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The FITNESS Fit 50: The Best Breakthroughs for Your Health

Here are the breakthroughs in 2008 that made it a great year for your health.

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Doctor's Orders
Scott Little
Colorado Tourist Office/Colorado.com
Lifetime Television
Jackson Lee/Splash News
IDA Institute/ABC Photo
INP
Mark Kempf
Danielle Hudak
Sarah Kehoe
Columbia Sportswear Company
Melisa Punch
Kiley Bishop/London Ent/Splash
Carlos Dalla Cheisa
Russ Einhorn / Splash News
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New Doctor's Orders: Exercise Is Medicine

Exercise is medicine. It's a simple message, as well as the name of the health campaign launched last November by Robert Sallis, MD, then-president of the American College of Sports Medicine, in collaboration with the American Medical Association. The initiative, promoted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has signed on 2,200 physicians to prescribe a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week to sedentary patients. Says Dr. Sallis, "Working out is the single most important thing you can do to live longer."

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Lorena Ochoa: Role-Model Swinger

The top-ranked female golfer in the world, Lorena Ochoa, 27, is often compared with Tiger Woods -- and Mother Teresa. "Some players think they need to be mean or rude to win," says Ochoa, whose saintlike behavior extends beyond the links to health- and education-oriented humanitarian work in Mexico. "I don't think golf or life is that way. It's possible to be respectful, have a good time, and play well." By thanking the spectators, caddies, volunteers, and groundskeepers at every tournament, she wins not just fans but admirers.

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Susan Love and the Love/Avon Army of Women

Soon, as many as one million healthy women of all ages and ethnicities will participate in breast cancer research. The aim: To finally learn how to prevent the disease. Called the Love/Avon Army of Women, the initiative is the brainchild of Susan Love, MD, president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. "Women will have the opportunity to go a step beyond doing the runs and walks and be part of the solution," she says. (Register at armyofwomen.org.)

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Tara Parker-Pope: Online Health Reporting You Can Trust

Rumors. Leaks. Unverified sources. In the dash to break news on the Web, a lot of misinformation is junking up the blogosphere. One of the brightest spots? Tara Parker-Pope on well.blogs.nytimes.com. Covering the health beat for 10 years, Parker-Pope often gets the first, and pretty much the final, word. That's why 2.7 million readers log on each month. Her philosophy: "Being healthy isn't about what happens at the doctor's office. It's about the small decisions we make every day."

Read Tara Parker-Pope's Well Blog

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Senator Blanche Lincoln: Capitol Hill Crusader for Health

Cofounder of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has been instrumental in the federal funding of research for the disease. This year, she rallied 65 senators to protect the $300 million annually allocated for special diabetes programs from budget cuts, safeguarding the hopes of 23.6 million Americans with diabetes.

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Colorado: America's Slimmest State for 18 Years

Colorado has held the record for the lowest obesity rate in the country for nearly two decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 18.7 percent of Coloradans are overweight; the average for all states is 26 percent. Their secret: Eighty-three percent get regular physical activity. Says Lieutenant Governor Barbara O'Brien: "It's so beautiful here -- who wants to stay inside?"

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Bill Gates and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Kicking Butts

Tobacco is going down, if bazillionaires Bill Gates and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have their way. Together, they pledged $500 million to antismoking programs around the world, the majority of it to the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use. "We saw a need," Bloomberg says. "More than five million people are killed by tobacco each year." Gates adds, "Smoking is an epidemic that can be stopped."

Quit smoking now! We'll show you how

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Environmentally Friendly Sneakers

This year, athletic-shoe companies took environmental friendliness to the next level with the introduction of sneakers with biodegradable parts. The New Balance 1224 liner is made of recycled coconut shells, and the new Adidas line adi Grun uses natural fibers like hemp. The kicker: The Brooks Trance 8 running shoe, which contains an innovative nontoxic substance in the sole that will eventually break down, eliminating, the company estimates, nearly 30 million pounds of landfill waste over the next 20 years.

Find the perfect sneakers for you

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Devra Davis, PhD, Cancer Action Hero

You gotta love a woman who popularized the term girlcott (that's right, a derivative of boycott), which refers to women using the power of their wallets to demand safe and toxin-free products. That genius is Devra Davis, PhD, author of The Secret History of the War on Cancer and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, who has been drawing attention to, and outrage against, potential health hazards in our homes. Her awareness raising has helped prompt action: This summer, Congress took the rare step of banning three harmful phthalates found in toys; the law will take effect in January 2009.

