EXERCISE IS coming in out of the cold

Some experts even say indoor exercise is better for you than jogging and running. Some exercisers point out it helps to be able to exercise without worrying about cold (or heat), pollen or muggers.

Of course all exercise programs should be planned with your physician as well as a fitness expert.


Stationary exercise bikes are probably the first thing you think of when it comes to indoor exercise. A bike frame and wheels are mounted on a sturdy base that sits on the floor. Most are foot-powered, but expensive models are electric. The electric ones, points out Charles Lundberg, manager of AAA Rentals, are for "people who just think they want to exercise."

The bikes run between $169.95 and $1,295 at Atlantic Health & Fitness Products, Glen Burnie. The more expensive electric models can be set at higher or lower resistances depening on your stamina. Fay Miller, who runs the business with her husband, adds that the seat and handlebars also move as you pedal. "This exercises your back and arm muscles instead of just your legs," she said.

American Physical Fitness Co. Inc. carries the simple no-frills Tunturi bike for--$249. They also carry more sophisticated bikes, also by Tunturi, for $595. The latter are often used for cross country training, says manager Brian Wilkinson.

The Springriver Corp., with stores in Falls Church, Rockville and Baltimore, carries exercise bicycles by Tunturi for $249 and a Tunturi odometer bike for $369.

AAA Rentals mostly rents, but will also sell new and used exercise equipment. (The used equipment is 25 percent off the original price.) Simple stationary bicycles are $20 per month to rent or $149.50 to purchase. A more expensive model, called the Dynamic Cycle, is $25 a month or $350. As you pedal a Dynamic, the seat and bars move back and forth, good for your legs and lower back, says AAA manager Lundberg. However, the company rents and sells more of the simpler model. AAA also carries an electric cycle for $35 per month or $570. "It really only fools you into going through the motions," says Lundberg. "However, if you're really out of shape or afraid of getting too much exercise, this model might be good for you."

Allied Rentals also rents the simple manual bikes for $25 per month.

The Bicycle Exchange in Fairfax and the Chevy Chase Bicycle Store carry Schwinn exercise bikes. The simple non-electric Schwinn bike sounds more like a sportscar than an exercise machine. Called an "XR7," it sells for $248.95. Schwinn also makes an electric bike called Air-dyne with an electronically calibrated tension, $548.95.

Irving's sporting goods store carries three kinds of exercise bikes priced from $107 to $263.

Herman's sporting goods stores carry the simple exercise bike for $99, as well as an electric one for $899. Herman's sells Vita Master, MCA and Tunturi bikes.

Small Trampolines

Circular trampolines, usually about three feet in diameter, are supported by six or more short legs. In addition to just jumping on the circles, one can do tennis warmups and yoga. Jumping on the trampoline stresses and strengthens every cell in the body, particularly the cells in the lymphatic system, claim the manufacturers. Miriam Schaffer, rebound unit distributor, claims that psychiatrists use them in their offices to help depression. "How can you be depressed while you're jumping up and down?" she asks.

The Rebound for Life Center in Arlington, owned by Brenda Schrier, carries five brands of trampolines: Rebounder, Sundancer, Vitalizer, Aerobic Bouncer and Globe Jogger. Schaffer, who supplies the center, says there are at least 70 companies now making them. Prices range from $119 to $199, depending on construction and materials. "Unlike jogging," says Schaffer, "jumping on the trampoline gives you energy instead of taking it away." Schaffer recommends using it twice a day, before breakfast and dinner.

Atlantic Health carries Rebounder trampolines that are 36 inches in diameter. The trampoline itself is made of heavy nylon mesh netting. Price: $126.50.

American Physical Fitness sells two sizes of trampolines: the circular three-foot diameter Rebounder and a rectangular trampoline -- both for $89.

Springriver Corp. carries a "Jog 'n Gym" trampoline for $129. "There are cheaper brands on the market," admits owner Reardon, "but make sure what you're buying is stable."

Irving's sells Exer-Tram, $99.99. Herman's carries Aerobic Joggers: $79.99 for a 2 1/2-foot diameter trampoline and $129.99 for a 3 1/2-foot one.

Gym Systems

Multi-station exercise systems have, up till now, been found in health and recreation centers. Now the systems are being made in a more compact version for the home.

Atlantic Health carries the Pro-Am Circuit Trainer that Faye Miller claims will give you a complete cardio-vascular workout. The system costs $2,250. Like the gymnasium-style versions, the weights can be adjusted from 10 to 350 pounds depending on your prowess at leg, bench and chest presses and arm curls. The unit also comes equipped with an abdominal board for tummy exercises.

Springriver Corp. also sells gym systems, ranging in price from $589 for Total Gym to $1,700 to $2,100 for a Marcy gym system.

Herman's carries a wall-mounted pulley-operated Marcy gym system. Ron Anderson, manager of the Athletic Department of the Jennifer Street store, says on this gym system, you can do bench and military presses, leg squats and arm curls.


