Low- or no-impact workouts are the best option for obese people (those with a body mass index greater than 30) because these workouts put the least amount of stress on the joints. Walking, recumbent biking and elliptical training are all good options. Obese individuals should choose cardiovascular exercise equipment that can bear the most weight (at least 300 pounds), and offers excellent stability and adequate cushioning/comfort.
Reviewers from TreadmillDoctor.com and Treadmill-Ratings-Reviews.com agree that the Sole F80 folding treadmill is the best treadmill in its price range ($1,500 in April 2010). It has a generous weight limit of 350 lb and large rollers for less wear and tear. It is easy to store and offers a comfortably wide (20 inches) running belt. The length is only 55 inches so tall runners may wish to select the Sole F85. The F80 is sturdy enough for running and may be inclined up to 15 percent. Another beneficial feature is its Cushion Flex running surface, which significantly reduces overall impact, possibly decreasing your risk of injury or strain.
Recombent bicycles are recommended over uprights for obese exercisers because they have a broader, more comfortable seat and require less balance. In a January 2009 article published in Consumer Reports magazine, the Spirit XBR25 was one of the six “Consumer Reports Best Buys” in the treadmills, elliptical exercisers, stationary bikes and pedometers category. Consumer Reports offers the best coverage of exercise bikes and bases its recommendations on rigorous laboratory testing. The Spirit XBR25 retails for about $1,200 (April 2010), but reviewers indicate that this piece of exercise equipment enables you to get a “fitness-club quality workout” for the price. The Spirit XBR25 offers several upgrades over the other models. For example, it has 20 levels of resistance and a high weight limit, making it appropriate for heavier exercisers (350 lbs versus 300). The XBR25 offers a lifetime guarantee on the frame and one year on labor and an EKG accurate chest-strap heart monitor. An additional comfort feature is that the seat has a mesh back for breathability (to keep you cooler).
The Sole E35 is a sturdy and quiet elliptical trainer that excels in independent testing and the price starts at approximately $1,300 (April 2010). It has a 20-inch stride length–longer than many more costly models–and includes wireless heart-rate monitoring, multiple workout programs and resistance levels. This model offers high-end features, but it is one of the least expensive quality models. This machine also features a 2-degree inward slope of foot pedals which reduces ankle and knee stress and can bear a large amount of weight without becoming jerky. Its motion stays smooth up to about 300 lbs. This machine offers more resistance levels than many models, 16 total. Its heart rate chest strap and wireless heart rate control workouts are features typically offered on higher-priced models.
About this Author
Michele Turcotte is a registered, licensed dietitian, and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has more than 12 years of experience in clinical and corporate settings, and has extensive experience in one-on-one diet counseling and meal planning. She has written freelance food and nutrition articles for Trouve Publishing Inc. since 2004.