By Josie Rubio
From Jazzercise to step aerobics to Zumba, fitness crazes come and go. (Although as Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi hilariously proved, that Jane Fonda workout video still holds up!) Whether you’ve made a fitness resolution or you’re just looking for a new way to get moving in 2015, you might be pondering the latest fitness trends and trying to figure out what’s right for you.
“As New Year's resolutions begin to kick in, we see new fitness trends arise,” says Jess Horton, an ACE-certified personal trainer at Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach. “New gyms, new types of exercise and even new reasons to sweat all clog up the airwaves and Internet. Trendy or not, if it motivates someone who has been otherwise sedentary to begin exercising, then I am all for it.”
Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, lead author of the ninth annual fitness trend forecast from American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), makes the distinction between trends and fads in his article that accompanies the worldwide survey. A trend is ‘‘a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving’’ while a fad is something that shows up only for a brief period -- though there is some overlap, he tells ih8exercise.com. “Fads lead the trends, but also trends lead the fads,” he says. For example, Zumba and Pilates are fads. “Those aren’t necessarily bad exercises,” he adds. “In fact, they’re good exercises. It’s just that now they’re regionally trending and not internationally trending.”
We talked to fitness experts about the top trends for 2015, and matched them to the common exercise barriers we try to help ih8exercise.com readers overcome. Here’s a look at the top trends and what might be right—and safe—for you.
1. Bodyweight training
If your exercise barriers are: No Money, Afraid to Work Out, Don’t Know How
Since 2008’s recession, bodyweight training has become a popular low-cost program for both clients and fitness clubs, since it requires little, if any, equipment. Yet it’s nothing new, says Thompson. “People did pull-ups and push-ups and that sort of thing for as long as I can remember,” he says. “It’s not that those forms of exercise have become more popular, it’s just that they’ve become packaged now, and really smart people are selling them as a package, making it fun, making it exciting — but it’s still bodyweight training.”
Bodyweight training is also very convenient, says Horton. “You can literally do it anywhere,” she says. “Finding a routine is tough enough, but then sticking with it can prove to be more challenging. The convenience of simply using the weight of one’s own body is appealing for many.” There’s also a benefit specific to January. “Gyms and studios can become crowded this time of year and no one has time to wait for a machine to be free,” she says. “Using the client's own weight and resistance can not only be effective physically, but mentally as well as they learn how strong they truly are.”
Jonathan Ross of Aion Fitness and master instructor for ACE, SPRI and Tabata Bootcamp, says that bodyweight training can be less intimidating. “Many people find equipment — especially overly contrived fancy gym equipment — to be unintuitive,” he says. “With bodyweight training, you can work out similarly to how you move in life.”
2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If your exercise barrier is: No Time (But proceed with caution!)
High-intensity interval training workouts are typically less than 30 minutes, and they involve short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by short periods of recovery. HIIT first appeared on the ACSM survey last year at number one. Thompson notes that he saw the same meteoric rise in popularity with Zumba and Pilates — followed by just as much of a precipitous drop. “If I were to gaze into my crystal ball, a couple years from now you and I probably will not be talking about high-intensity interval training,” he says. “I can’t say it’s a fad yet, but it’s got all of the characteristics of a fad.”
Ross also predicts a drop in HIIT’s popularity. “These workouts are fine for who they are fine for — and they are terrible for people they are not appropriate for.” He credits its rise to a Tabata study in which four-minute HIIT bouts produced improvements in fitness comparable to longer sessions. “People love the idea of shorter workouts, but what often gets forgotten is that the more results you expect from less time, the harder and nastier the intensity gets. Most people — even fit people, me included — cannot handle the intensities used in the Tabata study.” While HIIT workouts are time-efficient, he says, “time and intensity must have an inverse relationship.”
People may also not stick with HIIT workouts if they are extremely sore the following day or injured. “There are more and more studies coming out that demonstrate the higher the intensity of exercise, the greater the risk of injury, which includes things like heart attacks and strokes and knee and ankle injuries,” Thompson says. “For the New Year’s resolution-ers out there, my advice would be: If you’ve never exercised before, or the last time you exercised was 20 years ago, when you were a sophomore in college, don’t expect to be able to do high-intensity interval training. It took you this long to make up your mind that you’re going to start a regular exercise program, so maybe you should take it slow and progress toward a goal of high-intensity interval training.”
3. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals
If your exercise barriers are: Don’t Know How, Afraid to Exercise
At Georgia State University, where Thompson is Regents' Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, exercise science is one of the largest undergraduate programs at the university. “According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, one of the fastest-growing jobs in the country is personal fitness training,” Thompson says.
