Excellent elliptical exercisers, Vending machine pitfalls

January 17, 2011 8:46:28 PM PST
When it comes to exercise, experts say you should do at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

But only 40 percent of adults do. Maybe an elliptical machine could help. It gives you a good workout and is easy on your joints. Consumer Reports just tested 31, ranging in price from $450 to $3,600.

Testers designed a special machine to measure how much force you need to move the pedals at various resistance levels. You want a wide range of resistance or you can't mix up your workout very much.

Testers also measure the position your arms and legs are in as you work out to assess ergonomics. That's important because you shouldn't be exercising on the elliptical and be pulled out of alignment or extended too far.

Panelists also work out on the ellipticals to see how easy the machines are to use.

In the end, top ratings went to the Diamondback 1260 Ef for $2,200. It's well constructed, with very good ergonomics, and you can adjust the incline to get a greater variety of workouts?a real plus.

For far less, Consumer Reports named the $750 Nautilus E514 a Best Buy. It doesn't have an incline adjustment, but it's well constructed, with very good ergonomics.

Both of the recommended elliptical machines come with a heart rate monitor, a good feature to have. The monitor is a strap you wear across your chest, and it wirelessly transmits your heart rate to the machine so that you can gauge the intensity of your workout.

Avoid Vending Machine Pitfalls

We've all been there when afternoon hunger hits and you're standing in front of the nearest vending machine. But selecting a smart option isn't always a slam dunk, so Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine worked with outside registered dieticians to pinpoint some better choices.

It's no mystery that you should stay away from the Pop Tarts. They can pack in 420 calories, 4½ grams of saturated fat, and a whopping 32 grams of sugar. That's around eight sugar cubes! And steer clear of the Hostess Powdered Donettes, which have almost twice the saturated fat. Skip the Austin Cheese Crackers With Cheddar Cheese, too. There's actually just 2 percent or less of cheddar cheese.

If you've just gotta have a chocolate fix, Consumer Reports ShopSmart says Peanut M&M's are a better choice than a Milky Way or a Twix. That's because the peanuts at least offer a bit more protein and fiber.

Another tip-choose something that takes a while to eat so that your brain has a chance to register that it's full. Some good choices are fat-free Snyder's Mini Pretzels, SunChips, or Planters Salted Peanuts, which also offer a good protein boost. But you'll do even better by packing an apple!

Although vending machines are notorious for junk food, newer machines are offering vastly more healthful snacks, including grapes, baby carrots, and bananas. Fresh Del Monte Produce has launched a line of more healthful vending-machine snacks and even created special technology to keep bananas fresh for a longer time.