Why do you exercise? Chances are you can think of a variety of reasons why staying fit is important. Perhaps you regularly train with weights because you know it makes bones denser and provides attractive muscle tone. Maybe you do a cardio routine because you know it’s good for your heart and helps burn excess calories. Some people make exercise a regular part of their weekly routine in order to prepare to run in an upcoming 5k race or compete in a bodybuilding show.
Regardless of how many reasons you can think of, they all really boil down to a simple motivation. You exercise because you know that being fit gives you better quality of life. People who exercise regularly tend to live longer, more fulfilling lives. They have fewer health problems and are able to maintain an active lifestyle well into the so-called golden years.
There is little debate about the advantages of leading an active lifestyle over being sedentary. But what type of exercise yields the best results? Over the years, gyms and health clubs have exploded in popularity. Most of these gyms are crammed with exercise machines of various descriptions: treadmills, elliptical trainers, and weight machines to name a few. Many people use such machines faithfully, week after week, month after month, but there are reasons why even the best elliptical trainers , treadmills, and weight machines may not be the best method to achieving physical fitness. Here are just a few reasons why:
When we work out on exercise machines, we tend to isolate a particular muscle or muscle group, like the bicep or the rear deltoids, while ignoring every other muscle in our body. Ask yourself how well such isolation mimics real life situations? The answer is: not at all. Our bodies are intricately designed to work in perfect coordination. In everyday life we never utilize just one muscle group at a time. Climbing a flight of stairs, lifting a stack of boxes, and even walking down the street all require that nearly all of our 700 muscles work in concert to accomplish the task. Each muscle supports at least one other, making the isolation inherent in exercise machine workouts unnatural and counterproductive.
When humans participate in a team sport or some other type of active recreation, they cannot prepare for this activity by working out on exercise machines. Successful participation in real world activities like baseball and mountain biking requires actually practicing those activities. The static motions forced upon the body by exercise machines do not translate well to the swift changes of direction and dynamic motion required by real life sports.
Your body is designed to move along no fewer than three planes, and it is realistic to expect your body to utilize more than one plane at any given moment. Exercise machines restrict this realistic aspect of the mobility of the human body, again preventing you from getting the most efficient use of your muscles.
Some people are quite tall, while others have never reached even five feet in height. Yet they may be using the same exercise machines at the gym. Of course, most machines allow for some degree of customization, such as the ability to raise or lower a seat or a bar. But how many of these machines can actually accommodate the extreme size differences that can exist within any given population? A machine that cannot truly adjust to your proportions is one that is unsafe for you to use.
Each of us has a unique body which comes equipped with its own capabilities and quirks. Exercise machines are never versatile enough to fully account for the uniqueness of every human body. The restrictive nature of exercise machines can force people to move in a manner that is unnatural, and therefore harmful, to their body, thereby causing an injury or resulting in the inefficient use of exercise time.
Exercise machines give users something to hold on to, lean against, or in some other way balance themselves. When we are exercising while relying on artificial means to provide stabilization, we are not making optimum use of all muscle groups and we’re cheating ourselves out of the opportunity of developing our core muscles.
Take, for instance, the seated leg extension. For years we’ve used these machines to develop the quadriceps, but this machine can actually harm the knees by placing the resistance at our ankles . Standing exercises like squats and lunges actually place a lesser burden on our knees, making them safer and more effective exercises.
Many people enjoy a cardio workout on an elliptical machine. Why? Because it seems so easy. Every workout does not have to be an out-and-out struggle to be effective, but it should at least be reasonably strenuous to get the optimum benefit. Completing an actual five mile hike versus completing five miles on the elliptical machine will burn more calories and put your body under the positive stress it needs to get leaner and fitter.
People are busy, which leads them to multitask unrelated items. However, results of studies suggest that multitasking at home and in the office often cause chores to take longer to complete and can cause errors . But multitasking mis-steps can also happen at the gym. Reading while using a stationary bike, elliptical machine, or treadmill will actually reduce the effectiveness of your workout because you’re distracted by trying to do two things at once. It’s difficult to get the most out of your workout while your brain is focused on something else. Reading or doing other tasks while using exercise machines can cause injury and make you go easy on the intensity of your workout, preventing you from getting the results you want.
An elliptical machine is capable of giving a better total-body workout than a treadmill because it engages both the upper and lower body. It also puts less impact on joints, so anyone with an injury may actually benefit from an elliptical workout. Balance cardio on a machine with a free-weight routine to get the most out of your gym time.