As anyone who's ever watched a New Year's Day infomercial can tell you, this is the time of year when new workout trends take center stage. And this year, experts say, exploring those new workout trends may be easier than ever.
"Many of the most popular new workout trends going forward in 2008 are centered on addressing not only our real-life needs, but also our limitations, including time and money," says certified personal trainer Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff series of fitness DVDs and director of BuffFitness.com.
Fleming says one thing we'll definitely see more of in 2008 is 24-hour fitness centers. Like open-all-night Laundromats, these do-it-yourself workout centers make it possible to exercise any time of the day or night.
But what if you need some help getting fit? Well, there's a new exercise trend for you as well. Walter Thompson, PhD, a professor at Georgia State University and spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, says the trend is toward more and better-trained fitness professionals.
"One new workout trend you can expect to see in 2008 -- and beyond -- is health and fitness professionals being required to achieve a higher standard of education and certification, which is something that will benefit everyone trying to increase their level of fitness, from the beginner clear through to the pro," says Thompson, author of the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2008, published in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal.
This also means there will be more trainers who are educated at coaching people with limitations, be they age-related, a result of chronic illness, or other factors, Thompson says.
But all this, experts say, is just the tip of the iceberg. Thompson, Fleming, and Fabio Comana, MA, MS, a research scientist from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), helped WebMD hone in on eight top workout trends for the year. Here's what they had to say:
Workout Trend No. 1: Personal Trainers
If you thought personal trainers were only for Hollywood types, think again. All three experts who spoke with WebMD agreed that this year, more people than ever will seek the benefits of personal instruction.
"When you do things on your own, you tend to do the same things over and over," Fleming says. "A personal trainer mixes things up, motivates you, and reduces your risk of injury by helping you work out correctly."
Making it all possible, experts say, is more affordable prices for personal training. Depending on where you live, it could cost you around $50 per hour. Further, more trainers are agreeing to conduct group sessions. This means you and a friend (or three or four) can split the cost of a session and still come away with most of the benefits of one-on-one training.
But choose your trainer wisely, Thompson says. Look for credentials that really mean something.
"If you're looking to hire a trainer, find out what their certifications are, and then find out if their certifications are certified by NCCA [National Commission for Certifying Agencies] -- a group that will help you learn if those letters after your trainer's name really mean anything," he says.
Thompson says the fitness industry is working to establish universal accreditation guidelines, which will help make it easier to choose a trainer.
Workout Trend No. 2: Strength Training
While lifting weights isn't exactly new, experts say that more and more people will benefit from this type of strength training in 2008.
Thompson says his worldwide survey of fitness professionals indicates that many people will focus on using weights to increase or simply maintain strength, particularly as the Baby Boomers head toward their 60s and beyond.
"It will be very common for most trainers to incorporate some form of weight training into not only fitness routines, but also for programs that focus on cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, and metabolic disease management," like diabetes, Thompson says.
Fleming adds that many exercisers will likely mix strength and cardiovascular workouts into a single new workout trend.
"Instead of doing a set of weight training and then resting, you do a set and then go directly to anther exercise, engaging a totally different muscle group, so there's no rest period in between," she says. "The result is that you're working on different muscle groups but keeping your heart rate up so you get the best of both types of workouts in less time."
Workout Trend No. 3: Core Training
Core training refers to exercises that strengthen and condition the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and back -- an area that ACE research scientist and trainer Comana says is often in critical need of attention.
"In most people, the body has literally forgotten how to activate core muscles, which is one reason we see so many back problems and poor posture," Comana says.
Too much sitting -- especially while hunched over a computer -- tends to lengthen back muscles and shorten core muscles, so that when we stand or walk, our bodies don't get the support they need. That means we slouch, shift our weight, and cause muscle imbalances that can result in pain.
Thompson says core training typically includes exercises that concentrate on the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen, "all of which provide much-needed support for the spine," he says.
One of the best ways to strengthen core muscles, Fleming says, is to use the Swiss Ball -- also known as a stability ball, or Bosu Ball (see below). Other core-strengthening exercises likely to gain popularity this year include push-ups and sit-ups. Also, Fleming says, there are "one-legged exercises, such as a bicep curl, done while standing on one leg -- which increases stamina while it strengthens core muscles."
Workout Trend No. 4: Fusion Fitness
This form of exercise blends two or more activities into one session -- and it's a concept ACE sees as a major fitness force in 2008.
"It's the merging of traditional and nontraditional exercises, and it's also a blend of cardio and toning and conditioning -- and it really helps you maximize your outcome from each session," Comana says.
Workout Trend No. 5: Swiss Ball/Bosu Ball/Stability Ball
These large balls (think mega-sized beach ball -- about 35" around) are inflated with air, then used while doing a variety of exercises that increase muscle tone and help with balance.
"You can sit on it, do bicep curls on it, use it to do push-ups," Fleming says. "It can help strengthen core muscles, as well as aid in developing better balance and better stability overall."
She says that these balls, along with free weights, are the only equipment she advocates using.
Workout Trend No. 6: Pilates and Yoga
These aren't new trends, but they're continuing to gain ground. While in previous years' surveys, fitness experts have lumped these two activities together under the umbrella of "mind-body" fitness, this year they are predicted to drum up more individual interest.
"There is now enough of a distinction between these two mind-body workouts to classify them separately, and on our survey, they came out just a few points apart in terms of increasing popularity," Thompson says.
Comana adds that workouts that focus on life balance and wellness -- which include Pilates and yoga -- should be a strong force in 2008.
Workout Trend # 7: Indoor Cycling
Indoor-cycling workouts are growing in popularity, experts say. Different from just exercising on a stationary bike, these workouts are done at a high intensity with bikes that are designed to simulate both uphill and downhill travel.
Done in a group setting, often with an instructor who describes the "terrain," these classes are a lot like pedaling outdoors, but without the heat, cold, humidity, or rain, Thompson says.
"I think it's essentially the class atmosphere that will be strong in 2008, and that is what will continue to draw people to indoor cycling. It has a bit of a social aspect to it, which a lot of people enjoy," Thompson says.