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Carson Kressley, Reality-TV Revolutionary

"It's not about changing the way you look. It's about changing the way you feel about yourself." -- Carson Kressley, style guru, ego booster and host of Lifetime's How to Look Good Naked, which was so popular it was extended to an hour-long format this (its second) year.

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Natural Beauty Gets a Seal of Approval

Hitting the shelves this fall: some much-needed eco-clarity. It comes in the form of the first-ever industrywide Natural Products Association seal of approval, the creation of which was led by Burt's Bees. To have the label, a product must be 95 percent natural. "It's important to empower shoppers to make informed choices," says Mike Indursky, chief marketing and strategic officer for Burt's Bees, whose Aloe & Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer, Honey Lip Balm, and Beeswax Lip Balm carry the new seal.

Get our favorite eco-friendly beauty products

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Emme: Model and Political Activist

Plus-size model, sportswear designer, and author Emme, 45, added another title to her resume this year: political activist. The nonpartisan coalition she cofounded, Show of Hands: Our Children, Our Future, tracks candidates' votes on children's issues (see showofhandsforkids.org). "Let your vote be based on issues that affect children, like healthcare, education, and creating a cleaner environment for them to live in," Emme says. After the election, Show of Hands will act as a watchdog group to make sure that the new president stays true to the policies he proposed.

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Robin Roberts: Brave Heart and Head

Easy humor, enchanting alto voice, trustworthy reporting -- these are just a few qualities viewers love about Robin Roberts, 47, coanchor of ABC's Good Morning America. Recent trials underscored another admirable trait: her fearlessness. Diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Roberts chose to battle her illness publicly, because "People didn't think it could happen to someone athletic and health conscious," says the author of From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By. Post-chemo last February, during New York Fashion Week, she sashayed down the runway in an Isaac Mizrahi gown on GMA and -- "I snatched off my wig. There wasn't a hair on my head," Roberts recalls. "But I said, 'This is how I look right now -- so be it.'" Hats off to her.

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Goody StayPut Hair Accessories

Yes, we love its StayPut hair accessories, but Goody supports more than ponytails. For the third year, the company is sponsoring Girls on the Run; this year, it's passing out free accessories at Happy Hair stations at 20 WonderGirl 5K races across the country. "This is not just a logo on a T-shirt," says Jennifer Ingram, director of marketing communications for Goody, who volunteers as a GOTR coach. "We're empowering girls with the self-esteem and communication skills they need for the track and in the classroom."

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Vitamin D: The Natural Wonder Drug

Vitamin D isn't just good for your bones; a daily dose of 1,100 IU along with calcium decreases the risk for all kinds of cancer by 60 percent in postmenopausal women. "I was surprised at how effective this inexpensive, easy, safe regimen turned out to be," says Joan Lappe, RN, PhD, a professor of nursing and medicine at Creighton University in Omaha whose groundbreaking research on the vitamin is ongoing. How certain is she of D's powers? She takes D3 (the kind the body utilizes better) every day.

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The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, pushed through Congress after 13 years and signed into law this May, protects Americans with any of the 15,500 recognized genetic disorders by making it illegal to deny health coverage for test results that show they may carry a life-threatening gene. "This means that all of us, especially women with a family history of breast cancer, can be tested for the gene and no longer fear losing their insurance -- or their jobs," says Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the bill with Rep. Judith Biggert (R-Ill.).

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Pamela Peeke, MD, Lifesaver

If you had to run for your life, could you? That's what Pamela Peeke, MD, is asking by putting people in such do-or-die situations as escaping a burning building on her new Discovery Health TV show Could You Survive... Are You Fit to Live? She hopes to awaken them to the risk of not being fit. "Getting healthy doesn't take years," she says. "You can see a difference in four weeks."

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Retooled Rides

Cruiser bikes, the single-speed classics, have gotten an update that makes even newbies look like old pros. With easier mounts (from Schwinn and Electra), automatic gear shifting (from Raleigh and Schwinn), and ergonomic handgrips (from Bianchi), they're helping to put more pedal power on the road. "Cruisers are a great option for commuting or running errands," says Benno Baenziger, co-CEO of Electra. "On top of burning extra calories, you'll beat traffic, reduce stress, help the environment, and save on gas."

