Skip to content


    Attention All WebMD Community Members:

    These message boards are closed to posting. Please head on over to our new WebMD Message Boards to check out and participate in the great conversations taking place:

    Your new WebMD Message Boards are now open!

    Making the move is as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Head over to this page:

    2. Choose the tag from the drop-down menu that clicks most with you (and add it to any posts you create so others can easily find and sort through posts)

    3. Start posting

    Have questions? Email us anytime at [email protected]

    Treadmill or Bowflex?
    Auntie_Kat posted:
    I am a 48 yr old female starting to exercise to lose weight and tone up. I want to invest in a treadmill or bowflex weight system. I'm so confused on which to purchase. I know when the weather is bad outside I will not power walk outside. Walking is really the only aerobic activity I like and will stick with. I have never worked out with weights yet know that strength training is a good way to boost metabolism, stay fit and lose weight, especially for someone my age. Both pieces of equipment each run $1000-1500.00. I was thinking of maybe just buying free weights and then trying to find a workout with weights someplace online that I can print off and then buy the treadmill so I can do both. Any advice?
    Louise_WebMD_Staff responded:
    Before investing in equipment--why don't you use a trial membership at a gym to see if you enjoy the treadmill or bowflex type of equipment? I also would consider trying to find a used version at a store like Play it Again Sports. You could also see if there is an exercise equipment rental place in your area so you could try both before making a commitment. Exercise bands are another choice for strength training that you might want to consider. They are inexpensive and don't take up a lot of room. We have some good articles that will help too: Tips for setting up a home gym, 5 essential items for a home gym, and 6 ways to build a better body on a budget.

    We also have this article Rating Workout Equipment including the Bowflex.
    sherlock004 responded:
    I have both and love both, though due to current health problems I cannot use either. But when I was healthy and able to use them, I think the bowflex did more to help my body than the treadmill, especially as a women in my forties. I have found nothing better for a tight abdomen in my whole life than the bowflex, with the possible exception of a vertical bench but that only helps the lower abs. However, if you decide to get a treadmill instead, get one that can go on an incline and definitely get yourself some free weights, which do not cost much (but educate yourself on the proper use of them or you could do some damage). But with the bowflex you can do circuit training (no rest in between exercises) which keeps your heart rate up and is equivalent (almost) to aerobic training. You could also do the rowing on the bowflex which is aerobic exercise if your arms aren't too weak (mine are, or I just am not coordinated enough to do rowing).
    tattooeyes responded:
    I never used a bowflex so I cant comment on that, but I love my treadmill I have had it and been using it for about a year now. I originally got it to get my lungs back in shape after smoking for many years. Now I just put on whatever shows I have recorded from the night before and run about an hour or so a day. The main reason I posted this cause the treadmill I have is great and was only 399 I got it from walmart it is a golds gym. Just a little money saving tip if you decide to get a treadmill
    kn1957 responded:
    As long as you're already a walker, you might want to try carrying weights when walking. Sometimes your hands can cramp up gripping handweights, but you can purchase weights that velcro around your wrists or ankles. As you swing your arms (bend your arms slightly), it tones arm and shoulder muscles, strengthens your core when you have to keep balance, strengthens and tones legs, and burns more calories all at the same time. It's surprising how tired you'll be after walking with that additional weight. It's an effective and much less expensive alternative to spending $1000 for machinery or gym membership.
    BarbJo60 responded:
    I use my treadmill more than the bowflex. I don't have an area that is good for walking so the treadmill is great. Check out ABOUT.COM's 12 weeks to weight loss. There are exercises for any level - beginner to advanced. there is a ton of exercises and includes treadmill and other equipment as options.

    For me the treadmill is used more because I can do toning exercises without equipment, but as I said, I don't have a way to get the walking I need.
    mariposa0724 responded:
    Hello Auntie Kate,

    If you have $1000-$1500 you should join a gym. No question at all.

    The most expensive gyms/health clubs are about $600 a year. That includes group classes, state of the art cardio equipment, all kinds of free weights and weight machines, and maybe even a pool and jacuzzi (good for muscles).

    Join a gym with convenient location and hours.. Make sure you like the environment. When I walk into my gym, it smells nice, is organized, they even put flowers on the front desk. The staff, instructors, and trainers are friendly and greet me by name. The members are not snobs about themselves. They're just there to have a good time and be healthy. Plus, they're dedicated and consistent -- big time motivator. Group classes are great. Sometimes I get lazy on the machines. You might want to go to a gym that caters more to women for this option.

