You may think of cardio equipment as a one-size-fits-all type of product. However, manufacturers have made changes and upgrades to their cardio products so that they can be used effectively and safely by older adults, people with disabilities and elite athletes.
Older and/or disabled membersMany cardio products are promoted as "suitable for people of all fitness levels." However, some exercisers need some specialization. What type of cardio equipment is available for older members and those with disabilities? That obviously depends on the ability level of each individual member, but equipment manufacturers have made some adjustments to their equipment to make it usable by almost everyone. Says Bob Quast, senior director, cardiovascular product management for Life Fitness, Schiller Park, Ill., "Life Fitness designs its products based on extensive biomechanical research that is conducted with numerous users varying in height, weight, age, sex and ability." This type of research is common among manufacturers, and signals a change in the way products are developed for all types of users. Treadmills. Once thought of as the cardio piece of choice for only serious exercisers and athletes, treadmills now offer many features that make them accessible and easy to use for almost every member. Slower start speeds, smaller speed and incline increments, and shorter step-up heights make exercising on a treadmill easier. Says Eric Weber, national sales manager for Woodway, Waukesha, Wis., "With a zero slip belt, a true 0 miles-per-hour (MPH) start and 0.1 MPH speed increments, Woodway treadmills allow users to safely and comfortably select the perfect [workout] speed, . . . while maintaining a natural gait pattern. [Also,] . . . Woodway treadmills . . . minimize the impact of foot strike at the point of contact, allowing users with arthritis or other degenerative concerns to work out when conventional treadmills would be too painful." Life Fitness also offers a shock-absorbing deck, "which reduces impact to lower-body muscles, joints and bones by up to 30 percent more than noncushioned surfaces," Quast says. Plus, Life Fitness treadmill models feature wide widths and long lengths that make it easy to get on and off the treadmills, side handrails for assistance and low step-up heights. True Fitness, O'Fallon, Mo., also offers these key features. Keith Hankins, vice president, dealer sales, says that True's treadmills offer a low step-up height and a 23- inch-wide running surface, "making it a very safe/stable surface." Slow starting speeds are common for most manufacturers. Says Scott Logan, director of marketing for SportsArt Fitness, Woodinville, Wash., "Our 6320 treadmill features a very low start speed of 0.1 MPH to accommodate all abilities." Life Fitness treadmills also have a low starting speed of 0.5 MPH. Unique features are available on some treadmills for certain populations. "The 6320 treadmill features a motor that runs -3 MPH in reverse, and declines by 3 percent to aid patients in rehab settings," Logan of SportsArt says. And, Woodway treadmills can be outfitted with Braille, custom arm supports, harnesses and an optional easy access step. Woodway also offers custom treadmills to accommodate wheelchairs, and treadmills can accommodate users up to 800 pounds, says Weber. Some True treadmills offer a large 2-inch digital readout for easy viewing. Elliptical trainers. "Ellipticals are the fastest growing piece of cardio equipment, partly because they can meet the needs of all types of exercisers - from the deconditioned to the elite athlete," says Tim Porth, executive vice president of product development and marketing for Octane Fitness, Brooklyn Park, Minn. "They are low-impact, which is super for seniors and people with disabilities, and they have virtually no learning curve, so they tend to be less intimidating than some other machines," he says. The popularity of elliptical trainers may, indeed, be due to their ease of use and low-impact workout. For some people, even getting onto a cardio machine is a challenge, and manufacturers are dealing with that issue. Says Star Trac, Irvine, Calif., Director of Product Management Terry Woods, "One of Star Trac's main design principles is 'approachable.' This means the product must allow for easy access and adjustments, just to get started. Many elliptical-type machines force the user to 'climb' onto foot pads or pedals that are unstable, and begin moving as soon as weight is placed on them. Star Trac's new CrossTrainers are specifically designed to allow users a less-than 7-inch step up to a flat platform to get their bearings." Life Fitness' elliptical trainers offer "roomy pedals that allow users to comfortably position their feet and easily enter and exit the machine. [And] close, 2.8-inch pedal spacing . . . reduces lowerback stress by minimizing lateral shifting of the hips," explains Quast. Also, an optional plug-in function is available on Life Fitness ellipticals to reduce start-up resistance. The True Strider offers a rear entry design to allow users to safely enter/exit the unit, explains Hankins. And, "soft orthopedic foot inserts make for a comfortable ride," he says. A unique feature of the True Strider that makes it great for people of varying abilities is that it allows users to work out with their total body, lower-body only or upper-body only. Octane's ellipticals also have a low step-up height, and offer access from the rear, "making it simple to get on and off," says Porth. They also feature close pedal spacing (2 inches), and adjustable stride length. On Octane's Pro450 model, users can adjust the stride from 18 to 23 inches, which accommodates various preferences and user heights. Cycles. Cycles, especially recumbent cycles, have been a mainstay for older adults and people with disabilities for years. They offer comfort and ease of use, and many recent improvements have made them even more popular with members. Life Fitness' Lifecycle recumbent bike offers back support with "built-in contours [to] provide maximum comfort," says Quast. And, their low start-up resistance and an optional plug-in feature to reduce start-up resistance allows users of all fitness levels to easily start using the machine. True features a reclining seat back on one of its recumbent models.
|Ease of entry is addressed for cycles, too. Star Trac eliminated the shroud on its Pro Recumbent Bike to allow users to get on to the product easier, explains Woods. This design also allows users to transition easily from wheelchairs, he says. SportsArt Fitness recumbent cycles also feature an easy access step-through design, says Logan, and are "easy to access from a wheelchair." Once on the cycle, the Star Trac Pro Recumbent Bike features a wrap-around seat adjustment bar that allows users to change their positioning from a variety of angles. "Instead of reaching for one knob that could be anywhere, this bar is accessible from the left, right or middle when in the seated position," Woods explains. SportsArt Fitness recumbent cycles feature remote controls that make in-workout adjustments "easy and safe," Logan says.||
Directory of Suppliers
Biodex: 800 224-6339; www.biodex.com Body Cycle: 888 CLUB GYM; www.bodycycle.com Cateye: 800 872-1105; www.cateyefitness.com Concept2: 800 245-5676; www.concept2.com Cybex: 508 533-4300; www.cybexintl.com FreeMotion Fitness: 877 363-8449; www.freemotionfitness.com Healthcare International: 206 285-5219; www.hcifitness.com Jacobs Ladder: 866 697-4100; www.jacobsladderexercise.com LeMond: 425 482-6773; www.lemondfitness.com Life Fitness: 800 634-8637; www.lifefitness.com Matrix: 866 693-4863; www.matrixfitness.com Motus: 866 MOTUS NOW; www.motususa.com NuStep: 800 322-2209; www.nustep.com Octane Fitness: 888 OCTANE 4; www.octanefitness.com Precor: 800 786-8404; www.precor.com SportsArt Fitness: 800 709-1400; www.sportsartamerica.com Star Trac: 800 228-6635; www.startrac.com True Fitness: 800 426-6570; www.truefitness.com VersaClimber: 800 237-2271; www.heartrateinc.com Woodway: 800 WOODWAY; www.woodway.com