Experts report fitness trends
have the instructor who motivates and pushes you harder.”
Also important are the accountability and acknowledgment inherent in a class of regulars, Maier says. When you do a good job, you get a shout, and when you don’t, you might hear about that, too. “If I am part of the 6:30 a.m. cycle class, I know I need to be there or they (the instructor and fellow cyclists) will give me crap next time I show up.”
Group fitness, of course, is not something new. But Maier argues that it is different from what we saw in the 1970s and ’80s with personalities such as Richard Simmons. “It’s driven by boutique studios that do one thing and they do that one thing well. It’s inspired everyone to up their game,” Maier says. “A cycling class today is much better than just a few years ago” because it incorporates more aspects of exercise, such as varying levels of intensity.
This brings us to No. 3 on the list: HIIT, high-intensity interval training. This type of training is generally 30 minutes or less and incorporates short, intense intervals that can push your effort level up to 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate. It has long been a mainstay among elite athletes but has just recently made its way into the time-crunched public. “I think at first we were all afraid that HIIT would lead to increased injuries in the general public, but that has not proven to be true,” says Thompson, who is also an associate dean and professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University. “There is no more risk of injury than any other exercise.”
Instead, HIIT has taken the country by storm as people try to squeeze in an effective workout between 1,000 other obligations.
HIIT is a great candidate for group fitness, because it’s hard to self-motivate at that top level of exertion, says Maier.
“No one is going to want to do (HIIT) on their own. It’s more realistic to do it in a class and have a coach who knows what they’re doing,” he says, adding that keeping track of the timing of 20-second drills, short rests and the number of reps can already be over- whelming.
No. 4 is fitness programs for older adults, defined as baby boomers (born 1964 and earlier) and older. Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers but are not slowing down, according to Thompson. “The gyms are increasingly offering specific fitness programs for older adults,” he says, adding that it’s a financial incentive for gyms to fill the “dead time” between 9 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m.
This is prime time for older adult programming, and some gyms are making their atmospheres more appealing to this demographic by softening music and lights.
No. 5 is body-weight exercise, which started staging a comeback during the recession about a decade ago, Thompson says, when fitness buffs were looking for sustainable alternatives to joining gyms, and gym managers were seeking ways to cut back on expensive, hard-tomaintain equipment.
Popular and effective body-weight exercises include planks, lunges, squats, pullups, rows and roll-up/roll-down situps.
One trend that has held steady for many years is yoga, which is in the No. 7 spot. “Unlike Pilates, which got stale after a while, yoga kept changing. That’s why it’s still so popular,” Thompson says. Maier agrees, noting the “blurring” of the lines in classes in which yoga is fused with another discipline, such as weighttraining. “Yoga is not the flavor of the month, but it’s not going anywhere,”
One trend sorely missing from the top 20, Thompson says, is fitness for kids. It is estimated that about 18.5 percent of American kids ages 2-19 are obese.
Thompson says gyms haven’t figured out the logistics and economics of getting kids to the gym in the afternoon. In school systems, nonacademic subjects such as art, music and physical education are often fighting for limited time and resources. “Ideally, kids have an exercise program that they can enjoy and do on their own,” Thompson says. Gabriella Boston is a fitness trainer and freelance writer.