Toys for Toning Up

America’s fitness craze undoubtedly has thinned pocketbooks and wallets--fully half of all U.S. households report owning at least one piece of exercise equipment, according to a recent survey by the Fitness Products Council. Indeed, the council estimates that in 1996, consumers spent roughly $4.8 billion for home exercise equipment--defined by the survey as free weights, stationary bikes, ski machines, rowing machines, treadmills, stair climbers and thigh or abdominal trainers.

But what happens to these apparatuses once folks pay for them? The council’s survey found that 49.6 million Americans age 18 and older said they own home exercise equipment and use it at least once a week. Another 4.9 million reported exercising less than once a week but “regularly.”

Together, these two groups constitute 57% of those adults who own exercise equipment.

Among the equipment owners, the survey found:


* 40% were older than 45.

* Free weights were owned by 36%, treadmills by 25% and stationary bikes by 23%.

* 19% own more than one type of equipment.

* 39% said they bought equipment to improve health, 12% to lose weight.


* 80% practiced other athletic activities at least once a week.

* The average amount spent for any single piece of new equipment was $392.

* Among nonusers of home exercise equipment, more than 80% cited boredom or lack of time as reasons to avoid workouts.

Source: Fitness Products Council, affiliated with the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Assn. The survey results were based on a phone survey of 1,607 individuals.

--Compiled by TOM SCHULTZ / Los Angeles Times