If you thought you’ve mastered all the techniques of using a dumb-bell, treadmill, exercise bike, stepper, upper body and kinesis stations, think again. New studies show that gym equipment might be able to offer you much more than the usual brawn-building exercises. In fact, hopping on to the treadmill more often can help your memory.

A study published in the Neurology journal in April 2014 found that cognitive skills improve with higher levels of cardiovascular fitness. The study, which tracked 2,747 participants in the age group of 18-30, concluded that those who had exercised at this age had better verbal memory when they were in the age group of 43-55. “Training four times a week has a very positive effect mentally and physically," says Deepshikha Agarwal, a Mumbai-based sports nutritionist. “Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and triggers nerve cells which, in turn, signal the brain to release new neurons." According to her, it’s so effective that it can even delay degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

We sifted through studies and asked experts to tell us how equipment in the gym can help elevate your daily workout.

Hop on the rower

“The indoor rower is an effective cardio machine which has gone out of fashion in recent years," says Shraddha Sheth, vice-president, sales, operations and marketing, Gold’s Gym India. “The rowing workout is a challenging one that targets the entire body since you have to move both arms and legs simultaneously." The workout improves cardiovascular and muscular endurance, burns calories like no one’s business and engages the core muscles. Wanitha Ashok, a Bengaluru-based fitness expert, agrees. “Rowing aims at major muscle groups like the legs, arms, chest, shoulders, upper back, abdominals and buttocks, taking them through a wide range of motion, and also helps tone the thighs and buttocks and firm up arms and back muscles," she says. The rhythmic style helps the body switch to the fat-burning zone. “Within 10 minutes, the body is burning fat and calories, so your workout time is reduced," she adds. Ashok suggests beginning by rowing for 10 minutes a day.

Dumb-bells are more effective than push-ups

Want to pump up your shoulders? Dumb-bells might be more effective than push-ups, according to a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, a non-profit fitness education and research organization. “For an optimal workout, you’re best served doing the dumb-bell shoulder press to target the front of the shoulders," says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer, ACE Fitness, at Kirkland, Washington, DC, US, over email. He suggests combining that with a 45-degree incline row or the seated rear lateral raise for the rear part of the shoulders. Channa says body-weight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups are harder to perform. “On the other hand, even with lighter weights, you can gain muscle and strength," he says.

Resistance bands add zing

Want to improve muscle strength? Agarwal suggests alternating weights with resistance-band exercises . “Ignored by most people going to the gym, the resistance band is durable, low maintenance and works all parts of the body," she says. She suggests adding 15-18 sets with different resistance (strength from 1-3) before your cardio workout, or combining it with weight training.

Boost the core with a Bosu ball

Mumbai-based Vinod Channa, a celebrity trainer and fitness expert, believes people often underestimate and ignore the smaller gadgets in a gym. “Wall slides, Swiss ball, medicine ball, ladder, Bosu ball, battle rope...all of these are very good for improving agility, balance and speed, as well as strength and flexibility." His personal favourite, something he suggests regularly to his clients, is the Bosu ball. This half-sphere-shaped ball can increase the muscle involvement in squats, push-ups, upper- body movement, shoulder and side press. “When you do the strengthening regime on the floor, you work just one muscle, but add the Bosu ball to the same workout and you’ll also work your core and improve your balance," he says. Since your core will become stronger, this will help you perform better in other sports and avoid muscle tear and injury. He suggests a mix and match with your current weight training. “Just add Bosu to your regular workout and weight training, for 10-20 seconds maximum in a set, to boost your core," he says.

Sweat more to keep the bacteria away

Grunting it out at the gym not only tones your body, it also gives you much needed immunity against superbugs and deadly strains of tuberculosis, say researchers. A study, published in the ‘Proceedings Of The Natural Academy Of Sciences’ in February 2013, examined the infection-fighting proteins produced on human skin using a special X-ray imaging technology and found that sweat-produced proteins pushed fluids into the cell wall of the bug and destroyed it in milliseconds. “Although not as efficient as a dose of strong antibiotics, these infection-fighting proteins act on a range of harmful bugs," says Ulrich Zachariae, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and one of the authors of the study, in a press release. “Other than this, sweating also acts like a fighting force field for germs, flushing out harmful toxins and keeping your skin pores clean," adds Agarwal.

A foam roller is better than a stretch

When it comes to calves and ankles, a foam-roller massage is much more effective than a static stretch or even a hand massage, according to a study published in the ‘International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy’ in February 2014. “Static stretching means holding the same position for a minute. A roller post a workout gives you a range of motion," says Channa. He suggests combining the foam roller with “dynamic stretching to increase flexibility and range of motion".

Play with your treadmill

“Most people put the treadmill on one pace and let it be," says Leena Mogre, a fitness expert and author of ‘Total Fitness’. “Those who use the treadmill continue to jog at the same speed." Mogre suggests that playing with incline, sprint and jog will make the workout more interesting and effective. Instead of 45 minutes of jog, do a 10-minute warm-up, then alternate between 1 minute of sprint and 2 minutes of jog for 20 minutes," she says. The intensive workout will burn 500-600 calories more.

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