As a working mom with a husband who leaves the house at 6:15 every morning and a child who goes to bed at 8 every evening, getting to the gym isn't really an option. As a result, I know the value of a good piece of home fitness equipment. So when the folks at Nautilus invited me to try the Mobia, their newest entry into the field, I happily accepted.

If a treadmill and stair machine got together and produced a love child, it would be very much like the Mobia. The machine's "treadles" move both forward and up and down (they rise to meet your feet, then you push them back down), so you get the intensity of walking up stairs, but without nearly as much impact on your joints. This isn't an entirely new idea—the Bowflex TreadClimber works in a similar way—but it's a good one.

Eager as I was to put the Mobia through its paces, I had to assemble it first. The brochure told me this should take one person an hour to do, tops. Well, I'm pretty good at putting stuff together, but it took me and my co-worker Sean well over two exasperating hours from start to finish. (My advice? Spring for the in-home assembly service if you buy one of these. Your time is more valuable than the extra $219, I assure you.)

This is a pretty simple machine, both in looks and operation. You just enter your weight and desired workout length, hit start, and gradually increase your speed. To help you figure out how fast you need to be going, strap on the heart-rate monitor to gauge whether you're working hard enough. You can add intensity to your workout by adjusting the settings on the two resistance cylinders—the higher the setting, the farther the treadle moves up and down, so the harder you have to work.

And that's that. There are no pre-programmed workouts, so you have to increase and decrease the speed manually if you want to do any kind of interval work. (Did I mention it's a simple machine?)

This isn't like a treadmill, on which you want to walk at a speed of 3.5 or even 4 mph or higher to get a good workout. I spent the bulk of my workout at 2.5 mph and medium resistance, and my heart rate was around 70% of my max—right where it should be.

By the time my 30-minute workout was up, I'd discovered the real value of the Mobia: The calorie counter on the machine showed I'd burned nearly twice as many calories as I would've by doing a brisk walk (plus, my muscles felt much more involved). Granted, the count might not be precise, but I would wager it's close.

Despite the great workout, I did have a few issues with the Mobia. The treadles are pretty short, and my foot nearly slid off the back a couple of times (what stopped them was the small platform at the back of the machine, which served as a sort of landing pad to keep me from flying off). And the spacing between the treadles is a little wider than ideal.

So the Mobia's not perfect. But hey, where's the challenge in perfection? Even with the glitches, if you're looking for a quick, effective calorie-burning machine, it's worth a look.

Product: Mobia home fitness machine

Category: Equipment

Pros: It's simple to use and provides an excellent workout in a short period of time.

Cons: It takes a while to assemble, plus the treadles are a bit short and too widely spaced. The metal railings can be a bit hard to grip when your hands get sweaty, too.

Cost: $1,999 at

Extra tip: Ignore the instruction booklet when it says to stretch before exercising. You never want to stretch cold muscles, since doing so can lead to injury.

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