While people are becoming
more dependent on high-tech gadgets in many areas of life, fitness experts say
they are turning back to basics for their workout routines.
They see more exercisers
shedding prop-heavy fitness classes for short-burst, equipment-free workouts.
"It's my theory that
we've hit a critical mass in group fitness," said Donna Cyrus, senior vice
president of programming Crunch Fitness. "Mats, Bosu (stability) balls,
body bars: by the time you put all this stuff on the floor it's 10 minutes into
These days, Cyrus said,
most successful fitness classes require very little equipment and many are 30
minutes long, down from the hour or more that was standard a few years ago.
She chalks it up to the
time saving necessitated by the 24/7-connected world.
"With every minute
taken up by social media, and people never out of a working state, (it's) a way
for people to get these workouts in," she explained.
Back to basics
Cyrus' observation are
supported by a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, which
predicted High Intensity Interval Training and bodyweight training will be the
top two fitness trends of 2014.
"It appears that
people are going back to basics," said Dr Walter Thompson of ASCM, which
has conducted the survey since 2008.
He said HIIT, which
involves short bursts of activity followed by a short rest or recovery, jumped
to the top of the list in its first appearance in the poll about fitness trends,
which was completed by 3 815 health and fitness professionals worldwide.
Thompson believes the shaky
economy favours what he calls "low-cost delivery programs" such as
HIIT bodyweight training.
Some people just can't afford it
"Folks just can't
afford to go to specialised exercise programs," he said, noting that
neither Pilates nor Zumba are predicted to trend in 2014.
"Retention data shows
that people get bored with an exercise program in three to six months if
they're not challenged or the program is not varied enough," he explained.
The exception is yoga,
which still popular.
"The yoga folks change
it enough to maintain interest," he said of the ancient practice that has
spawned countless variations from power yoga and prenatal yoga to hot yoga.
Andy Smith, chief executive
of Daily Burn, which streams a variety of workout programs to some three
million subscribers, said modern bodyweight training borrows freely from
seemingly unrelated genres, such as wrestling and mixed martial arts.
"People used to think
of bodyweight training as just push-ups but there's a lot more emphasis on mobility
and work on the ground," he said. "I don't think of calisthenics, I
think of other things."
He sees the renewed
interest in HIIT as part of a larger turn towards functional fitness and away
from the model of "aesthetic" training, typified by the body builder.
"There's a renewed
interest in functional training, (or) training for everyday life," he
explained. "You don't have to be ripped, but fit to perform everyday
Intensity of the workout
Smith, whose background is
in HIIT, applauds the intensity of the workout.
"Most people tend to
under train rather than over train. So something that pushes you to another
level is good, so long as you mitigate the risk of injury," he said about
But he added that HIIT
comes with a lot of cautions.
"It's not for a person
unaccustomed to exercise," he said. "I wouldn't want a 67-year old
dad doing HIIT, but for a 22-year-old who lifts weights, why not?
Nevertheless HIIT's sudden
popularity surprised him.
"It's a time thing.
It's a challenge for young folks," he said. "A guy like me, I'm happy