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Hot Diet and Fitness Trends for 2005

Low-carb is out; satiety is in.

Fit to the Core

The fitness buzzword for 2005? Core conditioning. This trend -- all about strengthening and stabilizing the muscles of your midsection -- began bubbling up a few years ago, introduced to the fitness world by physical therapists, but it took fun equipment and classes to make it the hottest thing in the health club.

"Ten years ago, I don't think we had the toys that we have now that make it more enjoyable to work on the core," says Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA Health and Fitness Association, which represents some 19,000 exercise professionals in 80 countries. She's talking not only about the big, bright stability balls but about BOSU balls, wobble boards, and foam rollers -- all of which are becoming must-haves at many fitness centers.

In IDEA's latest survey, 60% of its member centers offer balance equipment like BOSU balls and wobble boards (up 67% from last year), 64% offer core conditioning classes (up 59%), and 87% have stability balls (up 56%).

"People have begun to realize that strengthening the core is the most important thing to enable them to do all the activities they want to do," says Davis. "If I want to ski next season, it's imperative that I strengthen my core. I love to play tennis, and I know that it's going to improve my serve and I'll be quicker on the court." And core conditioning isn't just about sports: A stronger midsection helps with more everyday tasks, such as carrying the groceries or toting a recalcitrant 2-year-old.

Expect to see more creative ways to build your balance and strengthen your core in the coming year, says Debi Pillarella, the American Council on Exercise's Fitness Director of the Year for 2004. Foam rollers, one fairly new toy that's already on the way up in the IDEA survey, takes the BOSU ball one step further. "The BOSU ball is one device that you stand on, while with the foam rollers, you put one under each foot," says Pillarella. "It's like trying to balance on logs, and it takes the challenge up a notch." Beginners can start with foam rollers (which look a lot like pool noodles) sliced in half, to give them a flatter base to balance on at first.

And guess what's back? The hula hoop! And it's not just for kids anymore. This time it's weighted to add challenge, says Pillarella. "It adds an element of play and fun to core stability work," she says, predicting that it will be a hit during the holiday season.

Exercise for the Mind and Body

With apparently no end in sight to the popularity of Pilates, savvy health clubs have combined the popular body conditioning program with other hot mind-body exercises, such as yoga and tai chi, to create hybrids like Yogilates. They're also pairing up strength training with Pilates or yoga. According to a survey by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, more than a third of health clubs offered Pilates-yoga fusion classes last year, and more than two-thirds predict that the trend will become more widespread this year.

"For those of us who are baby boomers, and were doing high-impact aerobics in our 20s, now we're in our late 40s and are looking for gentler activities that still challenge us," says Davis. "Yoga and Pilates work similar muscles and both have a quieter, low-impact approach, so they work very well together."

The aching joints of aging baby boomers may also account for the growing popularity and increasing variety of water exercise classes. Some 35% of clubs in IDEA's survey offer water exercise programs, which now include everything from deep-water running to ai chi (water tai chi) and Aquando™ (yep, martial arts in the water). "It adds resistance and gives you a fantastic workout, while reducing the risk of injury at the joint level," says fitness director Pillarella.

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