So you’ve made the New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit. One of the best ways to do that is to exercise. It burns calories, improves muscle tone, flexibility, stamina and cardio health—and it even makes us happier.
It takes a serious commitment to stay the course. “Our lifestyle precludes activities that used to be part of everyday life,” notes Margaret Pfaff, executive director of the Fraim Center for Active Adults in Wilmington. “It’s difficult to change habits,” Pfaff concedes.
But not impossible. For every lifestyle, personal schedule and physical condition, there is an activity that will make you want to continue working toward your goals.
Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine issues a list of the top 20 fitness trends. Here are five that will help keep you moving in 2017.
Technology can be helpful. Thanks to Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other monitoring devices and apps, you can record everything from the number of steps you’ve walked, your heart rate and calorie burn to the hours you’ve slept. Marcellus Beasley, owner of B.-Fit in Wilmington, is an advocate for technology. “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get attended to,” he says. Laura Kraman, founder of E-volve Fitness Studio in Wilmington, developed a prototype platform to sync data from wearable devices. “Tech has its place,” she says, “but it’s only as good as the information. People may not know how to use it or they don’t understand it.” Measurements can be inaccurate, Kraman warns, although sometimes that can be remedied. For example, making sure the band on the wearable device is tight enough. Her advice: judge your workout by how your body feels afterward or get feedback from a personal trainer.
2. High-intensity interval training
This workout can be intimidating, but it’s effective for burning calories and elevating the heart and respiratory rates. It’s a series of high-intensity exercises, interspersed with short, less strenuous ones. Most often, HIIT workouts are a maximum of 30 minutes. What makes HIIT popular is the afterburn, the elevated metabolism that can last long after you’ve stopped exercising. HIIT can be adapted to almost every level of ability. E-volve’s Kraman offers a combination of both high-intensity and resistance exercises, alternating cardio work with weight training. She tailors the intensity to each participant.
“If there are mobility issues, I won’t let them do the intensity,” she says. Most mobility problems, she says, are a result of misalignment in the spine and pelvis, and unless those issues are addressed, pain and injury will ensue. Beasley keeps low-intensity intervals from turning into long breaks. “My MO is to keep the heart rate up pretty much the whole time,” he says. But, “if you have injuries or medical conditions, you have to be careful.” These workouts are especially hard on knees and ankles, says this former Air Force medic.
RISE Fitness + Adventure in Rehoboth Beach offers GRIT (trademark) workouts choreographed by fitness guru Les Mills. “It’s a whole lot of working out in 30 minutes, set to really good music,” says trainer Jennifer Kaufmann.
3. Strength training
People working at a desk for 8 or more hours a day are prone to lower back issues. With strength training, “a lot of that can be fixed,” says Ashley Paoli Kapes of Lovering Studio in Wilmington. Strength training can be done with bands, kettlebells, weights, or the body’s own weight. Paoli Kapes and owner Danielle Stock have added something new: barre—that ballet-inspired workout—combined with TRX resistance bands. The fusion class works both large and small muscle groups concurrently. “Some barre exercises are more difficult with TRX,” says Stock, and that’s good. It keeps the body from plateauing.
Strength training is part of every athlete’s fitness program, but it becomes especially helpful as people age or if activity is limited by a medical condition.
“At any age you have to walk up stairs or pick up heavy objects,” says RISE’s Kaufmann. Her gym’s functional fitness workouts utilize everyday movements to build strength, along with balance and stability. More demanding and not for everyone, is RISE’s Ninja boot camp/agility/functional fitness class that uses a 40-foot Rogue (trademark) rig. “People are jumping over boxes and through ladders. It’s a unique class,” Kaufmann says.
Serenity Yoga in Middletown
This 5,000-year-old discipline, has gained the respect of serious athletes and fitness venues because it improves overall performance. “People are finding out it’s not as lame as they thought,” says Stephen Bart, co-owner of CrossFit Reconstructed in Hockessin. “The benefits are incredible.” Alyson Leinbach, founder of Serenity Yoga in Middletown explains: “When you do high-intensity exercises, you’re not allowing the muscles to stretch.” Yoga stretches those tight muscles, increases flexibility and improves range of motion. “It can make [an athlete] better or extend his career,” she says. Her studio trains local youth football and baseball teams. Non-athletes also benefit from the stretching and isometric exercises that strengthen core muscles. “You can do the exercises regardless of limitations. You think you have to be super flexible, but flexibility is a byproduct of yoga,” says Leinbach.
Fraim Center for Active Adults in Wilmington
5. Adaptive fitness programs
The need for exercise never diminishes and fitness professionals are responding with adaptive programs.
“It’s hard to escape the characteristics of age,” says Pfaff. “But it’s possible to deal with them with exercise.” The Fraim Center for Active Adults (located inside the Boys & Girls Club in Wilmington) offers a variety of exercise choices for individuals over the age of 50.
“The goal is to feel better and to have more energy,” Pfaff says. The schedule looks like that of other fitness venues: Pilates, yoga and Zumba classes. The center has fitness equipment and a pool. Workouts are adjusted to make them easier on joints, including performing them in water. Fraim recently added a balance class using balls and bands. It was filled almost immediately, Pfaff says.
RISE offers classes taught by a Parkinson’s-certified trainer, including a combined yoga and balance class, weight training, circuit training, a spin class, dance and a fitness routine based on boxing moves. The goal is to slow the progress of the condition and promote independent living, says Kaufmann. RISE also has rock climbing and bouldering walls, which work both body and brain as the climber plans each foothold and grip.
Even if a fitness center doesn’t advertise adaptive programs, a good trainer will be able to tailor a program to fit an individual’s needs. But, whatever you do, don’t give up. Says Kaufman, “Everyone needs exercise.”