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The Top 10 Fitness Trends of 2012

Out-of-the-Box Group Fitness

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From Aqua Zumba and Indo Row to paddleboard yoga and unique mash-ups (such as TRX and spinning), we saw some seriously creative classes popping up more often on gym schedules. “Some of the more creative classes have grown in popularity because they offer a fun yet completely new way to challenge your body,” says Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “People continue to seek innovate ways to get fit and be social, and with the assortment of different classes offered, there truly is something to fit just about everyone’s unique likes and interests.”

Obstacle Course Races

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Running became more than just 5Ks, 10Ks, and marathons. Now you can take on a crazy hard challenge (can you say Tough Mudder?) or a less-life-threatening but still as messy mud, color, or Zombie run. Scaling challenging obstacles, crawling through muck, or escaping zombies trying to eat your brains makes working out more fun and interactive, says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist for ACE. “Working with friends to scale a wall or navigate an obstacle is much more interesting than simply plodding down a street or running path.”

Tech Training

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As technology continued to evolve, so did the numerous options for high-tech fitness. Not only are there now apps that track mileage and routes, you can also find fun ones to inspire you to move, such as Zombies, Run! Then there’s on-body monitoring devices (like the BodyMedia Armband) to track everything from calories burned to sleep quality, and, as tablets have become more mainstream, the Skyper-cise trend has emerged: With the wide availability of Skype and Facetime technology, you can workout “next” to friends, with a personal trainer, or even in a group class without having to physically meet someone. Now you really can’t blow off that workout date with your BFF!

Holistic Health and Fitness

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Rising healthcare costs and obesity rates prompted more people to begin focusing on fitness from a health perspective, not simply for vanity’s sake. “The mentality of health and fitness has really started to take a positive shift into looking at what it means to truly live a healthy and active lifestyle,” Matthews says. “There’s much more of a focus on understanding the behavioral aspects of making lifestyle changes, and more people are seeking out the services and expertise of health coaches to help them not just get started with a workout plan but to truly make a long-lasting change.”

Even More Core

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An industry buzzphrase for several years, “core training” expanded to an even broader spectrum of workout styles and signature classes. “Trainers and clients have adopted the importance of a strong core because it makes you more injury-resistant and more powerful when doing all types of workouts,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University. We saw more “core” in everything from TRX workouts to stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), both of which continued to rise in popularity.

Community-Based Workouts

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Local running groups, playground-type workouts, outdoor cycling groups, and government-sponsored programs that fund fitness experts and programs to communities without access (including Shape Up NYC) replaced solo sweat sessions for many people, says Carol B. Espel, senior global director of group fitness and Pilates for Equinox Fitness Clubs. And more exercisers decided to get fit for a cause, participating in races, events, and classes that made calorie-burning charitable and fun.

Metabolic Conditioning

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CrossFit, P90X, tabata, kettlebells—there are more offerings than ever when it comes to high-intensity workouts. And metabolic conditioning is a sure way to see results, as it burns calories and stimulates anabolic hormones (such as testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor) that are responsible for increasing lean muscle mass, McCall says. “Plus it can be fun to compete against the clock and watch your performance improve as you work to completing more reps in the same or less time,” he adds.

Small Group Personal Training

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More trainers, boutique studios, and even large chain gyms offered small group (typically 10 people or less) sessions, with classes available in bootcamp, TRX, Pilates, ViPR, and more. You get the best of both worlds with these types of sessions, Matthews says: the personalized expertise and guidance of a personal trainer plus the social aspect of working alongside others (which can be much less intimidating than working one-on-one). And it’s all at a price point that is very reasonable.

MMA Workouts

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One of the fastest growing sports in the country, mixed martial arts (MMA) draws upon elements from various combat sports such as wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, and karate. This intense method of training develops skill and agility along with strength, endurance, and power. The dynamic, high-intensity, total-body workouts are perfect for building a lean, athletic body, says Nick Tumminello, a personal training continuing education provider and owner of Performance University. “Plus it's a new and interesting way to train, which appeals to everyone.”

Still Burning at the Barre

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They may not be a new trend, but barre-style workouts are still going strong, Espel says. If the benefits—improved balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina—aren’t enough to encourage you try a class, then consider that they’re also a ton of fun! They remind us of the ballet classes we took as a young aspiring dancer, and it’s always nice to suffer in a group so you have friends to commiserate with during those unending reps of arabesque pulses.


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