Bradley Reardon of Springriver Corp. carries non-electric and electric treadmills. "They work well in a house, but would be very noisy in an apartment," points out Reardon. The treadmills cost $300 to $400 for the non-electric model, which runs on an incline. The electric version is $950 -- $1,100 with siderails and heavy-duty motors. Reardon also has an electric treadmill "in the mid-$3,000s" that prints digital computer readouts and can be elevated to several angles.

Jogging machines are available for rent at AAA Rentals for $25 per month or $270 for purchase. Electrically run machines are also available for $60 per month or $1,400. "Unlike the electric bikes," observes manager Lundberg, "you get as much exercise if not more with the electric joggers. A manual treadmill runs with the traction of your feet. With an electric jogger, you set it at a certain pace and have to keep up with it."

Allied Rentals carries jogging treadmills for $35 a month.

Rowing Machines

AAA Rentals rents rowing machines that you sit in as if in a boat, pulling "oars" with your arms and sliding forward. The rower is good for the upper back, says manager Lundberg. Rental fee: $25 per month. The machines can also be rented from Allied Rentals for $30 per month.

The Springriver Corp. says its second largest selling item after exercise bicycles is a rowing machine, made by Tunturi for $275. The machine is also good for the heart, which is the most important muscle to exercise, says owner Reardon. "It's also a quiet machine that works well in an apartment or condominium," adds Reardon.

Barbells & Dumbbells

Barbells are the long bar that you lift above your head. Each end has equal weights on it. Dumbbells are shorter and come in different weights. They can be held one in each hand.

Price depends on the weight. Atlantic Health sells a welded chrome barbell with weights ranging from one to 100 pounds for 75 cents per pound. The initial cost of the bar is $25. Atlantic also carries chrome dumbbells that start at $29.50 for a pair of 1 1/2-pound weights.

American Physical Fitness carries a beginning kit of barbells for $59, that include cast iron weights, up to 110 pounds. They also sell a $400 set, which manager Wilkinson describes as an Olympic set. The Olympic set comes with 310 pounds.

Irving's sells five-pound barbells for $9.99 and 10-pound barbells for $11.99. An entire set is $29.99.

Herman's has barbell and dumbbell sets ranging in weight from 10 to 400 pounds and in price from $32.99 to $519.


American Physical Fitness sells weight benches for $69 and up. Weight benches are narrow boards that you lie on while you lift a barbell. The barbell rests in two metal forks, located on either side of your head. Irving's sells weight benches for $29.99 and sit-up benches or waist-trimmers for $34.99. Sit-up benches are inclined narrow boards that you lie on with your head toward the floor. With your feet strapped in at the top, you slowly bend forward to a sit-up position. Irving's also carries chin-up bars that fit in the doorway of a room for $15.99 and $9.99. Herman's has weight benches for $29.99 to $159.99. Herman's also sells sit-up benches called "tummy trimmers" for $32.99.

Punching Bags

Irving's carries the smaller punching bag or Speed Bags for $32 and the longer and thicker bag, Hit and Kick Bags for $79.99. Gloves go for $29.99.

Herman's sells the smaller, "striking" bags for $17 to $47 and the larger, "training" bags for $59 to $180. Price depends on weight and material. Gloves at Herman's cost between $8 and $50.


Gravity Inversion Equipment is something else that might be considered for an exercise room. It consists of two vertical poles with a horizontal bar extended across the top. A person hangs upside down from the horizontal bar by grabbing onto the bar, swinging his legs up and hooking special boots onto the horizontal. John Rush, the company's Washington representative, says it's particularly good for the back. "When you're right-side-up, gravity compresses the vertebrae, pulls the tissues and organs of the body downward, even flattens your brain in your skull," said Rush in a recent interview. Price: boots, $85; bar, $25; horizontal gravity guider, $800; stationary vertical gravity guider, $1,300. Call Rush for details at 931-3974.

AAA Rentals carry belt vibrators for $25 per month or $300. Lundberg says they can be used anywhere on the body, except the small of the back where the kidneys are. "The vibrators are good for massaging your muscles, after you've done a lot of exercise," says Lundberg. "They are not really effective for weight loss."

Massage rollers -- rows of wooden rollers that rotate as you sit or leans against them -- are also available at AAA Rentals for $30 per month or $350.

Springriver Corp. sells Nordic Track, a pulley system that simulates cross country skiing. "You strap your feet into place on two parallel boards, which you slide back and forth on a roller," explains Reardon. Price: $550. Nordic Track is non-electric, quiet and good for the entire cardiovascular system, he claims.

Irving's carries an 8-by-4-foot gym mat for $15.99 and a thicker 9-by-12-foot mat for $69.99. Also at Irving's: a rolling wheel for the abdomen, $7.99; handgrips, $7.99; and twist wheels, $11.99.

Herman's carries small (3-by-6-foot) gym mats for $13.99.