Pulse fitness

Balance does a body good. It quickens reaction time, makes strength training more effective and decreases risk of injury. But even Dominique Moceanu didn’t start out balance-beam ready. Try these stability builders three times a week, starting with the easiest. Staying relaxed, hold for up to 30 seconds (10 to start), then switch sides. Advance to the next move.

Laurel Naversen

1 beginner With hips and shoulders squared, wrap left leg around right calf and raise arms overhead. Crossing arms at the wrist, press palms together. Pull in abs and keep back straight.

2 intermediate Stand with right knee slightly bent. With palms together, extend arms overhead and reach. Rest sole of left foot as high as possible against right inner thigh.

3 advanced Stand on a balance board with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. Try to keep the board level. To increase difficulty, keep board level while doing squats; work up to 10 reps.

4 expert Stand with weight on right leg. Reach forward with arms, palms together, and extend left leg behind you until it is parallel to the ground (body forms a T). Keep gaze focused on the floor.

Audrey Hepburn made scooters cool in Roman Holiday. Fifty years later, celebs like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kevin Spacey are hooked on them. For those looking for some old-fashioned pedaling, the sleek, lightweight and eco-friendly K2 Kickboard ($300, 800-972-4063) is the leader of the pack. Its three-wheel design makes it more stable than two-wheelers, and a steering rod helps you negotiate corners with ease. The best part: Commuting to work with the wind in your hair sure beats the highway.

Leila Jones

SHRINK TO FIT

In this age of instant gratification, who doesn’t wish that they could shed 10 pounds fast–without invasive surgery? With the help of a little digital retouching, eFit’s new MorphOver can make your wish come true for free. Here’s the lowdown on the cyber slim-down.

WHAT DO YOU DO? E-mail a photo of yourself in fitted clothing to the address listed at www.efit.com. The “after” shot is ready in three weeks.

THEN WHAT? eFit’s “technicians” eyeball your body and erase 15 to 20 percent of it digitally. “It’s not scientific,” admits Charles Platkin, founder of eFit. “Sometimes technicians get too creative and we have to redo it.”

WHY BOTHER? eFit touts the service as a visualization tool “for motivation and goal-setting.”

DOES IT WORK? Sure, they made me skinnier–at the expense of my hip bones–but the picture is about as motivating as a paper-doll cutout.

Nilou Motamed

Somewhere a socially conscious capitalist thought, If only I could harness the power of the couch potato for a higher purpose. And presto! Politically correct snacking was born. In the ’80s, Paul Newman and Ben & Jerry’s proved that all it took was a little popcorn and Rainforest Crunch to fund a worthy cause. Today an ever-growing body of snacktivists donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their products. Thanks to them, one good binge can help to protect the environment (Stonyfield Farm yogurt), restore hiking trails (PowerBar Harvest), save Alaskan wildlife (Ah!Laska Organic Cocoa), preserve the nation’s waterways (Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Keeper Springs Water), thwart deforestation (SpeakEasy Gum) and defend the dolphins (Dolphin Natural Chocolates). Even packaging has gotten preachy. Philadelphia-based It’s a Winner covers bags of its HomeGirls Potato Chips with Ricki Lake–esque oneliners. On holding out until marriage: “No ring … No thing!” On self-esteem: “Our message to bad influences is … Step off!” The company also offers Chumpies for boys. And you thought junk food was all bad.

Mary Christ

Body piercing has become as popular among athletes as it is with teen Goths. A navel ring is the perfect accessory to chiseled abs, but a jock’s world is gritty, so take special precautions to avoid infection. Dermatologist Seth Matarasso, M.D., offers these tips.

1. CLEAN IT OFTEN A body piercing can take up to a year to heal. Swab around the stud with soap and water or peroxide–especially after the gym.

2. TAPE IT UP Use a gauze pad to protect a new piercing from sun, sand and sunscreen, or to cushion it beneath tight fabrics like Spandex. “Belly button rings can get caught on clothing and tear,” Matarasso says.

3. SEE YOUR DOCTOR If your piercing gets red, tender, or starts to ooze, it’s probably infected.

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