26 October 1999

Home Gyms Work!

by Kate Melville

A study of overweight women by Brown University researchers found that those who used home exercise equipment as part of their weight loss regimen lost twice as much weight as their peers who did not, but who had been told to exercise The women with exercise equipment lost eight pounds more on average than women without the equipment over 18 months. There were 115 participants in the study aged from 25 to 45, all were instructed to do the same amount of brisk walking each day, but only about 33% had using treadmills at homes.

"The equipment made the activity easier to adopt because it allowed people more flexibility in their exercise regimen. For example, people may be more inclined to use the treadmill when it is raining instead of skipping a walk because they do not want to go outside. Or someone who must exercise at night may be more inclined to use the treadmill instead of walking on dark streets," said John Jakicic, assistant research professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Brown University School of Medicine.

Treadmills acted as a visual reminder of exercise for those in the study group however, the mere presence of exercise equipment in the home was not enough to make people lose weight. "The message is not that all you have to do is buy this equipment and you'll lose weight.

But it is useful when helping to build an activity into a lifestyle," said Jakicic. Participants in the study were broken into three groups. All had to attend group treatment meetings and were instructed to spend the same total amount of time exercising each day. Only one of the three groups was given home exercise equipment. Amongst participants, the largest weight loss occurred at six months, after which people began to regain weight, however those with treadmills regained the least.

The findings support the idea that there are a number of options for effectively incorporating exercise into a person's lifestyle. People who find it difficult to commit to an exercise regimen that consists of carving out a single, long block of time each day may find the shorter, more frequent sessions an effective option. But the findings have obvious limitations when making widespread recommendations because not everyone can afford home exercise equipment, and more research needs to be done on the effectiveness of the home exercise equipment in the regimen of a longer, single session each day.