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Exercise Fad Improves Cardiovascular and Muscular Strength, Says New Study

Oct. 17, 2008 -- Does it seem that every time you pass a park lately, you see a group of adults doing push-ups or sit-ups? They most likely are not military recruits; they are just regular people taking part in a boot camp class. It is the latest fad in exercise and a great way to get in shape, according to a new study.

Boot camps, which include no-frills exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, and squats, have become increasingly popular. The workouts provide both cardiovascular exercise and muscle conditioning, says the study, which was researched at the University of Wisconsin's La Crosse Exercise and Health Program. The study is published in Fitness Matters, a publication of the American Council on Exercise.

Researchers recruited six men and six women aged 19 to 29. At the start of the study, participants' fitness levels were evaluated. Participants exercised on a treadmill while researchers checked their maximum heart rates and maximum oxygen consumption. Participants were also asked to rate how hard they felt they were exercising, and those perceived exertion scores were recorded.

Each participant was given the 40-minute video, The Method: Cardio Boot Camp with Tracey Mallett. This video was chosen because it has both the aerobic movements and strength exercises that are typical of the boot camp style.

Volunteers took the videos home so that they could familiarize themselves with the choreography. Then each participant came back to the lab and did the workout while researchers tested them for oxygen consumption, caloric burn, heart rate, and perceived exertion.

Participants in the study burned about 600 calories per hour. They were on average working at 77% of maximum heart rate, but they also got as high as 91%. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who want to improve their cardiovascular strength exercise at 70% to 94% of maximum heart rate.

Overall, researchers concluded this latest exercise fad -- which features mostly old-fashioned techniques -- gets people in shape.

"People are looking for different experiences," American Council on Exercise Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, says in a news release. "With boot camps, you're giving them something outside the traditional club environment."

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