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Pros Choices: Best Exercise Products for Under $20

SAN DIEGO - The Good News: We’re beginning to understand the benefits of regular exercise. The Bad News: We think that staying in shape is too expensive. The Best News: The American Council on Exercise (ACE) assures us; it’s easy to tone up on the tightest of budgets.

ACE, the largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization in the world, called upon more than 3,000 ACE-certified fitness professionals across the country to get their take on the best (and worst) exercise essentials for under $20. Here’s a list of the top five responses:

The BEST fitness product you can buy for under $20:

  1. RESISTANCE TUBING AND BANDS: Convenient, easy-to-use, and compact enough to take with you anywhere, resistance bands are a great way to strengthen and tone all the major muscle groups. Instruction booklets and videos are available to help get started.

  2. JUMP ROPE: Jumping rope is a great way to add variety to a workout when you’ve established a level of moderate fitness. Beginners can start out with just a few minutes of jumping per day and work up to continuous jumping for 20 minutes or more for an incredible cardiovascular workout.

  3. DUMBBELLS: Another strength-training essential, dumbbells are available in a variety of weights to suit everyone. Beginning strength trainers or seasoned gym rats can find further help in books, videos and personal trainers.

  4. WATER BOTTLE: No healthy tip sheet would be complete without an urgent plea to drink plenty of water. Most experts recommend drinking at least a cup of water for every 15 minutes of exercise, which makes a water bottle a workout necessity.

  5. THORLO-BRAND SOCKS: Designed to prevent blisters and keep sweat away from feet, Thorlo-brand socks come in a wide variety of styles for different activities, such as walking, inline skating and tennis.

And the WORST…

  1. ABDOMINAL DEVICES: ACE’s study on abdominal devices found that this type of equipment is no more effective for toning the tummy than a well-executed crunch.

  2. THIGHMASTER: A popular TV personality sold tons of these pretzel-shaped contraptions. A spot reducing product to shape and firm thighs, the ThighMaster can’t achieve the results promised unless it is part of an entire fitness program.

  3. PROTEIN POWDERS AND SUPPLEMENTS: The initial promises offered by protein powders and supplements manufacturers sound good but the actual benefits usually don’t live up to the claims.

  4. FAT-BURNING/WEIGHT-LOSS PILLS: Obviously, ACE-certified professionals knew what they were talking about. Shortly after this survey was conducted, the FDA ordered the removal of Fen/Phen from the market.

  5. ANYTHING BY TONY LITTLE OR DENISE AUSTIN: ACE-certified fitness professionals have a poor opinion of the products pushed on home shopping channels by these two exercise gurus. Many pieces focus on spot reduction rather than full-body fitness.

The bottom line is this: Big promises probably won’t deliver. More often than not, products such as these wind up in the back of the closet or in next year’s yard sale because people expect a "quick fix" and are disappointed when they don’t experience the expected results. There’s no short cut to health and fitness — no matter how convincing marketers can be.

Additional survey results appear in the January/February and future issues of ACE FitnessMatters.

For just $25 a year, you can receive a year’s subscription to ACE FitnessMatters. The magazine supports ACE’s mission of promoting active, healthy lifestyles to all segments of society. For more information, call (800) 825-3636.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at

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Founded in 1985, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization committed to America's health and wellbeing. Over the past 30 years, we have become an established resource for health and fitness professionals, and the public, providing comprehensive, unbiased research and validating ourselves as the country's trusted authority on health and fitness.

Today, ACE is the largest nonprofit health and fitness certification, education and training organization in the world with more than 65,000 certified professionals who hold more than 72,000 ACE Certifications. With a long heritage in certification, education, training and public outreach, we are among the most respected organizations in the industry and a resource the public has come to trust for health and fitness education.