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Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 01:05 pm

Healthy & happy

Finding a fun path to fitness and other

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You’ve heard it all before: Mix fun with your fitness, the minutes will just fly by, and before you know it you’ll be 10 pounds lighter.

The reality is a bit of a different story. Having fun while you work out is more than simply mounting a TV in front of your treadmill and logging miles while watching “Dancing with the Stars” (though, let’s be honest, it does take the guilt out of the guilty pleasure). No, having fun with health and fitness means trying new things, doing things that appeal to you, and, most of all, sticking with it. Try some of the ideas below, and see if you can’t find one that fits:
Play video games
If you can find a Nintendo Wii, buy one before “Wii Fit” hits the market in 2008. Wii became an instant hit (and scarce) with its “active play” style, where users imitate the sport they’re playing, such as tennis or bowling. Ironic for a game system, Wii actually was credited with getting people off the couch. Nintendo has leveraged that and taken it a step further with “Wii Fit,” which utilizes a pressure-sensitive balance board for core-fitness activities like aerobics and yoga, as well as other “games.”

Laugh it up They say that laughter is the best medicine and, according to Dr. Madan Kataria, it’s more than just an expression. It’s no secret that stress has been linked to illness, nor is it news that relieving stress can improve health. That’s where Laughter Yoga comes in. Created by Dr. Kataria, Laughter Yoga combines laughter exercises, or simulated laughter, and yoga breathing. Typical sessions last 20 to 30 minutes and can be found through Laughter Clubs or through an organization offering Laughter Yoga workshops. Millennium SportsClub, Vallejo, Calif., recently offered one such workshop to give members “a new and different way of relieving stress,” says program director Jo Nash. Visit laughteryoga.org to find a Laughter Club or workshop.
Talk to your equipment With all the advances in fitness technology, it really was only a matter of time before sports equipment talked. That day has arrived with the talking jump rope. And don’t knock it before you try it — the jump rope offers a serious workout. The Everlast Talking Jump Rope utters encouraging phrases or plays music and features a counter that tracks your time, calories burned, and revolutions. Restoration Hardware’s talking jump rope and pedometer track and announce revolutions, time, and calories burned.
Bring the baby For busy moms, finding the time, motivation and opportunity to work out can be tough, which is why Baby Boot Camp was created. The classes are both pre- and postnatal and combine cardiovascular exercise with strength training for a full-body workout that targets all major muscle groups. Kristen Horler, founder and CEO of Baby Boot Camp, says that children up to age 6 come to the classes and that one of the biggest things Baby Boot Camp does with its stroller-based fitness classes is eliminate the obstacle of having to hire a baby-sitter to get out and workout. It’s also a great social outlet for moms-to-be, moms and the kids. “There’s a lot of camaraderie in the classes, as the women share similar life experiences and have that element of relating to each other,” Horler says. “It’s also very entertaining for the kids.” Most of all, it’s guilt-free and good for you.

Get your golf on If working on your golf game doesn’t seem like a way to get fit, think again. Fitness actually has more to do with golf than people realize, according to Anthony Renna, a certified golf fitness instructor and strength-and-conditioning specialist, who founded golffitnessproducts.net and the Better Golf with Fitness blog and podcast (fitnessforbettergolf.typepad.com). Both sites feature an array of information — articles, products and experts — to improve fitness for better golf. “Golf can be rough on the body’s biomechanics, and you really want to be as mobile and stabile as you can,” Renna says. Therefore, the better the shape you’re in, the better mobility and stability you can achieve, the longer you can play, the better your game will be and the more fun you’ll have. Not to mention that “all the tour pros are taking fitness more seriously” notes Renna, so you’ll be following in Tiger’s golf spikes in no time.
Exercise and educate Multitasking is the best way to get everything done, so why not exercise while learning a new language and culture? San Francisco-based Connect18 is a fitness and learning video program that takes you on virtual tours while you burn calories cycling. The videos feature the local scenery of an area, learning activities, road footage, music, and exercise routines. They’re designed for either a group setting or at home, so check with your local health club as it may offer classes that utilize the videos. According to the company, the video “journeys” are designed to “address the fitness needs of your brain and body.”

Eat trendy Everyone knows fruits and veggies are the staples of healthy eating, but getting the right balance of nutrients while satisfying that daily requirement can be tricky. Stuffing yourself full of one type of fruit or vegetable isn’t necessarily the way to better nutrition. Enter the hybrid. In recent years, the markets have seen the rise in the popular mixed fruits and vegetables, such as broccolini (a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale) and the pluot (a hybrid of three fourths plum and one fourth apricot). In the case of the broccolini, the result is a sweeter taste, while for the pluot the skin is not as bitter as that of a true plum. From a nutritional standpoint, these cross blends aren’t necessarily higher in vitamins and nutrients but may produce a better variety, says Chicago-based dietitian Jan Dowell. For example, if you take fruit containing just vitamin C and cross it with a fruit containing vitamin A, you’re getting half of each of the vitamins but you’re getting both the vitamins, which you weren’t before. Depending on the percentages of the blends of fruit or vegetable, the nutritional value changes but one thing stays the same: They’re good for you.
Buy yourself a present Rewards reap rewards right? Why should fitness be any different? One way to stick with any new fitness program or activity is to outfit yourself. If you’re taking up a running or walking program, check out fun, new fitness skirts from Brooks or SkirtSports that both flatter and perform. Keep your time on a new sports watch from Timex or a GPS unit from Garmin. Sign up for a fit, smart new cell phone, such as models from Nokia or Siemens, which offer phones with calorie counters, BMI calculators, heart-rate monitors and fitness planners. Set a goal and when you achieve it, treat yourself to a gear gift — it really does keep on giving.
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