Consumer Corner: You've heard of earn while you learn? How about working out while you work?

By MARCELLA S. KREITER  |  Jan. 1, 2012 at 4:30 AM
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CHICAGO, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- The leftovers are in the freezer, the holiday decorations are back in the attic and we're all regretting that extra cup of egg nog.

It's time for the annual self-evaluation and promises to exercise and lose weight.

Who among us hasn't wished for a way to exercise without actually having to carve out a portion of the day to accomplish it? Wouldn't it be great to find a way to exercise while continuing to work at the computer?

Enter FitDesk.

Steven Ferrusi has taken a fold-up exercise bike and designed a foam desk to fit over the handlebars big enough to hold a laptop computer (it's a little cramped to fit a mouse as well) so one can pedal while working.

The bike eventually will have a digital resistance meter that will show speed distance and calories.

The 5-foot-10 Ferrusi came up with the idea as he prepared for a 100-mile leukemia fundraising bicycle ride.

"I found I was not getting enough training in to complete the ride. With the date coming quick, I figured I was spending lots of time on my computer, why not get the ride time in while on the computer. I built a desk and it worked. I completed the ride. A few years later, I needed a way to make an income. FitDesk was born," Ferrusi said.

Ferrusi figures the current design accommodates people 5-foot-2 to 6-foot-2. It has a 3-inch give but is not really adjustable. A seat post extender is available for taller riders but for those of us on the short side, it's a stretch.

Ferrusi said the secret is light pedaling to keep working and exercising at the same time. Maybe so, but some of us never learned to walk and chew gum at the same time, which makes getting things done a little dicey.

"Optimal usage would be for checking e-mail, and many routine type tasks performed on a computer," Ferrusi said. "Things that take time and not so much thought. After a few months of use you can take on more challenging tasks. Also, (it's) extremely effective when used while playing a video game. The action in the game makes you pedal faster."

FitDesk is currently available in the United States and Canada through Internet sales but Ferrusi has plans to enter the brick-and-mortar world.


Exercise DVDs

Those who like to exercise with their televisions as the only audience have a number of new DVDs available from Acacia.

"Skinnygirl" Bethenny Frankel has released her second yoga workout, incorporating a lot of twisting and balance poses. Unlike Shiva Rea's "More Daily Energy," which is a very traditional approach to the ancient exercise and meditation practice, "Bethenny's Skinnygirl Workout" is a less serious take. The only negative for the program is the failure to provide a mirror image for the home exerciser. When instructor Michael McArdle says right, he means both his and yours. Those of us into monkey-see, monkey-do exercising may be a bit disconcerted. The really nice thing about "Skinnygirl" is that it's broken into four segments that can be mixed and matched.

Rea also takes the mix-and-match approach but the poses are harder and the emphasis is on yoga mindset. "More Daily Energy" has seven approximately 20-minute segments and several preset routines running from 40 to 57 minutes each.

Coach Nicole's "28 day Boot Camp" is probably the least intimidating boot camp routine on the market -- meaning good intentions are likely to last longer if the DVD doesn't scare you away. "Boot Camp" comes with a four-week plan and three levels of difficulty for knocking off the holiday weight and getting into swim season shape. Nicole Nichols sets a lively pace -- but not one so fast that it's impossible for us less coordinated types to keep up.

"Ageless with Kathy Smith" is a departure from her earlier workout efforts. The three 20-minute workouts are energizing without being overly strenuous. And the more mature Ms. Smith does not leave one with a desire to wipe the smile off her face.

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