Feature Article - March 2008
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Fit to Be Hip

A Look at the Latest Fitness Trends

By Dana Carman

Like most things, the business of fitness is an ever-evolving marketplace with new trends replacing old fads as quickly as you can say step aerobics. Some trends stick around long enough to become staples, but each year brings exercise machines and fitness techniques touted to be "the next big thing."

This year proves no different, except the next big things are a return to the basics—simple equipment or no equipment at all, a concentration on functional strength and group exercise, among others.

Regardless of what's hot and what's not, there emerged a clear message for 2008: Exercise itself is in. Getting healthy is in. With an emphasis on obesity often cited as the reason, fitness has changed from something only the fit do to something everyone can do, with a focus on fun programming to inspire the masses.

Get Out of the Box

The same old routine just isn't cutting it this year for a lot of people. According to Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), "It's not enough to just tell people, 'you're going to be healthy.' They want to enjoy the process."

What's more enjoyable than dancing? Dance classes are popping up all over the country—at both clubs and in smaller boutique studios, hearkening back to the days when aerobics was sweeping the nation. Though it may hurt to hear, yes, "Dancing with the Stars" has increased the public's interest in dancing for fitness. "The popularity and attention of 'Dancing with the Stars' and weight loss and improvements in fitness in that event have people looking at dance," Bryant said.

Executive Director of IDEA Health and Fitness Association Kathie Davis agreed, "'Dancing with the Stars' has been a huge influence," she said.

IDEA's annual Fitness Programs and Equipment Survey for 2007, which tracks equipment and fitness trends using a Web-based survey, has seen a consistent increase in dance offerings from the respondents. In the 2007 survey, 34 percent of the 225 respondents offered dance clubs, up from 31 percent the previous year and 27 percent in 2005, which was the year "Dancing with the Stars" launched. Perhaps the more telling figure according to the survey is that when asked if a program or activity was growing, staying the same or declining, 53 percent of respondents checked off that dance is growing.

At the Almaden Valley Athletic Club in San Jose, Calif., and in many others across the nation, Zumba is the name of the dance. Zumba combines high energy and a fusion of Latin and international music with dance routines that are a combination of aerobic and fitness interval training. According to its Web site (www.zumba.com), it's designed to "maximize caloric output, fat burning and total body toning" and follows the principle that "a workout should be fun and easy to do."