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In other words, less than a third of folks in many countries are at what is considered to be a healthy body weight. No wonder there's such a boom in weight loss programs and fitness gear.
Addressing the elephant in the room
Writing for the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, researcher Amanda Montgomery has put out a resource guide entitled Addressing weight stigma and fatphobia inpublic health. In it, she makes a claim that is as much startling for what it says as it is intuitively obvious for those of us in larger bodies:
Public Health's focus on "obesity" prevention has increased exponentially within the last few decades, and with it an increase in weight stigma and negative attitudes towards people in larger bodies. In the past decade, weight discrimination has increased by 66 percent, and is one of the only forms of discrimination actively condoned by society.
Montgomery makes some strong statements about how our society treats what she describes as "people in larger bodies." She makes a case that referring to people as overweight or obese or similar terms is "extremely stigmatizing."
In this article, I'm going to be talking about a piece of exercise equipment and the exercise programs that come with it. But I'm also going to be talking about whether that gear will be usable by people in larger bodies.
With more than two-thirds of the populace living large, it's not appropriate just to review a piece of fitness equipment as if it will only be used by those who are fit and slim already.
It's also important to say that various fitness levels exist throughout the size and weight spectrum, with some people with larger bodies having much higher endurance and fitness levels than people with smaller bodies. Appearances can be deceiving; it's not fair or accurate to make assumptions about someone's health or fitness level purely by looking at them, and often shows bias.
Just to be clear, I am overweight and can technically be considered obese. If you've seen any of my videos, you can certainly tell that I'm carrying around some extra pounds. I know many of you know that because I've read the comments. And while more of me means more to love, I'm still committed to eating a healthy diet and exercising to improve my fitness.
This is not new for me. I've been working with a trainer on and off since the 1990s. When the pandemic hit, I was concerned about reduced activity, so I made sure to hit the elliptical and get cardio every day. I also lift weights, but without the gym, I'm limited to barbells rather than those wonderful weight machines. Even though I miss the leg press (my favorite of all the machines), I've been closing my rings on my Apple Watch ever since.
Both of these bikes come with 22-inch screens and have separately billed app-enabled membership programs. MYXfitness sells the Beachbody program for $39 per month for up to five family members. Peloton's program is $44 per month and allows anyone in the household to participate (up to 20 adult user profiles).
Seat height and depth adjustability
Handlebar height and depth adjustability
3' 4" L x 1'7" W
54" L x 21" W X 47" H
Rider height range
4' 11" 6' 8"
User weight capacity
350 pounds maximum
The bikes are very similar, so I'm not going to get into a comparison of the two units. I will tell you that the delivery guys who came to set up my MYX II told me they had to make fewer repair service calls for the MYXfitness bikes than for the Peloton bikes, which is an interesting piece of anecdotal data.
As stationary bikes go, the MYX II is a fine machine (with the exception of its seat -- more on that later). You can adjust the seat height, the distance from the handlebars, and the handlebar height. The pedals are reasonably comfortable and fit sneakers, regular shoes, and even sandals.
The MYX II bike uses a friction adjustment mechanism to increase pedaling resistance where pads rest on the wheel. The Peloton Plus uses magnetic resistance, meaning magnets are moved closer and farther away from the wheel to create resistance.
I would think that the MYX II's friction resistance mechanism might wear more quickly than the magnetic version because it involves constantly rubbing two surfaces together, but there's no way for me to test that theory.
As for capacity, the MYX II bike supports people who weigh up to 350 pounds, while the Peloton Plus only supports up to 300 pounds.
Obese need not apply
Here's an interesting disconnect. Most studies that cite the heft of various Americans do so by measuring BMI, a ratio of height and weight. But most fitness equipment sold is capped solely by weight. As a result, it's very hard to tell how many Americans are excluded from using equipment like this based on their weight.
I did find one article from 2007 that cites a study (which has subsequently link-rotted away) that reports that there were 3.8 million Americans who weighed over 300 pounds, and that number has surely gone up.
And yet, if any of those millions of Americans want to pony up the big bucks in order to get fit using a Peloton, they're out of luck.
For example, of the 45 indoor cycling bikes currently sold by Dick's Sporting Goods, only three listed a weight capacity of more than 300 pounds. And while many bikes were available for $300 to $600, the higher-capacity bikes cost well over $1,000. Yes, sure, people could risk buying and using a device not rated to carry their weight. But with so many large Americans, you'd think manufacturers would be building exercise equipment to accommodate them.
