Angela Haupt

Fitness Trends: What's In, What's Out

Rubber stability balls to boost muscle strength, once a hot fitness fad, have fallen off the charts

Fitness is always in, but the hunt for a magic way to achieve a healthy heart or a taut butt or abs with the most gain and the least pain never ends. As it does annually, the American College of Sports Medicine has surveyed more than 2,000 fitness professionals in Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and North and South America to identify health and fitness trends.

Here's a look at what's on top -- and a few former hot picks that are cooling off:


IN: Wellness coaching

One-on-one coaching is relatively new but experts think it has staying power. A wellness coach typically charges $75 to $100 an hour to work with you not only on fitness but also on nutrition, weight management, and stress reduction. The goal is to guide clients towards a more healthful lifestyle, sometimes designing exercise programs or detailed meal plans. And they're advice-givers to clients who are trying to quit smoking or overcome a weight-loss obstacle.

"A wellness coach might get a call from a client who's sitting at a restaurant, saying, 'I'm torn between the leg of lamb and the roast beef, which one should I get?'" says Walt Thompson, the survey's lead researcher and a professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University. "People are realizing they need someone to coach them through a more healthy way of life."

IN: Boot camp

These high-intensity, get-tough workouts, modeled after military-style training, include cardiovascular, strength, endurance, and flexibility exercises. They combine indoor and outdoor sports-type drills and calisthenics, and class members move from one exercise to the next with little to no rest.

"It's a bunch of people looking to get in shape really quick, and they're going to work hard and sweat," says Neal Pire, an exercise physiologist who teaches a boot camp for baby boomers in New Jersey. "People don't need to be intimidated by the concept--they're not going to be yelled at by a drill sergeant who steps on them and tells them to 'drop and give me 20.' It has evolved from where it started, and it really can be for everyone."

IN: Physician referrals

Doctors are beginning to emphasize partnerships with local fitness centers and personal trainers. A patient who seems interested in stepping up her exercise routine should get more from her physician than a suggestion to take a walk or hop on a treadmill, Thompson says. Pointing her to a particular personal trainer who would resonate with her goals and personality in her quest for fitness would be much more valuable.

IN: Functional fitness

Older adults and those recovering from injuries benefit from customized strength-training regimens designed to improve the ability to perform daily activities. A client who has lost strength and stamina after several weeks in the hospital, for example, may labor to cut his grass even with a self-propelled mower. His instructor will create a program mimicking the motions required for that activity. Or a client could express a desire to carry his own grocery bags out of the store instead of relying on a helper.

The functional fitness solution: an upper-body strength-training program geared toward lifting and carrying heavy bags. "It could be targeted to anyone who wants to get back to whatever they do that requires physical activity or labor," Thompson says.


OUT: Pilates

Once a fitness staple, Pilates no longer is counted among the top trends--and a faltering economy could be to blame. Instructor training is expensive, Thompson says: "Not just any personal trainer or group exercise instructor can teach Pilates. There's specialized training, and health clubs are starting to think it doesn't offer a good return on the investment." Plus, workouts are often pricier than other group gym classes.

OUT: Stability balls

Rubber stability balls roughly two to three feet across help increase flexibility and strengthen and tone muscles. Some people replace office chairs with these balls; others stand on them while doing strength-training exercises. They once claimed a spot among the top fitness trends, but have fallen off the charts. And don't expect them to return.

"I've gone into health clubs and seen closets full of these stability balls, and piles of them up against the wall," Thompson says. Chalk the decline up to a fad that made its mark and has run its course, fitness experts speculate.

OUT: Unmonitored fitness facilities

Consumers may be impressed, but unmonitored fitness facilities, which are open 24 hours a day, regulated only by a code that unlocks the front door, did not earn a spot in the survey--and there's a reason.

"A lot of consumers think they're great, because they offer all the flexibility in the world to exercise," Thompson says. "But from a safety and liability standpoint, it's very concerning." Most unmonitored fitness facilities promise a rapid response in the event of a medical emergency, thanks to a video security system that also protects against non-members sneaking inside the gym. But exactly how safe these facilities are remains questionable, Thompson says, and experts predict that their commercial success will begin to waver.


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Health - Fitness Trends: What's In, What's Out