    Fast facts:

    1. Professional equipment is in the $3000 range. The quality is much more superior. Your treadmill will break down in a year or two and you'll have to buy a new one.

    2. The best best best exercise is the one you know you'll stick to.

    3. Those lovely abs won't be visible with a layer of fat on top of it.

    4. Your abs are not your only muscle group. So a bow flex would not be a wise investment anyways. Strength training is for your entire body. BTW, don't ignore your biggest muscle group like most people do. (Legs!) They're your body's power horse

    5. If you have more than 20lbs to lose, don't go much faster than 3.1mph on the treadmill for those long walks. Faster is not a bad thing, but that's more to work out your heart.

    Yeah! Have fun...
    krell67 responded:
    I'm afraid I don't agree with Mariposa0724.

    First of all -- gyms are *not* for everyone. I much prefer exercising at home, as 1) it saves considerable time, and 2) I'm not comfortable exercising in a large space with people I don't know. Some people enjoy it, others tolerate it, I don't care for it. I find it much easier to stay motivated when I can exercise at home.

    As for the "fast facts" mentioned above, there is plenty of high-quality home equipment available for a quite reasonable price. My incline treadmill was $600.00 and I've had it for nearly 10 years of heavy use -- thousands of miles. Gym equipment is specifically designed for non-stop heavy-duty usage -- up to 12 hours a day, every day, which means much more powerful and durable (and expensive) motors, gears, etc. Your home equipment will not experience that kind of load.

    Also, avoid advice about maximum safe speeds on a treadmill -- everyone is different, and the right answer is to first determine your maximum safe heart rate and then make sure you stay in your effective range -- after talking to your doctor about your plans, of course. FYI -- 3.1mph is very slow, and while it may be reasonable for a beginner or someone who rarely walks it's not going to be effective for someone who walks regularly.
    BodyPumpGirl responded:
    Hello! I'm 44 and had never been consistent with exercise for long periods of time. About 18 months a friend of mine started really changing in a big way in her physical appearance, the way her clothes fit. I asked her what she was doing. It's called Body Pump by Les Mills and it's in thousands of gyms worldwide. It has literally changed my life. It has turned me into an exercise addicted morning person. I have lost 20 pounds and two sizes. It answered a lot of prayers at once. I crave cardio now. Body Pump gives you a base of strength from which everything else springboards off of. Please do yourself a favor and find a gym that offers it and try it 3 times a week for a month. I think you might end up like me-change for good.

    TinaParr responded:
    Well the bowflex can of course give you a more comprehensive workout, which is more beneficial to overall toning. But, like you, I'm really stuck on running and don't think that I could be consistent with anything else. For that reason, I say Treadmill because the important thing is that you exercise, not so much what you are USING to exercise.
    Bigmike230 responded:
    Having worked out in every kind of gym from high-end, luxury facilities to dank, dungeony hard core gyms I can tell you that prices will vary from $20 dollars down and $20 a month to $250 dollars down and $50 a month. that $1000 dollars you planned on dropping would go a long way toward paying those gym dues.

    Currently I have a gym in my basement. Its rather elaborate since I am an avid resistance trainer. My cardio takes place outside, where I can get some fresh air, hear the noises of nature and, yes, even get rained on a bit. Its actually quite refreshing.

    Having said all that the choice before you isnt nearly as involved as some have suggested. First and foremost I think a bowflex would be overkill for someone like yourself that wants to add a littel resistance training to an already established workout preference. If you want to engage in some resistance training and want a little variety without the big price tag then I recommend the TOTAL GYM. For ~$250 dollars you get the "good one' with all the attachments. You move only your body body weight and since each arm moves independently it requires a good deal of core stability and muscular control. Just as importantly, however, it has a minimal foot print in the home which would allow you to have BOTH a piece of resistance training equipment as well as your treadmill.

    Before anyone asks I've used the total gym personally and I can honestly say it works well - given what it is. It does a great job on abs, arms, chest and even outer lats. For someone just looking to add a little something more to their workout its more than adequate.
    goldwinggrandma responded:
    I am a 60 yr old female and have had both a treadmill and a bowflex. I enjoyed both but still have the treadmill and have since sold the bowflex. It simply took up too much room. I have had the treadmill since the late 80's. It is the one piece of equipment that I fall back on each time I decide to get in better shape. The bowflex is expensive besides the space it requires. Free weights and/or stretch bands are good for strength training. Susan Potter put out a book several years ago that has some good moves for free weight strength training. All you need is a chair, some weights and the willpower to do the moves. Much less expensive than the bowflex and very effective.

