America's Healthiest Fitness Buys 2009
Brian HennIf your exercise routine is a little routine, maybe it's time to upgrade your gear. We've done the heavy lifting for you: Health tested hundreds of workout helpers—from clothing to shoes to gadgets—to find the best gear to help you reach your fitness goals. Our expert judges (meet them here) whittled the list down to an exclusive top-24 must-haves. So get moving with the best stuff around!
Best jacket: Lucy Breakaway Jacket ($88) This lightweight nylon-and-spandex jacket wicks away moisture (dries quickly, too), feels buttery-soft, and fits great. Wear it on a power-walk or bike ride, or to and from Pilates. Apparel judge Jessica Matthews especially loves the zippered pockets on the front and back.
Best pants: Athleta Organic Salamba Pant ($69) Soft, comfy, and breathable—thats why youll love these organic cotton pants. They fit well on any body type, especially around the hips and rear. Judge Matthews marvels, “They even help lift your derriere!”
Best bra: Brooks Sports PR Bra Top ($40) Breathable and supportive (up to a C-cup), this polyester-and-spandex bra has a thick band that keeps it in place no matter how active you are. Matthews loves the cool-you-down mesh side panels and the fact that this top is cute enough to wear alone.
Best shorts: Pearl Izumi Aurora Low Rise Short ($40) These polyester-and-spandex shorts are a supercomfy choice for everything from yoga to running. The fabric lets air through to keep you dry, and the low-rise style is incredibly flattering.
Best top: New Balance NBx Burnout Tee ($45) So lightweight, youll forget youre wearing it, this T-shirt is made of fast-drying and cooling mesh with UV protection—great for high-intensity outdoor activities.
Best bar: PowerBar Energize Citrus Fruit Smoothie ($1.25 per bar) Great-bar alert! This tasty one is high in energy-producing carbs, packs a good amount of protein, and is low-fat—the perfect blend for staying pumped during a long workout.
Next Page: Tools [ pagebreak ]
Brian Henn, Manfred Koh
Best gym bag: Timbuk2 Arnold ($120) Slim and durable, this bag has roomy end pockets and a vented shoe area to keep your kicks separate. Elastic top pockets and an inner organizing pocket/computer sleeve take you from work to the gym.
Best reflective device/light: GoMotion Sport Runner Litebelt ($79.95) You can widen and direct the beam from the embedded front light, plus it has a flashing rear taillight, reflective trim, and two small zip-up pockets.
Best hydration: Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle
($12) The innovative self-sealing bite valve traps fluids in the bottle. Plus, insulation keeps your drink cool. Works with cup holders, bike cages, and hydration belts.
Best pedometer: Timex Fitness Tracker ($90) Found: a wrist wrap that tracks calories, distance, and steps via a wireless pod you wear on your waist. Judges Therese Iknoian and Michael Hodgson love the simplicity of seeing your step count just by glancing at your wrist.
Best watch: Highgear Axio Mini ($125) This lightweight watch, designed for women, wowed our gear judges with its excellent fit. It features a thermometer, barometer, altimeter, and multiple alarms to monitor hydration, altitude, and more.
Best trail running: Oboz Ignition II ($95) Inside, a stretch-mesh bootie molds to your foot; outside, a stable “cage” keeps your foot in place. These comfy shoes also offer top traction and stability on dry, wet, or rocky trails.
Best light hiking: Teva Aniso eVent ($100) Ideal for short and long hikes, these shoes have excellent traction and stability, in addition to great cushioning and arch support. The seamless waterproof, breathable upper keeps your feet dry in all conditions.
Best walking: Rykä Muse ($70) Firm but well-cushioned, these shoes boast ample toe room and great arch support. Kudos, too, to the breathable mesh top. Plus, theyre deep enough to hold an orthotic insert.
Best running: Asics Gel-Kayano 15 ($140) Lightweight yet supportive, stable but not bulky, these shoes are ideal for runners looking for good, cushioned motion-control. The odor-free sock liner and stretchy-mesh toe area are nice bonuses.
Next Page: DVDs [ pagebreak ]
Best cardio: Results Fitness: 10 Days to a Better Body ($14.98)
Trainer Cindy Whitmarsh keeps boredom at bay by alternating minute-by-minute between intense cardio (like jacks or jogging) and sculpting moves. Dont worry about getting lost. The program, which comprises of two 30-minute workouts, is surprisingly easy to follow.
Best Pilates: Exhale Core Fusion Pilates Plus ($14.99)
This workout takes Pilates to a whole new level by mixing traditional exercises with innovative core movements and stretches as well as yoga- and dance-inspired moves. The DVD is divided into five 10-minute segments, each focusing on a different body part. For intermediate and advanced Pilates enthusiasts.
Best strength: Kathy Smith Total Body Lift ($14.98)
In this 69-minute routine, Smith shows you creative ways to use low weight with high reps—plus your own body weight—to sculpt and tone all over. The DVD lets you choose your skill level (though its geared toward intermediate and advanced) and whether you want music plus instruction or music only.
Best yoga: Shiva Rea Flow Yoga for Beginners ($14.99)
This is a true mind-body approach to yoga. The movements are so smooth that youll find yourself sweating without feeling like youre putting in tons of effort. Rea is a master instructor, and is easy to follow. Best for beginners and intermediates.
Best dance: Dance and Be Fit: Brazilian Body ($14.99)
Best for intermediates, this DVD has an authentic Brazilian feel and three engrossing 12-minute dance routines that will make time fly. Fun without being intimidating, the calorie-blasting moves—a mix of basic and challenging—are easy to follow.
Next Page: Equipment [ pagebreak ]
Best treadmill: Lifespan TR4000i ($1,999)
The innovative console on this treadmill offers an interactive USB feature that automatically transfers information to and from your computer to track progress and download new programs. A built-in Intelli-Step system counts every smooth, cushioned step, while contact pulse grips monitor your ticker. Plus, it comes with an excellent 5-year warranty, and folds up for easy storage.
Best elliptical: AFG 18.0 AXT Ascent Trainer ($2,299)
Smooth and quiet, this sturdy elliptical offers an extended incline range that allows for impressive stride variation and natural-feeling walks and runs. The iPod dock with controls on the console and wireless heart rate monitor with chest strap help you get even more out of your workout—whether you use one of the 10 pre-programmed options or make up your own.
Best stationary bike: Diamondback Fitness 900 Sr ($799)
This bike gives you a big bang for your buck. Besides its great performance, our Equipment judge loved the step-through design (no bulky base to step over), adjustable mesh seat with lumbar support, large display numbers, built-in fan, and a place to plug in your MP3.
Best weight system: Torque Fitness F7 Fold Away Strength Trainer ($3,598 with bench/$3,199 without)
This sleek, space-conscious gym folds into itself and is set up so the exercises mimic the way your body moves in everyday motions like bending and twisting, lifting and rotating. Get a customized workout program by going online to Torques web site.