Essential and non-essential kit for exercise

What kit you genuinely need for fitness training

The modern world is awash with technology and hardly a day passes without a new invention to improve our health and fitness training, being heralded as the latest must-have exercise gizmo. Sport, exercise equipment and more recently training kit, have all benefited from technical innovations but amongst the plethora of available exercise kit options, exactly what kit do you genuinely need, what is more specialist and what is an expensive luxury?

Whether you’re an occasional gym user or outdoor training enthusiast, we help guide you through the extensive training 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 yet add value to your training experience. 

Gadgets and gizmos

Tools and toys! Useful and not-so-useful products that are available. 

woman tying trainer laces

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.

Basic essential kit Basic price range
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.



Your largest muscles are in your legs so shorts allow rapid ventilation Generally more suitable than tracksuit bottoms



Standard kit you cannot do without A basic for every kitbag



Necessary for anything other than light workouts Suitable for gym or outdoor use


Sports models will provide more cushioning

Start with basic items and move up if you feel necessary
Long-sleeved t-shirts


Useful for outdoor activities

Can always roll up 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


Essential for outdoor training

Try and find a model with at least a lap counter
Sports bra


Essential for support

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

Basic items are usually affordable and even if you are starting from scratch, an outlay of £50-100 is usually all you need.

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, higher performance 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 kit

Price range

Technical advantage

Our assessment

Our rating
««« = useful
«« = specialist
« = unnecessary
Lightweight training or racing shoes


Lighter weight equates to faster race times

Unsuitable for regular training because their light weight is at the expense of cushioning ««

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 £15+

Similar to shorts

Similar to shorts


Wicking, air-flow fabric vest £15+

Similar to shorts

Similar to shorts


Left and right foot specific socks


Shaped to match your feet with sweat wicking channels Hi-tech versions do make a difference but can be expensive ««

Thermal, water-shedding long-sleeved tops £25+

Keep you much dryer than a wet t-shirt

Hi-tech materials retain heat and shed water rapidly «««

Breathable, water resistant / proof jacket


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

Excellent for keeping the weather out, 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.

Kit item
Approximate price assessment
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
£5-£10 Essential for outdoor winter training


Useful for money, keys, mobile, energy gels etc
Training diary

Homemade to £5

Extremely useful to monitor progress and as a motivational tool
Water bottle
Homemade to £5

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, so we’ve included a rating to help you decide if they’re suitable for your needs.

Kit item assessment

Approximate price

Our rating
««« = useful
«« = specialist
« = unnecessary
Heart rate monitor

Highly functional and useful training tool £35-£250


GPS system with speed and distance functions

Fantastically powerful gadget, can be unreliable in built up or wooded areas £90+


iPod or MP3 player

Great for music as you work out and not just for exercise £40+



Limited use in the UK but valuable for outdoor summer activities £15+


Pedometer Measures steps or distance £7+ «

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