The best cheap piece of fitness equipment I’ve ever bought from Amazon, for myself or anyone else, wasn’t one of the best fitness trackers. It wasn’t a yoga mat, or a set of weights, or even a massive discount on one of the best treadmills or other cardio machines. Costing less than $30 (about £25 in the UK or AU$45 in Australia), it’s easy to use, weighs virtually nothing, and essentially acts like a home gym for beginners.
If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey and you’re interested in building even a small amount of muscle, the best advice I can give you is to buy a full set of resistance bands or tubes. They are great. Really, really great, and I couldn’t recommend them enough. If you were to limit me to just one type of fitness kit for the rest of my life – other than my best running shoes, and maybe a pull-up bar – I’d probably choose resistance bands.
Resistance bands come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are simple short loops, and they work well, but the sets I like to use are tubes of various strengths that end in hooks. These hooks can attach to handles, ankle straps or an anchor that can be attached behind a closed door.
What you end up with is a kit that costs less than a round of drinks but can replicate the effects of almost any weighted or cabled gym machine. Resistance bands can be rolled up and fit into any gym bag or backpack, making them ideal for on-the-go. You can exercise in a hotel, at the gym, in the park or at home. If you’re using a pull-up bar, you can use resistance bands to help take some of your weight as you work up to unassisted pull-ups.
And if you’re a fitness beginner, home is where the bands really shine. The insane portability of bands means you can get a full-strength workout without big, unwieldy machines or weights taking up a huge chunk of your floor space. They are also a much less intimidating and perhaps safer way to start building muscle.
Regardless of your fitness level, building and maintaining muscle is very important, especially if you want to stay healthy into your senior years. As you age, your muscles begin to waste, shrink and shorten, undergoing a process known as muscle atrophy. Fortunately, resistance training can help slow and even reverse this process.
Research from Canada’s McMaster University (opens in new tab) states “resistance training exercises combined with appropriately timed protein intake … may represent a highly effective treatment strategy to counteract the muscle wasting associated with aging and chronic disease”. A strong body means climbing stairs, maintaining grip strength and better circulation well into your twilight years.
Some seniors may not want to lift heavy objects, especially if they have been sitting for a long time. Elastic resistance bands are often offered as a cheaper, safer alternative to heavy metal or plastic weights. And for more experienced lifters looking for an at-home workout solution, you can simply double up bands to really make it harder to push or pull them with increased resistance. This means one set of bands will last you years of training.
Even though January is almost over, it’s not too late to make a change for 2023. For $30 / £25/AU$45 you’re never going to get better bang for your buck than this.