While the MYX II bike I'm reviewing here does support folks over 300 pounds, unfortunately, much of its design makes it difficult for folks with larger bodies to derive the necessary exercise value from the features that set MYXfitness' offering apart from a generic indoor exercycle.
Here's another interesting disconnect. MYXfitness is very proud of how large the screen is at the front of its bike. It's 22 inches. But if you want to ride the bike, you have to sit on a seat that's less than 7 inches wide. For the record, Peloton seats are just as narrow.
If you've flown on a commercial jet anytime in the last 20 years or so, you probably noticed how narrow the seats are in coach. As it turns out, the standard width of an airplane seat on a US commercial flight is 17 inches wide. And yet, MYXfitness expects its customers to comfortably ride perched on a seat that's 10 inches narrower than those horrid coach seats.
I removed the bike's seat. Here's a picture of the MYX II seat sitting on top of the seat that's on my recumbent elliptical. One is practical for the more than two-thirds of Americans likely to need a fitness system. The other one is from MYXfitness. (I'm not including branding information on the elliptical because I've had it for years and it's not something you can buy now.)
Fortunately, you can replace the seat. I bought the Bikeroo Extra Padded Bike Seat from Amazon. While it does add enough inches so the seat doesn't slide up my Posterior Maximus, it's still not exactly comfortable. But it works well enough.
Installing the replacement seat is just a matter of wrenching a few bolts, sliding out the old seat, dropping in the new one, and tightening everything back up.
The fitness program
There's a subset of the streaming video business dedicated to fitness. Peloton began the craze, offering trainers who were accessible from a screen in front of the exercise bike.
Apple offers a similar service (without the bike) called Apple Fitness Plus. At $10 a month or $80 a year, Apple's plan is considerably less expensive than the offerings from either MYXfitness or Peloton.
When the folks at MYXfitness first sent me this bike for review last year, they offered two completely separate programs: OpenFit and Beachbody. OpenFit has since ceased operations, and all the OpenFit accounts were moved to Beachbody. That's unfortunate because OpenFit did have some stretching sessions I found quite nice.
Ah, well. It's Beachbody we'll be reviewing here.
In keeping with the trend where fitness products are aimed mostly at already fit folks, Beachbody is chock-full of high-intensity workouts. It's also chock-full of upsells. Whether you visit the company's website, load the app, or even try using the service right on the bike, the company is actively pitching diet plans, supplements, additional gear, and more.
Beachbody offers quite a few programs with a good variety of trainers. But after reviewing all the programs, I didn't see a single overweight person or person with gray hair. Their programs are very focused on staying fit, not on starting slow with a larger body and attaining better fitness.
In fact, I had to contact the PR company to get some recommendations for programs for beginners. The company sent me a list of eight rides, but most of them were definitely not for folks who aren't already relatively fit.
Take, for example, the 10-minute warmup ride by trainer Dyan Tsiumis. She's cheerful and encouraging, which I liked. While she pedaled faster than I was comfortable with, the first 3 or 4 minutes of the ride were pleasant. And then, this happened.
All of a sudden, she was no longer sitting on the seat. She suggested everyone pull themselves forward by the handlebars and ride standing up on the pedals. Ain't no way I'm doing that.
I suddenly had a flashback to riding my cherished Schwinn Stingray when I was 12 years old. Giant Hands Kressley (who had been kept back more years than I spent in junior high) was often after me for my lunch money. Back then, I put every ounce of power into those Stingray pedals, stood up on the bike, and blasted up the Berdan Avenue hill, losing him after I crested the summit.
But I'm not 12 anymore. I wanted to do a nice, healthy cardio routine on my exercise bike and not levitate myself into channeling my inner prepubescent.
To be fair, I did enjoy the 15-minute Beachbody beginner session by Shaun Tubbs. I know. His name is Tubbs. I am not going to say a word about that. He was cheerful and encouraging, and it was pretty simple to keep up. But here's the bottom line. Beachbody offers a few hundred workouts, and there are only a few that are really suited for a large body or a true fitness beginner.
The Beachbody service does offer a few scenic rides, but if you search for "scenic rides for indoor cycling" on YouTube, you'll get a ton of these -- and you don't have to spend $468 per year for the privilege.
