Physical sites

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Indy Lifestyle Online
In a Webzine world dominated by sites focused on culture - popular culture in particular - it's refreshing to come upon one devoted entirely to things physical, one that provides solid information rather than fancy ideas and graphics.

Once we've all got over the excitement of accessing things on the Web, I've no doubt we'll settle down to using the medium for what it's best at - getting hold of up-to-date information at zero notice. We'll accept that interviews with alternative comedians and profiles of fading British pop stars are more pleasantly absorbed from the surface of paper. When we make that transition, Balance (http://balance.net) is one of the sites that will survive. Slightly to my surprise, it appears to be British, with some content from America and elsewhere, and delivers an approachable, stimulating mix of stuff about exercise, nutrition, sports and sportspeople. It is mercifully free of gratuitous Web wizardry, though it doesn't seem to make use of animation which could be helpful (eg, in showing how to do exercises).

The zine has been published more or less monthly for two years and has built up an impressive archive. To get to this one, you have to "join" the Balance Club, which (at present) means simply registering a name, password and e-mail address. Once in, you choose your back issue, with the alternative of a search mechanism. Sadly, there is no more sophisticated alternative slicing of this nutritious archive cake to access.

Among the things I found was a detailed and terrifying analysis of how 10 commonly used exercises can be ruinous to your spine, knees and God knows what else. And having just had the annual nag from my GP about blood cholesterol, I searched on that word and got dozens of articles. (The bad news: Balance agrees that my priority is to lose weight; the good news: garlic really does help.)

There is interaction. Balance has an e-mail section where readers can get help with their personal fitness problems. And it's carrying reader involvement further by reporting monthly on the weight-loss campaign of a Canadian "reader" - a 39-year-old university professor. Weight Watchers goes global

Chris Gill

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