UPDATE: A little over a month ago, I received several letters and a few calls about an exercise machine called the Skier's Edge. I called Scientific Sports Systems and asked them to send a machine for me to try, and I have been using this machine now for about a month. Today, I will report on my experiences with this machine.

First, for those who have never seen a Skier's Edge, it is an exercise machine that is built to simulate the side-to-side movement experienced by downhill skiers. There are two arc-shaped tubular steel rails with a pivoting footpad that allows movement through an arc of up to 5 feet. The footpad is attached to strong, flexible rubber bands so that the back and forth movement is smooth and springy. With 11 different resistance settings, the movement can be easily adjusted for people of different weights and athletic ability.The set-up was made easy by clear, written instructions and a videotape that showed each step clearly. The machine could be sold completely set up from the factory, but users need to put the bands on to understand how they work. Once you have installed them, you will be able to adjust them easily to meet your needs.

This machine was obviously built specifically for skiers because the action is so near to the action of skiing. In fact, a study using electromyography (attaching electrodes to muscles) showed that the Skier's Edge "not only duplicates skiing movements but also accelerates muscle specificity for the sport." The manufacturer also claims that the machine will increase aerobic fitness, improve balance and agility, and get you in shape to play sports such as racquetball, tennis and golf.

When I first got on the machine, I could only work for 5 minutes or so at a time because the action was so different from my regular workout. However, within a few days, I was using it for 20 minutes at a time, and within two weeks I could work for 30 or 40 minutes.

During the first weeks, there was a significant difference between my jogging heart rate and the highest heart rate I could get on the Skier's Edge. This made me think that it might not be as good for aerobic conditioning as something like fast walking or jogging. Later, I was able to increase the heart rate to nearly the same levels I reach jogging, and I think that it would surely be effective for aerobic conditioning if used this hard. Another advantage relates to the low-impact nature of the action.

I did go skiing after about four weeks of work on the machine and was surprised that my quadriceps (upper legs) still got tired from actual skiing, even though I had no leg fatigue riding the Skier's Edge. This may indicate that the action is not as near actual skiing action as the company indicates. I am not a good enough skier to determine if the workout helped my skill levels or not. However, the Skier's Edge is used by an impressive list of organizations, including the U.S. Ski Team, so it must have many positive effects.

I enjoyed my workouts using this machine and would like to have one to use on alternate days (cross training) with jogging just because it is so fun to use and gave me such a different workout. To receive information about the Skier's Edge, call 800-225-9669.

Healthful lifestyle goals

- Exercise. Increase your aerobic exercise to about 17.5 minutes a day. Keep doing 10 additional abdominal curls for another week.

- Diet. Barbara Higa, our consultant dietician, suggests beginning to eat high-fiber bread. Luckily, there are several places to buy whole-wheat bread without any oil, or you could make your own. Be sure to check that the first ingredient is whole wheat flour if you buy your bread from a supermarket.