Essential And Non-Essential Kit For Exercise

The modern world is awash with new innovations intended to help improve health and fitness. From kit to technical gadgets, exactly what kit do you genuinely need and what are optional extras?

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Whether you’re an occasional gym user or a training enthusiast, we help guide you through the extensive kit options available and assess:

  • Basic kit you must have for exercise
  • Core items of kit that you need to get started or just to take part in your chosen activity
  • Specialist training kit
  • Hi-tech products that can help improve your performance
  • Useful additions for exercise
  • Kit items that you may not immediately think of but add value to your training experience
  • Gadgets and gizmos
  • Useful and not-so-useful products that are also available

Get the basics of exercise right

Equipment aside, whether you are just getting started in your sport or are a seasoned campaigner, most of the basic kit items that you need can either be inexpensive purchases or items that you already own. If you get hooked on your chosen activity, there are always specialist items that you can buy at a later date.

The following table contains a ‘basic kitbag’ that you will need for gym and exercise classes, or outdoor training.

Product Assessment Verdict
Training shoes

Good training shoes are essential for comfort, durability and injury prevention

Investment in good shoes is a must. Visiting a specialist retailer is worthwhile
Shorts Your largest muscles are in your legs so shorts allow rapid ventilation

Generally more suitable than tracksuit bottoms

T-shirts Standard kit you cannot do without

A basic for every kitbag

Vest

Necessary for anything other than light workouts

Suitable for gym or outdoor use
Socks Sports models will provide more cushioning

Start with basic items and move up if you feel necessary

Long-sleeved T-shirts

Particularly useful for outdoor activities Provides protection from the elements and you can always roll up the sleeves if you get warm
Outdoor training jacket Important for runners, walkers and outdoor enthusiasts

Cheap models make you wet on the inside from sweat and also allow water through the outer material

Stopwatch Essential for outdoor training

Useful for timing things like: laps, shuttle runs and circuits

Sports bra Essential for support

The dynamics of sporting activity mean that standard bras simply do not provide enough support

Specialist and performance items

The majority of the specialist items assessed here are technical refinements of the basic kit items already listed. If your training is limited to a single exercise session per week, you may not wish to build up your wardrobe with an array of performance-enhanced products that you rarely use because the more hi-tech products typically command higher prices. Hence, your decision is likely to be influenced by your available budget. However, every item of specialist kit below will enhance your enjoyment or even performance in your chosen activity.

Specialist Product Technical Advantage Verdict
Lightweight shoes Lighter weight equates to faster times

May be more unsuitable for regular training because their light weight is at the expense of cushioning and support

Wicking, quick-dry shorts

More comfortable when perspiring by wicking sweat away from your body

Exercise comfort is important and modern materials aid your enjoyment
Wicking, quick-dry t-shirts Helps to keep you dry and comfortable Essential if you are going to be exercising frequently
Wicking, air-flow fabric vest Breathable material prevents unwanted rashes and chafing Lightweight material will allow you to get the most from your training
Left and right foot specific socks

Shaped to match your feet with sweat wicking channels and technical material can prevent blisters

Hi-tech versions do make a difference but can be expensive

Thermal, water-shedding long-sleeved tops

Keep you much dryer than a wet t-shirt Hi-tech materials retain heat and shed water rapidly
Breathable, water resistant / proof jacket

Have you ever been caught out in a downpour? You’ll understand how a hi-tech jacket helps

Excellent for keeping the weather out but less effective on wicking sweat if you’re exercising hard

Useful additions

Useful additions are those small, yet invaluable items that you add to your kitbag over the years. Generally cheap, nonetheless, they make a big difference to your enjoyment of your exercise or activity.

Product Verdict
Hat (thermal) A must for very cold weather activities (1/3 of your heat is lost through your head)
Hat (baseball-style) Useful for outdoor training on hot days to protect the head from sun and shade the face
Gloves Essential for outdoor winter training
Waist or belt-bag Useful for money, keys, mobile, energy gels etc
Training diary Extremely useful to monitor progress and as a motivational tool
Water bottle Important to main hydration indoors or out
Lace locks Handy gadgets that prevent your laces coming undone
Sweatbands/ headbands Useful if you perspire a lot, for hot conditions and for holding back long hair

Gadgets and gizmos

Many of these items fall under the ‘specialist’ category, often appealing to the enthusiast who is very active within their sport. However, not all gadgets and gizmos are entirely beneficial, take a look at our verdict to help you decide if they’re suitable for your needs.

Product Verdict

Heart rate monitor

A popular and highly useful tool for all types of training. A heart rate monitor helps you to accurately measure your effort rather than merely guess what training zone you think you are working in.

GPS related app

Provides a great way to monitor your routes, distance covered and speed. Particularly if you are going to be running races, then GPS related apps will give you a good idea of what time you should be aiming for on the day.

Bluetooth headphones

Music is a great motivator and many people could not be without it when training. Without complicated wires getting in your way, running while listening to your music through bluetooth headphones can make this option a lot easier.

Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses during outdoor exercise prevents you from squinting uncomfortably and protects your eyes from UV rays. A pair of sunglasses will also prevent any flies or bugs from finding their way into your eye.

Pedometer

Measures steps or distance. If you are struggling to find motivation for exercise then a simple and cheap pedometer might give you the push you need. If you can see how many steps you have completed, then you might be more likely to make up the last 1,000 steps to reach your target by exercising that little bit longer.