IT takes time to get and stay fit. But with more and more demands on our time, finding some to visit a gym, jog around the block or drive to the beach for a swim is very hard. The gurus of the multi-million dollar fitness industry, never slow to spot an interesting opportunity, have realised this. The array of exercise devices you can have installed in your home is as staggering as some of the claims their manufacturers make. Advertisements for some passive exercise machines promise amazing physiological development. But don’t be fooled. If the machine does the work, there’s no way you’ll get fit. But not all home exercise machines are useless.Some are excellent aids to fitness. Here are a number of points to look out for if you are considering turning your home into a personal fitness centre:

* Is there reputable scientific or academic evidence to support the manufacturer’s claims?

* If the manufacturer claims dual fitness/weight loss benefits, does the equipment provide the aerobic exertion (exercise which increases your heart and breathing rates) necessary to achieve this?

* Does the equipment come with detailed how-to-use information in order to avoid injury? This is very important because, unlike at a gym, you will not have a professionally trained instructor teaching you the proper way to use the equipment.

* Is the equipment guaranteed against manufacturing faults?

* Is the equipment soundly constructed?

If it were to break while you were using it, you could be seriously injured. Once you have answered all these questions, the next major consideration is: does the equipment suit your own particular needs? It’s no use buying weight-training equipment (which builds muscle) if what you really want to do is increase your cardio-vascular capacity or lose weight. Here is a quick guide to home exercise equipment to help you choose what best suits you.

TRAMPOLINES

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Mini-trampolines became very popular a few years ago as an alternative to aerobic classes but unless you are truly dedicated their attraction tends to wane. They do provide good exercise. Research has shown the aerobic benefit is slightly more than swimming for periods of between 15-20 minutes. The main problem is that they can become boring and any slip of concentration can result in a painful injury. The plusses are that they’re cheap and easily stored. What to pay Costs for a best┬átrampoline range from $45-$95

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If you’re like most teens, you spend time cruising the local supermarket aisles in search of something good to eat. Even if you think you know what you want, once you get to that aisle, do you find yourself confused by the the choices? Don’t despair. Help is usually right in front of you – in the form of the new food labels. These new labels feature a redesigned nutrition panel that includes fat, fiber, and calcium information. Still not sure? Join us at the supermarket.

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Cruising the Aisles

Make the new food label work for you, whether you’re just looking for a healthy snack or doing the family shopping. Let’s take a quick look at the newest trends in food label facts.

First stop, the produce section. Lots of variety here, but no labels on the bananas or broccoli. Look for posters, brochures, or signs listing nutrition information for the 20 most popular fruits and vegetables. Nutrition data should include calories, protein, carbohydrates, fat, sodium, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Load up on foods from this section for nutrition-packed, low-fat snacks.

Heading for the salad bar for a quick lunch? You won’t find any labels here, either. Salad bar and deli items are not required to carry nutrition labeling. If you’re concerned about fat and calories. go easy on the prepared salads ads such as coleslaw, potato salad, and marinated vegetables – and on the salad dressings. Look for fresh fruits, raw veggies, lean ham or turkey, and reduced-fat salad dressing.

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Continue part 1

RUNNING GEAR

The Stick

Even a carefully built-up running program can leave you with sore legs. A soothing antidote is The Stick, a self-massage device consisting of a flexible rod with handgrips on each end and rolling cylinders in the middle. Designed to promote healthy muscle tissue, it can work virtually all parts of your body, from quads to calves, hips to back, neck to forearms. Tired cycling muscles seem to like it, too. Available in various lengths/flexibility, including: 17 inches ($26), 20 inches ($30) and 24 inches ($40), RPI, 800/554-1501 (GA); www.thestick.com

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Bodyglide

Blisters are to running as saddle sores are to Cycling. Fortunately they’re treatable, if supremely annoying. Many of our running friends are becoming partial to Bodyglide. Made from plant waxes, it’s a natural lubricant that protects skin against irritation. It’s easy to apply (tike a roll-on deodorant), water- and sweat-proof, hypoallergenic and petroleum-free (which makes it good for use with wetsuits, too.) It also goes on cleanly and has no odor. Bodyglide costs $6 for a half-ounce container. Sternoff, 888/263-9454 (WA).

Read More Full body fitness-Part 2

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18 activities that will make you a better – and happier – cyclist

I’m standing on the jetty at Kona on the big island of Hawaii soon after dawn, watching the start of the legendary Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. In front of me, 1,500 extremely buff humans in swim caps bob nervously in the warm Pacific like brightly colored Ping-Pong balls. Behind me, 1,500 very expensive bikes perch in row upon row of racks, glinting in the rising sun.

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The starting siren blares and the calm ocean suddenly roils as if somebody dropped a Big Mac into a school of piranhas. Unleashed, these triathletes won’t stop until they drop – or until they’ve swum 2.4 miles, ridden 112 miles and then run 26.2 miles, whichever comes first. The swiftest will finish in just over 8 1/2 hours (and average more than 23 mph on the bike); the slowest will take almost 17 hours.

As I bear witness throughout the long, hot, windy day, my bikie-bred disdain for “tri-geeks” takes a beating. These multisport athletes’ conditioning, spirit and toughness blow me away. They’re fit in a way that no single-sport guy like me can ever be.

I noticed it even in the days before the race while strolling through Kona. I’m used to the classic pro cyclist look: hunched shoulders, famine-victim upper body, sequoia-like quads. But triathletes’ bodies look so balanced, so healthy: actual muscles above the waist, sculpted legs sans cycling’s extra-kneecap look, and bronzed thighs and stomachs that have more than a passing acquaintance with sunlight. Read More Full body fitness-Part 1

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How to juggle kids and exercise, Literally,

The day my twin boys turned 4, their 7 P.M. bedtimes and my evening workouts went out the door. By the time they’d conk out (around 9 P.M.), the only activity I was up for was diving into my fluffy duvet. I didn’t stop exercising completely–I broke a little sweat working with clients–but I missed concentrating on my own muscles. So I decided to get the kids in on the act. I figured they could have fun and I could get some exercise.

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Get moving, kiddo I pulled out my workout balls and mats and spread them all over the garage, along with the boys’ blocks and puzzles. Then I hopped on my stationary bike. To my surprise, the boys entertained themselves for 27 straight minutes. Strength training was a little more challenging: I let them count my biceps curls, but after the sixth rep they got bored and stopped. I gave them one-pound weights (no heavier, otherwise they could get hurt) and suggested a game of Simon says. Together, we did three sets of biceps curls and shoulder raises (all right, so they took extended rest periods). Then I churned out 10 bent-knee push-ups while piggybacking Cooper on top of me; that was hard–he weighs 30 pounds. I worked my abs by sitting on top of an exercise ball, holding Payton and bouncing 25 times. He giggled; my stomach burned.

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