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Friday, February 27, 2004  

The news desk: The health beat

•Redemption for couch potatoes?

If you had a full Nautilus gym just a hop, skip and jump away would you really take that short trip over to the machines and use them? The jury -- us -- is still out, but sells of exercise equipment to be used at home are soaring.

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- The days of long waits for sweaty machines are losing their appeal faster than a New Year's resolution. Is it any wonder more people are opting to work out at home?

Many are buying their own exercise equipment, driven partly by affordable prices and the notion -- sometimes unrealistic -- that the sight of a new cross-trainer will get them moving.

Americans spent about $4.3 billion on exercise equipment in 2002 -- up more than 11 percent from the previous year, which saw almost $3.9 billion in sales, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Home equipment has appealed to all ages, although older, more affluent people tend to purchase the more elaborate pieces, said NGSA spokesman Larry Weindruch. . . .

A pro says the expenditure is often wasted.

But when it comes to bigger buys, home gyms may not be for everyone.

The wasteland of exercise equipment is vast, with the all-too-familiar site of rowing machines collecting dust in the basement and stair climbers doubling as coat racks.

Health club fans say public gyms give people an essential ingredient for their workout -- motivation.

"They can have the best gym in the world at home but if they don't have self-discipline to use it, then it doesn't do any good," said Leigh Crews, president of Dynalife Inc., a Rome, Georgia-based fitness education company.

Crews said she's worked with dozens of clients who started off excited about their shiny new equipment, only to drop off within a few months.

A perusal of eBay supports Crew's claim. Exercise equipment is an active category. Many of the products, listed as new or like new, sell for well below market prices. This kind of purchase appears to be one that consumers would do well to think long and hard about before reaching for the plastic.

Ohio woman makes multiple births history

A woman in the Midwest has given birth to a half-dozen babies in a minute. The record for live multiple births is eight. (One of the octuplets died shortly after birth.)

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio woman gave birth to sextuplets Thursday, and doctors said all six babies and the mother were doing well.

Jennifer Hanselman, 29, of Cuyahoga Falls, gave birth to the three girls and three boys within one minute at Akron General Medical Center.

``The speed at which the babies came out was overwhelming. It was like a popcorn popper,'' the baby's grinning father, Keith Hanselman, told reporters.

The babies, delivered by Caesarean section, were listed in critical condition, which is standard for premature births. They ranged in weight from 1 pound, 9 ounces to 2 pounds, 10 ounces, which is average for multiple births at 28 1/2 weeks, said Dr. Anand Kantak, director of neonatology at Akron Children's Hospital.

The babies were transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at the children's hospital, where they were expected to stay for about nine weeks. All will be on respirators because of the immaturity of their lungs, Kantak said.

``We are very optimistic about their survival without major handicaps,'' he said.

The incidence of multiple births, including high number deliveries, has increased astronomically because of increased use of fertility drugs during the last two decades. The medical community is divided on the issue. The chances of carrying fetuses to term, assuring better health, lessen with crowding of the womb. Shortening of the developmental process also has health repercussions. Children born as multiples are more likely to be disabled.

Jennifer Hanselman, a schoolteacher, used fertility drugs and had been hospitalized since Jan. 19. The deliveries, by Caesarean section, involved more than three dozen medical personnel. The Hanselmans were already parents of a two-year-old.

GOP backs bill to make fetuses separate victims

The Bush administration is continuing its legal assault on the right to abortion. It is doing so in a sneaky way -- a statute that will allow convictions of assailants for injuries to fetuses when women are physically abused.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House voted Thursday to subject assailants who injure or kill a pregnant woman and her fetus to two separate crimes. The bill would for the first time under federal law give victim's rights to a fetus.

The bill, championed by conservative groups, drew opposition from others concerned that conferring new rights on the fetus would undermine abortion rights

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act was approved 254-163 after the House rejected a Democratic-led alternative that would have increased penalties for those attacking a pregnant woman but continue to regard the offense as perpetrated on one victim.

"That little unborn child is intrinsically precious and valuable and deserving of standing in the law and protection," argued Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois.

If this bill passes the Senate, the real scheme behind it will become more apparent. The Justice Department, which has tried to declare some abortions crimes already, will expand on that, focusing its attention on doctors who perform abortions, not robbers or rapists who assault pregnant women.

President George W. Bush has promoted the bill, an election-year priority for his conservative base.

Supporters said Americans were solidly behind making an attack on a pregnant woman subject to two crimes.

Democrats assert Bush is pandering to the far Right.

The reach of a federal statute making fetuses victims of violent crimes would be limited because criminal law is mainly the province of the states. However, encouragement at the federal level may encourage states to pass such laws or toughen those already in existence.

5:00 PM