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Do-It-Yourself Fitness

A back-to-basics approach may be edging out high-tech exercise trends, experts say.

Functional Fitness continued...

This same low-tech approach has helped to build the Navy Seals into some of the nation's most powerful warriors, says Black.

"When you're deployed in jungles, deserts, and mountains, there are no Nautilus machines or Lifecycles," says Black. "We had to rely on body-weight exercises, like push-ups and squat-thrusts, and I think we proved they really work."

As macho as all this sounds, personal trainer Sarah Lurie, CPT, RKC, says activities that promote functional fitness may be even more effective for women than for men.

"One of the goals of functional fitness is to build core strength, which for women can be very empowering, simply because it enables us to do things that maybe we could not do before," says Lurie, director of Iron Core, a functional fitness center in La Jolla, Calif.

From flipping a mattress to moving furniture, she says, women love the power functional fitness workouts can provide - as well as the fluidity and flexibility they offer.

Low-Tech Doesn't Mean No Tech

Of course, even with a back-to-basics approach to exercise, you can get a little help from the fitness industry. Here's a rundown of some of the newest low-tech workout aids to help improve your functional fitness:

"You can quench your urge to gamble and get healthy at the same time."

1. Kettlebells. Based on a principle first used to train the Russian military, the Kettlebell is a piece of weighted iron shaped like a cannonball with a handle. The goal is to use the Kettlebell to build functional fitness, restore core strength, and tone every muscle in the body, all with a few simple moves.

"When you simply lift weights, you are isolating muscles and working individual areas of your body," says Lurie, one of a growing number of certified Russian Kettlebell instructors in the United States. "With Kettlebells, you are using your whole body to move the weight of the ball, so it gives you a superior workout to even a room full of fitness equipment. It strengthens core [muscles and] increases heart rate, all without building bulky muscles, plus it's very efficient for busy people."

The Kettlebells weigh anywhere from nine to 88 pounds. Most women use an 18- to 26-pound version; men generally use a 36- to 52-pound version.

How it's done: Holding a Kettlebell in one or both hands, you do a series of simple movements, such as swinging the Kettlebell between your legs, lifting it to shoulder height, or putting it behind your back and squatting. There are less than a dozen key moves altogether; each offers a full-body workout in minimal time.

Cost: About $129 for one Kettlebell -- and one is usually all you need. An instructional DVD will set you back another $15-$20. Kettlebell classes are available nationwide; they vary in price according to location.

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