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Find Fitness Bliss With NIA

NIA, a blend of yoga, martial arts, and dance, is one of the latest trends in mind-body fitness fusion.

A Natural Stress-Buster

Plus, NIA is a natural stress-buster, says Deborah Kern, PhD, a NIA trainer based in Huntsville, Ala.

For her doctoral thesis in the mid-1990s, Kern followed 40 people who took NIA classes for seven weeks, along with 40 other people who did low-impact aerobics. "Joyful, peaceful, and energized emerged as the three common denominators of those in the NIA group," she says

Both groups saw cardiovascular benefits, says Kern, whose study was not published. But overall anxiety levels, as measured on a commonly used psychological scale, dropped in those who took NIA classes while increasing slightly in those who did low-impact aerobics.

The NIA technique is also being used in rehabilitation programs for cardiac patients, Rosas notes.

The adaptability of the workout to one's fitness level is a real plus, instructors add. One told WebMD of a patient in a wheelchair, while Bramlett says she teaches the mind-body fitness technique to several stroke victims. "NIA helps to improve their coordination," she says.

While no one tracks exactly how many people are taking classes, Rosas estimates the number of participants has doubled in the past three years. Meanwhile, the number of certified instructors grew from 400 in 1986 to more than 900 today, she says.

"The time is right for NIA," Rosas says. "People want to be more aware and conscious of what they are doing."

Published May 19, 2003.

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