Apple Watch integration
The MYX bike comes with a heart rate monitor, but one of the things that initially intrigued me about the bike was its integration with the Apple Watch. You can link the Apple Watch to the bike through the Beachbody app, and as you pedal, your heart rate is displayed both on the Watch and on the bike's screen.
There's a Zone Calibration ride that you can take whenever you want. This tries to tie your heart rate to certain zones, so when one of the trainers mentions moving on to Zone 2, for example, you'll know what that means for your heart rate. It's a nice touch.
The camera in the bedroom
There's one feature of the bike that's not prominently mentioned anywhere on the MYXfitness site: There's a camera in the middle of the bike's screen.
I guess there might have been some plan to allow for one-on-one coaching, but I haven't found anything like that in the Beachbody programs.
There are live programs offered, and if you participate in one of those, you do broadcast your image into the background of one of the live exercise routines. I guess that might provide some folks motivation; another way to look at it is you're helping Beachbody crowdsource a moving background for its training programs.
If that were all it was, I'd chalk the camera up as a gimmick that didn't live up to its potential. But it's not. There's a privacy issue. A big one.
I put the bike MYX provided me for a review in the bedroom next to my elliptical. That's the only room with enough space for working out to be practical. I've generally kept the bike turned off. After all, nobody wants a 22-inch screen shining into the room while sleeping.
One day, I walked into the bedroom to find the screen turned on. It was a solid white. We didn't have a power spike or anything else that should have changed the bike's state, but there it was, turned on. It happened a second time a month or so later.
Unfortunately, MYXfitness provides no way to block the camera. You'd think it would include a little slider or something like Amazon's Echo Show does, but no. So, instead, my bike has lived with a washcloth covering the camera. It's not a good look, but it's better than having a camera pointed at my bed that randomly decides to turn itself on.
Additional gear provided
The MYX II bike is offered in two variations: regular and plus. The regular version is $1,399 and comes with just the bike and its included screen.
If you want to pony up an additional $200, MYXfitness provides a mat for under the bike, a mat for exercising, a little foam roll, a resistance band, and a few weights. While it comes with weights, it does not come with a weight rack. That will cost you an additional $150 (a similar design is available directly from Amazon for $60 -- and there are others for as low as $15).
The idea of the add-ons is that you can also do exercises with the Beachbody programs that don't involve the bike. There are some strength training programs available as part of the membership.
So, look. The product is good. It's just not right for many of us. If you ignore all the Beachbody video stuff, the MYXfitness MYX II bike is a nice exercise bike. I'm just not sure it's worth $1,400 to $1,600.
I've seen very similar stationary bikes at sporting goods stores at prices ranging from about $400 to $900, depending on build quality. The build quality of the MYX II is solid. But MYXfitness is pushing this to be a Peloton competitor, with included fitness programs, onscreen training, and more. And here's where it all falls down for almost 70% of Americans.
Both the MYX/Beachbody and the Peloton programs are tailored for already-fit folks. There's very little attention paid to people who are starting their journey to fitness, looking to incorporate exercise into their lives, people who are getting fit under a doctor's orders, and people in larger bodies.
You'd think these folks would be the ideal target market for both MYXfitness and Peloton, and it's clear from some of the messaging that MYXfitness does pitch its wares as personalized, citing the Zone Calibration ride as key to tuning workouts to your fitness level.
But here's the thing. You'd be paying about $1,400 to $1,600 for the bike and accessories and another $468 per year for the Beachbody program -- and most of it isn't suited to people of size.
Should you buy the MYX II bike? If you're fit enough to benefit from a Peloton and are looking for a less expensive option, sure. It's a good product. But if you're big, old, out of shape, or want help getting fit to begin with, I can't recommend it.
You can certainly use the bike and the weights to get in shape, but if you're expecting the Beachbody programs to handhold you or take into account your performance limitations, you will be disappointed and possibly discouraged.
If you already have an Apple Watch, the no-brainer alternative is Apple Fitness Plus, which is less than 20% of the cost of the Beachbody program. To be clear, Apple Fitness Plus is still fit-biased, with very few trainers of size or folks with gray hair. But the program does come with built-in modifications that let you change up what you're being asked to do to take into account your incoming fitness level.