Buying guides > Health and Fitness

Argos Product Guides - Health and Fitness

Looking to get fit and healthy? Read these product guides

About exercise equipment

Regular exercise can make you feel great. But everyone has a different idea of what they want from it - to lose some weight, build up strength, or train for a competitive event like a marathon. And many people don't like crowded gyms, or the time it takes to get to them!

With the right exercise equipment such as an exercise bike, cross trainer, home gym, tread mill or rowing machine - and the right information - you can put together the perfect workout at home. Decide what your goals are, and click the links below for the equipment that'll deliver them...

What are your fitness goals?

Keep fit and healthy An exercise bike will get your heart and lungs fit
Tone up your body A cross trainer works several sets of muscles for an all-over effect, a home gym can add strength and definition
Lose weight A treadmill or cross trainer will help burn calories at a steady pace without giving you bulging muscles
Build up strength Try rowing machines for sturdy shoulders, or home gyms for all-over power
Build athletic stamina Combine a treadmill or exercise bike for running or cycling practice with a home gym to add strength
Train for an event Mix aerobic workouts on a treadmill or exercise bike with core strength sessions on a rowing machine or home gym

What is cardiovascular?

When shopping, you'll see the word cardiovascular again and again. It refers to the fitness of your heart and lungs. Using cardiovascular exercise equipment helps keep your heart in good condition, and encourages blood to pump around your body, carrying oxygen and energy to your muscles.

Distinct from cardiovascular fitness is strength. Strength-building machines add 'resistance' that makes you work harder, such as the weights on a home gym. If you want strength, you'll need cardiovascular too!

Other questions? Here are the answers to some popular ones...

Keeping safe

How often should I exercise?
3 times a week is a good rule a day with exercise, a day of recovery, then repeat. Always consult your doctor if you hurt yourself or are recovering from injury.
How long should I exercise for?
Start with a 20-minute session or until you feel hot and slightly sweaty. As you get fitter, work up to hour-plus workouts. Of course, the longer you go the more calories and fat you’ll burn.
Why should I warm up first?
Starting with low-intensity, gentle movements prepares your muscles for exercise. Stretch slowly and breathe during the stretch. Never 'bounce' a muscle or force your limbs beyond their natural range of movement.
Why should I warm down afterwards?
Stretching the muscles after your workout allows them to recover faster - which will reduce soreness the next day and avoid cramping.
Why is what I eat important?
A healthy, balanced diet keeps your body supplied with the energy and nutrients it needs to exercise. Five portions (a portion is about a cupful) of fruit and vegetables a day is great – but keep fatty or salty foods to a minimum.

What's your body's most important muscle? Learn about heart and heartrate.

Your muscles: where they are and how they work

The body has 13 main muscle groups, and different machines are designed to affect different groups. Some exercise instructions will refer to these muscle groups by name, such as 'glutes' or 'quads'. Here's a list of what they mean.

The major muscle groups

Gluteals or glutes The big muscles covering your backside. (It may feel like fat, but it’s muscle!) Treadmills, cross trainers, home gyms
Quadriceps The ones on the front of your thighs Exercise bikes, rowing machines, home gyms
Hamstrings The ones on the back of your thighs Treadmills, cross trainers, exercise bikes, home gyms
Hip abductors and hip adductors On the inside and outside of your thighs. Abductors on the outside, adductors on the inside Home gyms
Calf & shin On the back of your legs below the knee Treadmills, cross trainers, home gyms
Lower back On your back, near the bottom of your backbone Cross trainers, rowing machines, home gyms
Abdominals Wrapping around the front and sides of your stomach Rowing machines, home gyms
Upper chest Covering the front of your chest Cross trainers, home gyms
Rhomboids and Latissimus Dorsi On the upper and middle parts of the back, between your shoulders Home gyms
Deltoids Capping your shoulders. There are three parts, anterior deltoid (front), medial deltoid (middle), and posterior deltoid (rear) Cross trainers, rowing machines, home gyms
Biceps The front of your arm between elbow and shoulder Cross trainers, rowing machines, home gyms
Triceps The back of your arm between elbow and shoulder Rowing machines, home gyms
Hand flexors The small muscles in your wrists and fingers Home gyms

Your heart rate: why it's important to monitor

girl on exercise bikeExercise forces your heart to work harder, which makes it beat faster - your 'heart rate'. The fastest way to increase cardiovascular fitness is to train at a level where your heart beats at 70-80% of its maximum. That's why many exercise machines include a heart rate monitor, so you can check you're training effectively. Don’t forget we stock a wide range of heart rate and fitness monitors!

Your maximum heart rate is approximately 220 minus your age. So the average 30-year old has a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute (bpm) and should aim to maintain a steady 152bpm while exercising. Above 70-80% is the zone of experienced athletes.

Monitoring your heart rate also lets you make best use of your training time. Light exercise at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate will keep you healthy and active; 60-70% will help you burn calories and lose weight most effectively; and the 70-80% zone will increase your stamina.

Maintain a healthy heart and keep fit 50-60% Light exercise
Burn calories and lose weight 60-70% Weight management
Increase stamina and endurance 70-80% Aerobic base
Maintain athletic condition 80-90% Optimal conditioning
Compete at a high level 90-100% Professional athletics

Finally, remember that fitness isn't built during the workout itself - it happens as the body rebuilds itself, in the 24-72 hours between sessions. Exercising too often can lead to a weaker immune system. So always pace yourself, and if you feel tired all the time, catch a lot of colds, or your resting heartrate feels high, stop for a few days or check with your doctor.

Choose which machine to look at first: treadmills, cross trainers, rowing machines, exercise bikes, or home gyms.