," he says. "By their nature, machines are very restrictive."

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