The New Year is here it's time for a fresh start! How about a fitter, happier you in 2004? Several new fitness books, each brimming with the latest nutrition and exercise research, offer positive, powerful tools for achieving glowing good health.

Fitness consultant Dr. Gabe Mirkin pampers the body's hardest working muscle in The Healthy Heart Miracle. This handbook holds a dramatic newsflash: heart health can improve in just two weeks with simple changes in diet and exercise habits. Mirkin's DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Plus ("plus" equals exercise) program promotes the consumption of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Mirkin says his plan, an eight-week journey toward permanent lifestyle change, can prevent heart attack, diabetes, stroke and premature aging. Chapters discuss the specifics of hypertension and show how to avoid or reverse it using DASH. Helpful sidebars offer tips on fitness, diet and supplements, exercise and disease prevention. Appendices give shopping lists, menu plans, uncomplicated recipes and worksheets for tracking progress. This easily navigable road map charts a steady path to a stronger, healthier heart.

Nutrient knockouts Broccoli, blueberries and soy . . . oh my! Dr. Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews present their powerhouse prescription in SuperFoods Rx (Morrow, $24.95, 368 pages, ISBN 0060535679). Fourteen "super" foods each pack a hefty nutrient wallop that works synergistically to reduce heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Add regular exercise, sufficient rest and fluid intake, positive socializing and stress management, and the blueprint for health is complete. This compendium gives uncomplicated eating guidelines and devotes individual chapters to the eatables on the SuperFoods list. There is nutrition information on each specific food from salmon to spinach an explanation of its health benefits and suggestions for incorporating it into your daily diet. The book's bibliography is impressive; read a fraction of the material and you'll be nutrition-savvy in no time.

Don't sweat it So, you're eating more veggies and fewer Krispy Kremes. But what's missing? Exercise, of course! To the rescue is Quick Fit: The Complete 15-Minute No-Sweat Workout (Atria, $23, 240 pages, ISBN 0743471024) by fitness consultant Richard Bradley. He solves the problem of squeezing a workout into your crowded day with an easy exercise plan for healthy but sedentary adults. This workout features a moderate 15-minute mix of aerobic activity, strength training and stretches that can be done anywhere in any attire. Quick Fit's friendly approach extols the benefits of physical fitness, demystifies our reluctance to exercise and offers inspiring motivational tips and testimonials. There's basic advice on hand weights and athletic shoes, creative suggestions to keep new exercisers enthused and ways to tailor the plan to time constraints or new fitness goals.

On top of the world Joe Decker was overweight, addicted and totally out of shape. Now called "The World's Fittest Man," he presents his story and a four-week fitness plan in The World's Fittest You: Four Weeks to Total Fitness (Dutton, $24.95, 304 pages, ISBN 0525947590), written with Eric Neuhaus. Decker's upbeat attitude informs this positive, carefully calibrated diet and exercise program, adaptable for folks of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels. He believes that success lies in making small changes slowly, in self-knowledge and in goal-setting. Fittest You states that eating right not dieting is empowering, and touts the "FIT" technique, a workout based on the latest exercise research, that "shocks" your body into shape with varied cardio, strength training and flexibility routines. The book has a diet, fitness and medical self-inventory, FIT instruction and a 28-day exercise/eating plan. Illustrated appendices show cardio, strength and stretching moves that can be done in the gym or at home.

The wholistic' approach Complete fitness, believes trainer Steve Ilg, is flexing your muscles and your mind. "Don't just work out, work within," he instructs in Total Body Transforma- tion: A 3-Month Personal Fitness Prescription for a Strong, Lean Body and a Calmer Mind (Hyperion, $24.95, 288 pages, ISBN 0786868511). This unusual program, "Wholistic Fitness," combines yoga with cardio and strength training, and is aimed at regular exercisers, athletes and the super fit. But whatever your fitness level, this reflective approach can enrich the spirit, stimulating physical and emotional health. Alison Hood writes from California, land of the super fit, where she sneaks chocolate and pretends to like tofu.

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