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Wellness

What Happens When Your Heart Beats For Good?

The best way to lose weight, and stay that way, is to become a heart-rate machine. You just have to make it your priority and commit to a consistent routine, starting at least 30 minutes a day.

While most people use the words “weight loss” or “lose weight,” a new phrase has emerged in recent years. Heart-rate trainers are offering these high-tech machines that promise to help their clients lose weight by regulating muscle energy. They also promise to build muscle tone, prevent fat from piling into their pockets, and provide a physical glow or “fire” that’s both beautiful and sexy. And they may also reduce cholesterol levels, but that’s not all: “The machines will let you stay away from sugary drinks, tobacco and other fattening food!” says Steve Weis, the CEO of Stryker Body Systems in the Atlanta area, where this machine is available. “If any of us can achieve a higher heart rate, it’ll work all that good stuff.

The machines actually are quite affordable, since they are controlled, electronic devices that are not subject to tampering or overuse. But they cost a pretty penny — $1,650 for the model I’m holding here, and many companies charge up to $3,000, depending on the weight capacity and features.

But a few years ago, Weis decided to see if he could build such a model, and his company took off by recruiting an army of heart-rate athletes — from runners, basketball players and athletes in other sports to Olympic medalists and pro dancers — and charging them to sell and use the machines to their patients. Now Weis’ company employs nearly 300 people, which it calls its customer support group. Heart-rate training has become so widespread that it even has its own TV show, called “The Body Clock,” on the Discovery Network. (It airs on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET.) “I’d always felt that I was in tune with my body,” says Weis, who went to the University of Florida and earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in biochemistry. “There was always a voice in the back of my head telling me to eat less, burn more calories, get in better shape. That’s when I started to see that it’s not just you, it’s everyone.”

You could say Weis, a former ballet dancer who has six children with his wife, has gone from one extreme side to the other, from ballet dancer to weight lifter to heart-rate coach. But this transformation began long before that, when Weis, who was an active kid in Florida’s sunshine state — where he played volleyball, softball, football and soccer — started lifting weights and working out while still in high school. “You look at the big bodies on the beach and how thin that is compared to who else is there,” he says. “How many people can really be a powerlifter and have an 8-pound bench? We started seeing more and more people who couldn’t bench press more than a 5-pound dumbbell and we just thought to ourselves, ‘This is crazy.’ ”

Weis’ father taught him self-defense, so he started taking basic self-defense classes when he was 15 and then he started going to the gym himself. After graduating from Orlando’s Florida State University in 1996, he worked at the state prison at Orange Park, and in 1998 opened his own training facility, called Stryker Body Systems. Weis started doing his first heart-rate-training classes while still in college and it wasn’t long before he was turning away 20 or 30 students a week. “I thought to myself, ‘I can do better than that,’ and I was doing that.” He eventually opened five more studios in the state and then, a few years ago, he built the first of his proprietary machines that allowed for training while exercising. Now there are dozens of companies selling training tools, whether it’s a treadmill, a bike, a belt or a “cardio-generator” or a device that monitors your heart rate.