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Four funky ways to get fit

If the latest breakthrough ergonomic gizmo on your favorite elliptical-treadmill-cycle machine doesn’t thrill you anymore, don’t reach for the Twinkies just yet. A new breed of wildly innovative devices like nothing you’ve seen before is putting the fun back in fitness. They combine flexibility, strength and core stability exercise with aerobics -- and range from simple to head-scratchingly complex. The quirky quartet below hits body parts you may not know you had, delivering real fitness in a far-out, functional way you won’t forget.

-- Roy M. Wallack

Like a moon workout

Orbital 360: Two omni-directional, weighted, telescoping handles, attached to a base, that move with smooth rotational movements.

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Likes: The sweeping motion and constant forceful resistance made me think of underwater tai chi -- or a workout on the moon. Inventor Michael Knight copied the body’s own ball-and-socket joints in an attempt to replace with less-structured rotational movements the repetitive linear training that injured him while bodybuilding. Requiring coordination, balance and strength, the workout is both challenging and calming.

Dislikes: Bulky to store and move. Movements are so unconventional that it may take you a while to catch on.

Price: $1,499 (includes 20-minute DVD or video). (877) 668-3360; www.orbital360.com.

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Brace yourself

Bosu Ballast Ball: Four-pound inflatable fitness ball filled with 5 pounds of plastic pellets.

Likes: Fun, effective, challenging workout that builds strength and agility for any skill level. The DSL (dynamic stabilizing load) inside the ball adds a two-stage level of dynamic resistance. As you lift and whip the ball side to side, up and down, clamped between your feet, the movable shot inside lags a split second behind, slamming against the inner wall of the ball after you’ve stopped moving it, forcing your arms, legs and core to brace themselves. The faster your “throw,” the more stabilization -- and sweat -- required.

Dislikes: None.

Price: $70 (includes ball and pump; DVD or video, $25). (619) 702-2678; www.fitnessQuest.com or www.bosufitness.com.

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Go climb a rope

Viper and Viper LT Rope Climbers: First stationary rope-climbing machines.

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Likes: Tough, exhausting and satisfying upper-body cardio, strength, stretching and coordination workout. An ideal counterpart to lower body (treadmill and bike) exercise and a good on-land trainer for swimmers, it hits everything from the waist up -- arms, shoulders, back, core and hands -- as it stretches your muscles, straightens your spine and appears to have a good effect on posture. Simple to use: Pull the 1 1/8 rope hand over hand, increasing resistance for a strength emphasis or loosening it for aerobic. Viper model, weighing 300 pounds, has you pulling your own weight (or, with the help of counterweights, less if you want) on a floating seat; the simpler LT model (112 pounds) works on resistance only. Both have an electronic monitor that displays time and feet climbed. Can be used in reverse (pulling up motion). Removable seat allows working out while standing, sitting on an inflatable ball or even in a wheelchair.

Dislikes: Sky-high prices.

Price: $3,975 (Viper) and $2,975 (Viper LT). (925) 337-4205; marpokinetics.com.

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Staying in the saddle

Panasonic Coretrainer Exerciser: Swaying, vibrating saddle that works the core and provides mild aerobics.

Likes: Fun, no-impact workout for abs, back, thighs and glutes, especially for older people and fitness newbies looking for a core strength and balance challenge. The programmable seat uses variable speed and tilt to throw the user off balance, engaging stabilizing muscles. Use of hand weights ramps up the difficulty for hard-core exercisers. Will burn some calories and is a great conversation piece.

Dislikes: This sedated mechanical bull is probably too easy for veteran exercisers. No serious aerobic effect. Costs about $1,000 too much.

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Price: $1,995 (will be $1,495 in October). (800) 405-0652; www.panasonic.com/core trainer.

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Reach Roy M. Wallack at roywallack@aol.com.


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