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Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture

If you want to laugh while you're crying, read Randy Pausch's The Last Lecture. The Carnegie Mellon professor, who died of pancreatic cancer this summer, had a talent for promoting the benefits of a healthy, soul-satisfying life even as he struggled with a terminal illness. "Randy would have been honored to be in the FITNESS Fit 50," coauthor Jeffrey Zaslow says. "He loved being active. In fact, he dictated the book to me from the headset of his cell phone during 53 one-hour bike rides."

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Sara Snow: Going Green Has Never Been Simpler

Cutting through "eco-clutter." That's what Discovery Network TV host Sara Snow is doing on Get Fresh with Sara Snow, the first green-lifestyle TV series in the U.S. "I think a lot of people feel confused and overwhelmed," Snow says, "and I take it as my personal challenge to show that living a greener, healthier life doesn't have to be complicated or expensive."

Get easy recipes and tips for eating green from Sara Snow

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Columbia's Omni-Shade Apparel: Wearable Sun Protection

First as CEO and now as chairman of the board of Columbia Sportswear, Gert Boyle has been pioneering the outdoor lifestyle for 40 years. But just when you thought there couldn't be anything new left under the sun, the 84-year-young adventure lover unveiled another great innovation. This year saw the launch of Columbia's Omni-Shade apparel, an activewear line made of high-tech UV-blocking fabric that won the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation. "In the old days, I'd put a piece of tinfoil around my neck to get tan," Boyle says. "But now we all know how crucial it is to protect ourselves from the sun."

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The Sound of Hope: The New Breast Cancer Anthem

Ain't nothing gonna stop me from going on
So many reasons I gotta stay strong

-- from "My Bra," the stirring anthem for breast cancer survivors cowritten by American Idol's newest judge and Grammy nominee, Kara DioGuardi, for Lifetime Television's Stop Breast Cancer for Life campaign.

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Adrienne Ressler's Body-Appreciation Campaign

Hundreds of women across the U.S. have started a "body-appreciation campaign," thanks to Adrienne Ressler, national training director for the Renfrew Center Foundation, an eating-disorders clinic. "Most of us have adversarial relationships with our bodies," says Ressler. In her workshops, she teaches women to love the skin they're in. "Catch yourself saying mean-spirited things about your body and make the decision to stop," Ressler advises.

Learn more about Adrienne Ressler's Body-Appreciation Campaign

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Jamie Lee Curtis: Making the Most of 5-0

Rather than trying to look Hollywood perfect, Jamie Lee Curtis is "much more interested in the mind and heart," she says. We applaud her Mind, Body, Spirit outlook, her love of tennis, and her utter lack of bashfulness about what her body can and will do for her. She is a major player, if not the MVP, of the 50-is-hotter-than-ever movement.

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Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: The First Couple of Health

For Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the fit life isn't just a personal choice -- it's a public mission. So while there's been a lot of discussion this election year about the health of Americans, the dynamic duo have actually been doing something about it in California. He established the toughest school-nutrition standards in the U.S. and signed into law a smoking ban in cars when a minor is present. She organized and held her fifth Women's Conference, geared toward empowering women in body and mind. We have a feeling they're just getting started.

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Katie Couric: Health's Anchor

"Too often people view working out as a chore. We shouldn't. I see it as a time to decompress and rejuvenate both body and mind." -- CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, who helped pull off the major coup of getting all three networks to simulcast Stand Up to Cancer, the fund-raiser that raked in $100 million for cancer research in September.

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Josie Maran: Model for Clean Living

Three-peat FITNESS cover girl Josie Maran is healthy right down to her makeup. Her eponymous collection of lipsticks, tinted moisturizers, and eyeshadows incorporates natural and nontoxic ingredients such as avocado, soybean, and shea butter. "I want women to look beautiful without sacrificing their health or the planet," says Maran, who practices yoga, eats organic, and famously home-birthed her daughter, Rumi Joon, in her backyard.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, November/December 2008.

Josie Maran blogs about her FITNESS makeover

Download Josie's playlist

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