Workout Tech That Works

Modern evolutions in exercise equipment

About 120 years ago, Horatio Vigor invented the Horse-Action Saddle and altered indoor exercise forever. The wooden contraption, a precursor to indoor fitness machines, simulated riding a horse. It could be adjusted to provide gaits ranging from a gentle walk to a canter to a furious gallop.

Marketing posters described the spring-based mechanism as “invigorating the system by bringing all the vital organs into inspiriting action.” It purportedly worked miracles as a “complete cure for obesity and hysteria.”

The saddle was available for purchase, but it was also rentable in Mr. Vigor’s gym in London. In either instance, riders were advised to “open all the windows where they were exercising.”

Simultaneously, not much and everything has changed since.

Fast-forward to the late 1960s, when mechanical engineer William Staub invented the prototype of the first commercial treadmill, the PaceMaster 600. It became a staple of commercial gyms and home workout rooms.

Today, rowing machines, elliptical trainers and stationary cycling (spin classes) are increasingly popular as alternatives to outdoor fitness, particularly in inclement weather. The difference between yesteryear’s machinery and today’s inventions? Rowing machines, treadmills, stationary bikes and other related cardiovascular equipment are digitally enhanced. Practitioners can monitor and analyze their progress in real time.

“Indoor cycling classes help you shed fat, improve your heart health and boost your muscle endurance,” says Dr. Melinda Ratini, D.O., a family practitioner writing on WebMD.com. “Your legs will get a serious workout. By the end of class, you’ll have a steady stream of feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins.”

Dozens of traditional workout gyms and more specialized fitness businesses, with indoor cardio options, thrive in Naples. Some are geared toward families, while others cater to enthusiasts in various life circumstances—pregnant women to seniors to rehabilitating patients. Naples Family Fitness and Planet Fitness co-exist with specialty locations such as Addicted To Fitness, Symmetry and Hardcore Gym.

“Indoor cycling is a low-impact workout, but it is no ride in the park,” says Ratini. “Many classes are very high intensity, so talk to your instructor and doctor first if you are out of shape, are pregnant or have any medical problems. They can help tailor the program to your needs.”

Different locations feature various indoor cardio machines, which work just as well for those who prefer indoor home workouts. Regardless of club or home, indoor training benefits abound: There’s less stress on joints; complete body workouts help burn more body fat; there’s an increased potential for weight loss and an increased likelihood of maintaining fitness after an injury or surgery. Cardiovascular fitness also promotes stress relief and improves balance.

As such, consider a few indoor cardiovascular training options:

• Assault AirBike (assaultfitness.com)—A stationary bike without a motor, the AirBike is a look back into the future. It looks like it may have been a barn find, but it’s as modern as anything on the market—with simplicity as its best feature.

The front wheel is equipped with a fan that provides wind resistance. When you pump and pedal easily, the resistance isn’t much. The more effort a user provides, the more severe the resistance becomes. It’s easy on joints and potentially a vigorous aerobic workout.

• Nordic Track RW900 Rower (nordictrack.com)—Topnotch trainers’ workouts are streamed on a 22-inch HD touchscreen. It’s ideal for home or facility workouts. The workout offerings are vast and varied, a welcome way to avoid monotony.

Like luxury vehicles that advance along the open road in church-sermon quietness, the RW900 defines operational efficiency. It’s quiet, a welcome attribute for those who enjoy watching television or a movie while exercising. Let the sweat begin.

• Peloton Bike (onepeloton.com)—Founded in 2012 in New York via a Kickstarter campaign, the stationary bicycle offers users spinning classes streamed from the company’s fitness studio. It’s offered via a monthly subscription service or for free if an enthusiast is visiting company headquarters in Manhattan.

Peloton’s cycling popularity prompted the debut of the Peloton Tread, a treadmill with classes streamed via a 32-inch touchscreen and soundbar mounted at the front of the machine. A Peloton rowing machine is expected to be unveiled this year, as well.