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Fitness goes high-tech with these gadgets

December 7, 2009 | 12:15 pm

Need a workout boost? Go for a gadget.

Jvbu60nc Sure, you could buy a top-of-the-line treadmill. Or one of those cool fitness apps that shows you how to do exercises. Or clothing that molds you in all the right places so you at least appear to be no stranger to exercise as you stumble about looking for the gym lockers.

But for tried-and-true effectiveness, we asked local trainers (Pete McCall, San Diego-based trainer and exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise; Gina Lombardi, Los Angeles-based personal trainer with the National Strength and Conditioning Assn.; and Ramona Braganza, Los Angeles-based personal trainer and member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute) what they would recommend. Their top picks?

Heart rate monitors: Used by elite athletes and gym rats alike, heart rate monitors are an easy way to keep track of heart beats during exercise via a chest strap that transmits data to a receiver, usually worn around the wrist. Newer versions also calculate calorie burn and have built-in accelerometers that can measure speed and distance. Some come with software to track progress.

Pedometers: The most basic pedometers clip onto a belt or waistband and track steps, helping people achieve the recommended goal of 10,000 per day. That has been shown in studies to keep people motivated to stay on their exercise routines, losing weight and getting fit. But newer models offer more information, such as calorie burn monitoring and distance traveled, and some include progress-tracking software.

Vibration plate: Vibration plates, which typically feature a small, vibrating platform and hand rails, were first used by physical therapists and in athletic training facilities to improve strength and flexibility. Effects can come from just standing on the plate, or from doing exercises on it, such as push-ups. In recent years the machines have moved into the fitness realm. Though many gyms feature them, and some people have purchased home models, they come with cautions--some scientists think the low-level vibrations may affect the brain, balance and joints over time, and they're not recommended for pregnant women or for people who suffer from migraines. Research studies on the devices reveal a mixed bag of results, with some demonstrating gains in balance and strength and stimulating weight loss, but others showing little effect.

For more on their recommendations, and how to use the devices, read the story.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times