Fitness gadgets make workouts harder work


August 10, 1993|By ROBYN L. DAVIS

Exercise isn't always easy or at least that's what a survey of some of the summer's newest/most popular fitness gadgets seems to indicate.

We gave five products to area fitness professionals experts to try out and evaluate: bouncy exercise boots called Exerlopers; a slide board, which provides a leg and aerobic workout; a hip-hop aerobic-dance video; a computer program that designs individual strength workouts; and water paddles and boots that make a pool exercise regimen tougher than usual.

The professionals' experts' consensus: By and large, these products are not for beginners ` they'll probably find them more daunting rather than fun. But the products are appropriate for avid exercisers looking for a new thrill ` and couch potatoes who prefer vicarious thrills.

Hop till you drop

Quest Fitness Center's aerobics coordinator Karen Ritz says she felt like Tigger when she started jogging on Exerlopers.

Exerloper boots look like in-line skate boots. But instead of narrow wheels on the bottom, Exerlopers sport two heavy plastic rockers joined in an eye-shape.

With on the impact of each step, the springy rockers launch users into the air. Exerloper wearers might feel as if like they're running on the moon.

Ms. Ritz says that while the boots may lessen the body-jarring jolt of jogging, they also add burdensome weight to feet and ankles.

She took them to the Maryland State Wellness Convention two weeks ago, where she found many health professionals were unfamiliar with them (the product was first marketed in January).

She stopped every 10 or 15 feet, she says, to explain their function to the curious.

Exerlopers may remain more a novelty item than a respected workout tool. "It is more fun than it is beneficial cardiovascular-wise," Ms. Ritz says.

People unaccustomed to vigorous exercise may find just standing up in them difficult. Ms. Ritz asked a friend she classifies as a "couch potato" to try them out. She landed flat on her posterior.

Exerlopers are available for $199.95 through the NordicTrack's Exerscience division, 104 Peavey Road, Chaska, Minn. 55318; or call (800) 445-2209, Ext. 674.

Slide rules

Remember skating across the just-waxed kitchen floor in your stocking feet?

Several companies are now manufacturing a sheet of plastic called a"slide board" that simulates that exuberant childhood experience. Only now they're telling us it has aerobic benefits.

The board is a 6-by-2-foot piece of thin plastic with "bumpers" -- pieces of heavy rubber -- at each end. Sliders, wearing a pair of specially made drawstring booties that slip on over workout shoes, move their feet side to side without lifting them off the board. It's a strictly low-impact workout, but it's strenuous, nonetheless.

"You need to be coordinated," says Karen Silbernagel, physical therapist at the Bennett Institute for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. "It's easy motion," Ms. Silbernagel says. "It's just a matter of getting used to it."

Ms. Silbernagel's patients have been using a slide board for four years.

But slide boards are no longer just for those who need physical therapy. One health club in the Baltimore area offers aerobic classes using the board now. Quest Health and Fitness Center's Lutherville and Bel Air clubs have six to 12 members in classes that meet three times a week. Padonia Fitness Center expects to add them next month.

hTC Several brand-name slides are available, including the Cheryl Ladd Body Slide, which sells for $49.95 plus $7.50 shipping and handling. Call (800) 221-5800 for order information. While this product is the one most people seem familiar with and is the least expensive slide board on the market, Ms. Silbernagel cautions users to be aware that the bumpers on the end are not slanted and don't allow feet to come to a gradual stop. This could lead to sprained ankles, she says.

Slide Reebok by Kneedspeed sells for $99.95 at (800) 843-4444. Ms. Silbernagel says this one is safe for those who read instructions carefully and know how to use it.

Movin' to the groovin'

Sounds as cool as "Dazzey Dukes." Looks like the latest hip hop moves. Feels like fun. But, don't be fooled. This is a workout.

Michelle LeMay's hip hop aerobic video "Funky Bizness" is challenging, says Carol Friedman, aerobics director at the Downtown Athletics Club.

The ad hype says, "Before you know it, you look like you should be on MTV." But Ms. Friedman says it will take a while to look like a music video back-up dancer.

"My reservation is that because the dance technique of hip hop warrants a kind of jerking movement, there may be some potential problem of back and knee injury," Ms. Friedman says. "There is no mention of proper form in this video."

Ms. Friedman does like the steps and says she'll incorporate some of them into her classes. She says some people might need the guidance of an instructor while doing the high kicks and back-bending exercises shown on the video.

"Funky Bizness" costs $19.95 and can be ordered by calling (800) 873-8659.

Exercise program

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