From a new spin on the Hula Hoop to cellulite-busting leggings...

Pummelling one's flesh into respectable shape must, by definition, be difficult. If your exercise routine doesn't, at times, leave you struggling for breath or unable to heave your torso from the floor, then it's unlikely to be having a huge impact on your body. So if the weaker-willed among us are to stand any chance of sustaining such efforts over time, everything else about our regime needs to be as painless as possible.

Everyone's deal-breaker will be slightly different. For some, finding the time to get to and from the gym is a flat impossibility. For others, it's the tedium of the solo routine. In all cases, there are a multitude of gadgets that promise to alleviate our woe and a lot of us are prepared to risk sizeable chunks of our cash for the mere chance of a magic fix.

Certainly, there is a fair amount of snake oil out there, but even perfectly functional pieces of equipment can be white elephants if they are not chosen with your individual requirements in mind – hence that curious furniture hybrid of the 1980s, the exercise bike-cum-clothes horse.

If you are reluctant to exercise in public, for instance, then renting a piece of equipment for your home is a good way of testing whether you're in it for the long haul. Meanwhile, even fitness novices can see and feel results quickly via the quiet swishing of the WaterRower.

No excuses for those who claim their wallet is hindering their work-out – there are plenty of low-cost options. Dyna-Band's latex resistance bands, for example, are a fantastically cheap and portable aid for building muscle strength. Likewise, the Power Hoop – the weighted Hula Hoop that's a hit in the US and appears on our cover – is an inexpensive, take-apart bit of apparatus that seems like frivolous fun but is actually a serious waist-whittler if used regularly.

Of course, the truly exercise-shy may never be transformed into fitness freaks by hardware alone, but even us slackers can ramp up our day-to-day activity by merely swapping our usual shoes for a pair of muscle-toning trainers – Reebok EasyTones are the current must-haves (finding a store where they are not sold out is a work-out in itself).

But the bottom line, before you invest in any kit, is to be honest with yourself about what you will realistically be able to build into your life. So feel free to peruse our selection, but bear in mind that, ultimately, it will be all about you.

1. Power Hoop

Comes in different weights depending on your size and strength £49,

2. Dyna-Band

Available in four resistance strengths, there are few exercises that cannot be intensified with the addition of the Dyna-Band £9.99,

3. WaterRower

A realistic rowing experience, this works muscles throughout the body and can be stored upright From £749,

4. HoMedics MiBody 360 Analyser Scale

These hi-tech scales give an accurate body fat and muscle-mass reading £74.99,

5. Adidas miCoach Pacer

Accurate data on your pace, speed and distance, plus real-time coaching tips. Then upload to the website to create customised routines £120,

6. Shoe wallet by Hilly

Just the right size for a key and cash, this can be fixed to a trainer or worn around the wrist £10,

7. Reebok EasyTone trainers

The sole creates slight instability, which increases muscle activation £70 ,

8. Solidea Silver Wave Corsaro shorts

The patented "wave" knit is designed to stimulate circulation and thus break down cellulite £48.95,

9. Gym Performance Shorts and Seamless Yoga Vest

Functional and feminine sports gear £40 each,

10. Sennheiser/Adidas PMX 680 washable sports headphones

Designed for heavy activity and resistant to water and sweat £49.95,

11. Muscle Relief Bath Soak

A post-exercise soak with a blend of minerals and oils £18,

12. Shake Weight

This wobbly single dumbbell promises toned arms from six minutes of exercise a day £29.95,

13. David Kirsch Super-charged Greens and Thermo Bubbles

Kirsch's detox-support products deliver all the vitamins, antioxidants and probiotics you need Bubbles (by bath soak), £35; Greens, £52,