Notes from the fitness front:
The trouble with most forms of exercise, says Dr. Leonard Schwartz, is that they're "overspecialized. In one, a certain region of the body, usually the legs, gets most of the exercise. In another, one or two of the elements of fitness -- such as strength and endurance or speed -- are neglected."
His answer is Heavyhands, a "total body work-out" regimen based on pumping light dumbbells while walking, running, dancing or stretching. The result, claims the 58-year-old Pittsburgh psychiatrist, gerontologist and runner, is "a higher level of fitness than that produced by any known aerobic exercise."
Schwartz began experimenting with weight-supplemented aerobics in 1974 in an attempt to create an exercise incorporating all nine components of fitness -- strength, speed, agility, endurance, power, coordination, balance, flexibility and body control. Inspired by cross-country skiing -- which requires strenuous arm and leg movements and gives a great aerobic benefit -- he set up "a modest laboratory" in his home to test the effects of adding the strengthening power of weights to the cardiovascular conditioning of aerobics.
Over a seven-year period, he says, he dropped 15 pounds, nearly doubled his running time, increased his grip strength from 50 kilograms to 65 kilograms, reduced his resting pulse rate from 80 to 38 and his body fat from 15 percent to 4 percent.
Women are particularly well-suited to heavyhanded benefits, he says in Heavyhands: The Ultimate Exercise System (Little, Brown & Co., 278 pages, $14.95), since "women athletes have always been able to excel at the speed-power-endurance complex."
To get the feel of it, hold a set of one-pound weights (bricks, books or cans are a tolerable substitute) at your sides, palms facing thighs, shoulders relaxed, arms hanging loosely at full extension. Start walking and begin pumping your arms so your hand nearly reaches your shoulder. Go slowly and deliberately until the movement loses its strangeness. Try it faster, then slower, raising your arms to various levels to test the sensation.