    I have been considering a tread climber made by bowflex. Has anyone used one of them? Is it worth the investment since I have a treadmill that inclines?
    Bigmike230 responded:
    Dont bother with the tread climber. If tread climbers were such the rage they'd be in every healthy club from New York to Cali. They are just another gimic.

    Susan Powter had some interesting ideas. Its unfortunate that she stopped following her own advice.
    Phil_SC responded:
    I agree with some of the other people in a few respects. First, if you would not mind working out with others, joining a gym would be the first thing that I would try. You would have access to a much wider variety of equipment and servcies.

    HOWEVER...if you are like me, then a gym is not the way to go. There are some serious advantages to putting together a home gym, which is what I have done. Less hassles, more freedom, I don't have to wait for equipment, I don't have to leave the house to go train, I can even do laundry while working get the idea. Also, for the amount of $$$ that you mentioned that you have available, you can do this quite easily.

    As to what pieces of equipment that I would my opinion, free weights are the way to go, since as you stated your goal was "to lose weight and tone up". I would suggest that you start with a bench that can be set for flat/incline/decline, and some dumbbells. (I prefer the fixed weight ones, since you can just grab them and go to work...but other good options are available, such as Powerblocks, which are great for saving space, or even those that you can put wegiht plates on and off of, which are cheaper.) You can even afford to buy a rack for the dumbells as well. You can round things out with some very cheap but nice items like a balance/Swiss ball, a small floor mat, and an ab wheel. can honestly get A LOT of stuff that will help you advance the game for yourself in your goals, with the amount of money you have budgetted.

    To illustrate this "~$1200" investment (over time) has gotten me... an adjustable bench & squat rack, pairs of dumbbells ranging in size from 5 lbs. to 100 lbs..two dumbbells racks, 350 lbs. of plate weights & a couple of bars for them, a power tower for doing pull-ups, chin-ups, leg lifts, & other body weight exercises, a Swiss ball, ad wheel, some medicine balls, and even some assorted kettlebells. However, I too started small and added to my equipment.

    The nice thing about dumbbells is that you don't have to buy them all at once. As your strenght increases you can buy other sizes. You can later buy a barbell and some plate weights if desired...but you honestly don't have to. Many people will tell you that any weight exercise you want to do can be done with dumbbells.

    Build your efforts to improve around the weights, and make them the core of your program. Cardio is important...don't neglect it...but weights are what will make the real changes. If you don't believe me, check out programs, such as "Body for Life", Tom Venuto's "Burn the Fat", or any of a dozen other ones.

    Finally...a word on the Bowflex. Admittedly...any device that you actually use is better than not doing anything...but I am just not a fan of them. They do save space (sometimes), but they do not provide the same "feel" as free weights, which they honestly state. For some people like me this is an issue, for others it is not. I just like freight weights better. A true best friend is a free weight advocate like me and has a small room full of free weights. Some time ago, his girlfriend wanted to tone up and lose some weight...(same goals as you) but she didn't want to use his weights...she just had to have a Bowflex of her own. I tried talking her out of it, but to no avail. Anyway...she goes out and orders the biggest one they have...then my buddy has to put it together for her...and she uses it for a couple of weeks. In the end, it gets sold, and she's using his free weights now.

    Finally, whatever way you go, if you shop around, you can save some big bucks on the weights and bench. Go to a place like "Play it Again Sports". If you want, they can save you some $$ on a used Bowflex, treadmill or Powerblocks. Check out the classified ads in your local newspaper as well; there are some real bargains there on like-new stuff. Heck...maybe my buddy's girlfriend's Bowflex is still making the rounds!

    Good luck!

    boog99 responded:

    I suggest reading the series of books by Miriam Nelson, PhD -- such as Strong Women Stay Slim; Strong Women, Strong Bones; Strong Women Stay Young and there even more of her books. Each book has a work out using free weights you can do at home. You can check out her website -- There are exercises that you can print. You can start out with weights that are comfortable and add greater weights as your body strengthens. She instructs and advises how to do this. This would be a good program to add to your walking plan. Best wishes.


    Helpful Tips

    I recommend you get your thyroid checked. I was having trouble maintaining my 75 lb. weight loss until I found out I was hypothyroid. Now ... More
    Was this Helpful?
    7 of 13 found this helpful

    Helpful Resources

    Related Drug Reviews

    • Drug Name User Reviews

    Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

    FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.