“I can well remember when personal training started — and anybody who wanted to call themselves a personal trainer could call themselves a personal trainer,” Thompson says. Now, he says, the personal training business “is policing itself.”
4. Strength Training
If your exercise barrier is: No Motivation
Strength training has appeared in the top 10 since the survey launched nine years ago, notes Thompson. “People who like to lift weights are going to continue to lift weights and it’s one of the most popular forms of exercise in the gym today,” he says. “So I don’t think it’s going to go away, but it is going to spin off into some of these other more specialized forms of exercise, like functional fitness.”
Ross says that while he sees “more free-weight resistance, heavy ropes, medicine balls,” strength training is mainly “stuff you can pick up and put down.” As far as new things, he says there’s “nothing earth-shattering — and that’s a good thing.”
5. Personal Training
If your exercise barriers are: Don’t Know How, No Motivation
Ross sees the nature of personal training changing, but not the public perception.
“Lots of people still misperceive training as having someone put you through a workout,” he says. “Many trainers know the future of training to be in teaching posture, movement quality, and making people better at directing their own exercise programs so they are not dependent on us. This lowers the number of sessions necessary, while potentially increasing the per session price, since it is a higher value than just having a cheerleader push you through a hard workout — anyone can do that.” While the upfront cost is more, he says, “This lets more people afford training because you aren’t hiring a three-day-per-week workout buddy.”
A good trainer, he says, is a coach. “This means presenting fitness to people in ways that draws them toward it and makes them want it instead of doing it because they ‘should,’” Ross says. “The motivation becomes internal when getting great coaching.”
6. Exercise and Weight Loss
If your exercise barriers are: No Motivation, Need a Goal
Thompson says that more diet programs are incorporating exercise routines. “The only form of permanent weight loss is sound nutrition and an exercise program,” he says. “It’s been proven over and over and over again.” In the future, Thompson says he would like to see diet and nutrition programs team up with community-based fitness programs.
If your exercise barrier is: No Motivation
Remember when everyone started doing yoga once Madonna’s abs appeared in her “Ray of Light” video? Like Madonna, part of yoga’s staying power lies in reinvention. There always seems to be a new form of specialized yoga — from former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page’s DDP Yoga to “cannabis-enhanced” Ganja Yoga.
Yoga has been in the top 10 every year of the ACSM survey. “Every year it seems like these yoga folks are reinventing themselves and because they’re reinventing themselves, repackaging yoga and having all these various forms of yoga, they’re keeping their clients and others interested in that form of exercise,” Thompson says. Three different yoga classes will be three different experiences, he adds. “It’s going to continue to be a trend, a popular trend, as long as they keep reinventing themselves.”
8. Fitness Programs for Older Adults
If your exercise barrier is: Afraid to Exercise
Ross predicts this trend of “fitness solutions to better serve markets we currently serve rather poorly — like the aging and obese populations” will continue to grow. The trend of fitness programs for older adults is also tied to the trend in the next slot: Functional fitness.
9. Functional Fitness
If your exercise barriers are: Don’t Know How, Afraid to Exercise, Need a Goal
Horton often uses functional fitness when training elderly or recently injured clients. “Functional fitness speaks to those exercises that help with day-to-day life, such as carrying groceries, carrying children, housework and even easing with general mobility. Functional fitness training is beneficial for anyone looking for a higher quality of life.”
Thompson says that functional fitness is a spin-off of personal training and strength training that started becoming popular first with the older population. For example, if someone wanted to carry groceries but wasn’t strong enough, a personal trainer would develop exercises based on attaining that goal. “Functional fitness is an imitation of everyday life,” he says.
The goal of functional fitness, says Ross, is “the ability to do what you want in your body without having to worry about your body, think about the movement, or always be worried about pain. Essentially to do what you want while you feel good in your body doing it.”
10. Group Personal Training
If your exercise barriers are: No Money, No Motivation
Small group personal training — defined in the survey as groups of two to four — is economically beneficial for both clients and trainers. “Whoever first thought of this idea is incredibly brilliant,” says Thompson. Trainers typically offer a significant discount of 25 to 35 percent if a client brings a friend, who also receives a discount. The trainer boosts his income and the clients get personalized training.
Group personal training also provides extra motivation and positive peer pressure, Thompson says. If one person wants to skip a group personal training session, his or her friend is likely to encourage that person to go. Thompson says. “There’s that kind of peer pressure too that’s working.”
What do you think of this year’s workout trends?
Photo: Monkey Business