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On Fitness
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• Mini-pedals
• Body-mass index
• Renting equipment
• Pilates support groups

Fitness Notebook
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Fitness for free
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is seeking volunteers to participate in a six-month study testing the effectiveness of a diet and exercise program on weight loss in breast-cancer survivors. Participants must have a history of stage 1-2a breast cancer, be three months to three years past completion of treatment, have no recurrence of the disease, be able to exercise at moderate levels and be overweight. They'll receive nutritional training and will work with an exercise specialist to develop and maintain a program of 30- to 45-minute workouts five days a week, at home or at one of four area study facilities. For more information, call 206-667-6696 or e-mail
Tone that swing
"Total Conditioning for Golfers" is a 144-page spiral-bound book by Neil Chasan, a physical therapist and cofounder of the Sports Reaction Center in Bellevue. In addition to chapters on biomechanical elements of the golf swing, nutrition and the mental side of the game, Chasan presents his Swing Reaction System, including warm-up, stretches and 18 exercises (illustrated with photographs). $19.95. Information: 425-643-9778 or
Move for fewer colds
Regular participation in moderate physical activity reduces the risk of getting a cold by nearly 25 percent, found a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (August 2002). Earlier studies have shown that extreme exertion can increase the risk of developing an upper-respiratory-tract infection.
Q. I'm an old lady, soon to be 94, and I don't get much exercise. My daughter bought me one of those little things that sit on the floor and let you pedal like a bicycle. I pedal forwards and backwards. Is it doing me any good? I can walk all right, but I'm getting old and weaker. I like to go shopping with my daughter, and I'd like to have more stamina.

— H.H.

A. "This device is a good place to start a program because using it daily will improve blood circulation, help lower the risk of blood clots forming, improve joint mobility, build some muscle and, depending on your exertion level, provide mild pre-aerobic benefits," says Mary Andrews of Step Out With Seniors (253-862-3862), who teaches fitness classes for seniors and instructors. Possible drawbacks: The device might not offer a way to increase pedaling resistance; it might shift around, keeping you from pedaling vigorously; or it might simply be boring. Andrews recommends moving to a stationary bicycle fitted to you.

She also suggests that, if possible, you do some exercises to strengthen the leg. For resistance, she has seniors use an old sock filled with unpopped popcorn or beans and tied off with a rubber band. For the front of the thighs, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, drape the sock over one instep, straighten and lower your leg, repeat, then switch legs. For the back of the thighs, stand next to a chair or counter for balance, drape the sock over one heel, and bend the knee, lifting the sock behind you. (To get the National Institute on Aging's free 80-page booklet with basic exercises for seniors, call 800-222-2225.)

"The best way to improve a skill is to practice it," Andrews says, so you can improve your walking endurance by walking regularly (outdoors, in a mall, even at a grocery store), starting with 5 minutes out and 5 minutes back, increasing by 1 minute every four days or so. You can also stretch your stamina by building in stops to sit and rest, people-watch or have something to drink.

Q. How low of a BMI is too low?

— J.S.

A. The body-mass index or BMI measures the ratio of a person's height to weight and is considered a better indicator of body fat — and thus the health risks associated with overweight and obesity — than other indicators of height and weight. (It's not necessarily helpful, however, for very lean people who have lots of muscle.) The BMI is calculated by dividing one's weight (in kilograms) by the square of one's height (in meters) — or, more practically, finding one's height and weight on an easy-to-use chart. The Centers for Disease Control says that based on the effect body weight has on disease and death, a healthy BMI for adults is between 18.5 and 24.9. So, below 18.5 is considered "underweight," which has been linked to heart problems, lowered resistance to infection, chronic fatigue, anemia, depression and other illnesses. Women trying to get pregnant are advised to stay between 19 and 25. For more information on BMI, go to

Q. "I've developed a case of plantar fasciitis. I usually walk and play soccer for aerobic exercise but those are off-limits for the time being. I have two small children at home so I'm interested in maybe leasing a good-quality stair machine or stationary bike so I can work out in the morning before they wake up. Do you know any vendors who rent or lease exercise equipment?"

— K.M.

A. I don't know of any. Hertz/AA Rentals used to, but no longer. Some new-equipment companies swing a deal with customers on a case-by-case basis. Some offer 30-day trial periods on new equipment, which can serve as a test for folks contemplating a purchase, but that probably wouldn't work for you. (Be aware of shipping, delivery and restocking fees on those trials.) If other readers know of any places that do rent exercise equipment, please call or write me with the details.

And finally, another reader who needs reader help:

"Are there informal groups of Pilates enthusiasts on the Eastside, people who share their interests and problems, perhaps on the Internet, with an occasional joint workout? If not on the Eastside, how about anywhere in the Seattle area?"

— R.M.

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. She can be reached at 206-464-8243, or P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. Whitney Stensrud is a Seattle Times news artist. graphic graphic graphic More On Fitness columns »

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