American Council on Exercise Product Review
By: Sabrena Merrill, MS
The ChairMaster, from Cascade Health and Fitness, combines a chair, recumbent cycle, and elastic resistance tubing all in one exercise device. The unique design of this product allows the recumbent cycle to fold out of site under the chair when not in use, which represents a functional aesthetic in that it serves as a chair that can be used anywhere. The ChairMaster is promoted as an exercise system that meets the specialty fitness needs of sedentary individuals and older adults by combining a low-impact aerobic workout with resistance training in a user-friendly seated workout.
The two main population groups targeted for the ChairMaster exercise program are older adults and overweight/deconditioned individuals. Combined, these groups make up a large demographic in the United States and abroad. Furthermore, these populations are typically physically inactive so any program that effectively caters to sedentary individuals is worth considering. The ChairMaster is promoted as an effective tool in promoting a healthy, physically active lifestyle. One way it claims to do this is by eliminating two common barriers for individuals who have struggled to start or maintain a regular exercise program in the past—inconvenience and inappropriate intensity.
From my review, I concur that the ChairMaster is a convenient home workout solution, as its design takes up a small footprint (versus larger fitness equipment such as a treadmill) and it offers exercise options for the following components of fitness: muscular strength and endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, and balance. I also agree with the assertion that the ChairMaster ensures appropriate intensity by providing seated exercise that imparts low-impact aerobic training and resistance exercise without the use of heavy weights. These options make the ChairMaster optimal for older individuals or those with health concerns to achieve their initial fitness goals. It is important to note, however, that even at its highest level the recumbent cycling device provides a minimal level of resistance, so any progression of cardiorespiratory endurance intensity would have to be obtained via another means (e.g., the bench-stepping option behind the chair as described in the ChairMaster Manual).
The resistance bands that accompany the ChairMaster are covered by a protective sheath that prevents nicks or cuts in the tubing, as well as protects the exerciser from being lashed by the bands in case they break during use. The bands attach to the chair at different anchor points via clips, which is an intuitive process that requires little if any instruction. The band exercises are detailed in the ChairMaster Manual, but users could benefit from at least one session of instruction prior to starting to exercise with them. One aspect of the resistance-band exercises that might be tricky for older adults and overweight individuals is the determination of which level of resistance to use. For novice exercisers or deconditioned users, an instructional session on using resistance tubing and what to expect during their use is advised.
In terms of practicality, a positive aspect of the ChairMaster is its comprehensiveness in exercise programming, which addresses balance, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance. While the ChairMaster promotes seated exercise, it also includes many standing exercises in its programming guidelines, which are essential for promoting functional movement in both older adults and overweight individuals. The sturdiness of the chair sets it apart from other similar products available on the market that cannot support the added forces of standing exercises (e.g., leaning on the chair for balance and flexibility movements and using the chair as an anchor for standing resistance-band exercises).
For older adults, the ChairMaster could potentially facilitate the maintenance of healthy, independent, and active lifestyles through convenient, intensity-appropriate exercise. For obese and overweight individuals, the ChairMaster could be an effective part of a low-impact, whole-body workout that offers a means to directly increase energy expenditure through aerobic activity and promote enhanced muscle mass through resistance training.
Overall, the ChairMaster exercise program addresses the specific health and fitness needs of older, overweight/obese, and/or deconditioned adults without exposing them to unnecessary risks. It does this while promoting the concept, “Don’t just sit there; sit and get fit.” Given the prevalence of sitting time in most people’s daily routines, the use of the ChairMaster might be one strategy to combat hours of unhealthy sitting. Adherence to the program can potentially benefit the functional capabilities of the user in the areas of aerobic endurance, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, body composition, and balance.
The recumbent pedaling unit stows under the chair seat. When the recumbent unit is out, there is no step-over height, which makes it easy to use.
The recumbent cycle offers five levels of pedaling resistance, which transition smoothly from one level to the next. The system is also noiseless, which is an advantage for television viewing or other activities that might be disrupted by loud mechanical noise.
The design represents a small footprint (versus larger fitness equipment such as a treadmill), which is more practical and space efficient.
The backrest of the chair reclines, which allows for a variety of positions during exercise and adds to the functional element of using the device as a chair when not in use.
The chair is sturdy and can be held onto during standing strengthening and stretching exercises without fear of tipping over.
The ChairMaster offers exercise options for several components of fitness: muscular strength and endurance, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, and balance.
The cost might be prohibitive for individuals looking to purchase home exercise equipment.
The ChairMaster comes equipped with different lengths of resistance tubing, which are intended to provide various levels of resistance. Determining which level of resistance to use takes practice.
While the unit is designed to function and look like a comfortable chair that can be placed anywhere, the aesthetic of the chair might not be appealing to everyone.