If Professor James Collins of Boston University's Department of Biomedical Engineering has his way, we may end up with tweeters in our sneakers and, as a result, better balance. Since 2002, Collins has been focusing vibrations from SUBSENSORY NOISE on the feet of 20-year-olds and senior citizens alike in an effort to amp up equilibrium and put some flair in folks' crossover dribble or salsa technique. "The noise essentially tickles the neurons' membranes," explains Collins, thus making your nervous system more responsive when you're suddenly thrown off-kilter. The result? Balance can improve by up to 20 percent. Next, Collins wants to plant tiny noisemakers inside sport shoes in order to hone athletes' precision and efficiency. Memo to Michael Jordan: Call Jim.
In her new book Ultimate Fitness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24), New York Times health reporter Gina Kolata takes a sledgehammer to the shaky foundations supporting many of the overhyped HEALTH REGIMENS TOUTED AS GOSPEL today. "If I learned anything from investigating the exercise field," she writes in the epilogue, "it is that good research often gets lost amidst marketing claims and exaggerations and the sale of dubious programs." A prime example is the multimillion-dollar business that sprang up around the well-known formula for max heart rate: 220 minus age. Considering that it was extrapolated from a 1971 survey of only ten studies involving white males under the age of 65, even the formula's creator, William Haskell, is dumbfounded by the way his untested calculation has become a commercial juggernaut and, as a perverse consequence, is now viewed as physical law. According to Kolata, we should all be so dumbfounded.