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Take a Deep Breath and Check Out These Web Sites


So, you're thinking about exercising (or exercising much more regularly) in 1998 but haven't yet made it off the couch or away from your desk.

Not to worry. Contemplation is a crucial step in the process of change, say experts who study the phenomenon.

While you're sitting there, why not check out some Web sites on fitness, just to get motivated? But be advised: Everyone from personal trainers to entrepreneurs hawking pricey gear now has a site. And who knows how reliable their advice is?

So we waded through cyberspace in search of sites with valid information and minimal amounts of crass commercialism (read: ads for home exercise machines and miracle sports drinks). Here's a sampling of the catch:

Sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, which certifies instructors and educates the public about the value of exercise, this site is overflowing with good information. Check out "Fit Facts," many of them perfect for novices or those switching workouts ("Ready to Run?" and "Smooth Skating," among other topics).

The site includes an explanation of the ACE instructor certification program. And you are invited to become a friend of ACE. The annual $25 membership includes a subscription to the consumer-friendly Fitness Matters, a bimonthly newsletter, and personal answers to fitness questions.

This site is often praised as the Cadillac of fitness Web sites. It does carry advertising, but also some solid fitness and nutrition information. Check out the Fitness Tip of the Week. A recent one discussed the need to watch not only calcium intake but also potassium. If you're in quiz show mode, check out "FitBits," where you'll learn, for instance, that fatigue and jitters might be symptoms of insufficient fluid intake.

There's also timely stuff in the "Fitness News" section, updated daily. A recent issue included up-to-the-minute proposed guidelines on organic foods.

The Web site of the American College of Sports Medicine will probably disappoint everyday exercisers, even avid ones, and frustrate novices. It's geared largely to exercise professionals such as physiologists and trainers with its sections on certification programs, chapter and member services and research grants. If you're patient and in need of specific information, you might check out the link to the organization's respected journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. There's a table of contents for recent issues, along with abstracts. So if you're hungry for information on, say, "anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and joint dynamics during stair climbing," this is your site.

If you're looking for basic, motivational information, skip it.

Two perky blue stick-persons doing waist bends welcome you to the site of the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America. The organization certifies fitness instructors. Newcomers to exercise might first check out the FitMarkers test. It takes about five minutes to answer queries about age, medical history, family history and risk factors. Depending on answers, you might be referred to your family physician or advised to proceed to the "Your Body" section, where you'll find heaps of practical information on such topics as hypertension and exercise, diabetes and exercise, fitness in 30 minutes a day, common exercise misconceptions and water exercise.

Much of this site, however, is still under construction. Not yet available are referrals to certified instructors, a chat room and a bulletin board.

Since this is the site of the American Running & Fitness Assn., it naturally caters to runners. But walkers, weight trainers and others will also find information of value.

It's nicely categorized, too, with sections on training, sports medicine and nutrition. There's also up-to-date information from journals. On a recent day, there was a report about ultrasound for injured tissues.

The Fitness Partner Connections send you to a variety of other sites, with good information about walking how-tos, fitness over 50 and other topics.

This site, sponsored by IDEA, the membership organization for health and fitness professionals, is aimed to appeal to fitness pros and potential pros along with avid exercisers.

The "Frequently Asked Questions" portion includes many of concern to fitness instructors, such as the ethics of copying musical tapes for aerobic classes. But there are also some interesting facts for the rest of us. You should allow, for instance, 36 square feet of space per person in a group exercise class, 40 in a step class.

There are fitness links to many other sites as well.

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