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Shape up: Hot fitness trends for 2015

January 19, 2015

The hottest fitness trends for 2015 are body weight training and high intensity interval training, according to the ninth annual survey of 3,400 health and fitness professionals worldwide by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Yoga is the most popular specialty class, with Bikram yoga (26 postures performed over 90 minutes in a hot room) especially in vogue. Zumba, once the most popular fitness class, is passe. No. 9 in ACSM’s survey in 2012, Zumba fell to 34 this year.

Body weight training is resistance training in which you use your own weight, rather than barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or exercise machines, to build muscle and strength. The most familiar examples are pushups, pullups and burpees (squat thrusts to Army and Marine veterans).

High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, involves short bursts of intense activity, followed by brief periods of rest. You can burn more fat and build more muscle in the half hour or less it takes to perform a typical HIIT routine than you can in an hour or more of conventional aerobic or resistance training, multiple studies have shown.

Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata demonstrated that in his Tabata routine, 20 seconds of all-out cycling, followed by 10 seconds of slow peddling, repeated for four minutes increased VO2 max (maximal aerobic capacity) as much as did 45 minutes of long, slow cardio.

You’re burning fat long after you’ve left the gym, because HIIT raises your metabolic rate and keeps it high for many hours. A Tabata routine burns fat almost exclusively, not both fat and muscle, as conventional cardio exercises tend to do.

A typical Tabata routine consists of a 5-minute warm-up, a 4-minute all-out cycle, 2 minutes of rest, followed by another 4-minute cycle with a different exercise, and a 5-minute cool down. Another popular HIIT workout is Crossfit.

Personal trainer Laura Dougherty teaches a Tabata class at a Pittsburgh-area area athletic club.

"It’s a 10," Tricia Patsilevas, 27, a physical therapist, said of the class. "I get more benefit from 45 minutes with Laura than from three hours or more of conventional cardio and weightlifting."

Psychotherapist Kevin Caridad, 38, said he’s lost 40 pounds since he began taking Tabata classes.

Boxing is a popular HIIT class at Dougherty’s athletic club. Students spar with the Boxmaster, an exercise machine that costs nearly $15,000, not with each other.

Boxing stimulates all muscle groups, provides both aerobic and anaerobic training, can burn up to 1,000 calories an hour.

"Boxing is empowering for women," said Jackie Frederick, the fitness and wellness director who teaches it. "You feel better after you hit something."

Also popular is "Piloxing," which combines boxing moves with Pilates.

HIIT works in part because "people tend to push their bodies harder when they know it’s just for a short time," Ms. Frederick said.

Though HIIT is a demonstrably superior way to build muscle, burn fat and increase cardiovascular endurance, it’s hard to do, can be dangerous for those who are out of shape or have health problems.

If that describes you, a kinder, gentler cousin of HIIT is making a comeback. Circuit training — 6 to 10 exercises performed with brief rests in between — is 14th in this survey, up from 18 last year.

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McClatchy-Tribune Information Services