Health: Looking forward to the future of fitness in 2014

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Want more excitement than the treadmill? Nel Staveley has some ideas.

It’s time for new year’s resolutions – and fitness experts have been predicting the fitness trends we’ll be enjoying - or enduring – in 2014.

SMALL GROUP TRAINING

There’ll be a move towards ‘small group personal training’, where personal trainers lead groups of three to five clients. This gives a more tailored programme for your body and fitness levels than the larger classes, but you still get the motivation from working out with others.

Exercises tend to take the form of paired activities or small group games - which can be “tremendous fun as well as team-building”, adds John Williams, an expertise coach at David Lloyd Leisure.

“Calorie burn is dependent on the session,” says Williams. “But most small group training is designed in a circuit fashion, making it an effective way to burn calories. Other key health benefits include improved flexibility, strength and endurance, and cardiovascular fitness and stress reduction.”

HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING

Very few of us have the spare hours, or the inclination, for endless trudging on the treadmill. Cue the unstoppable rise of ‘high intensity interval training’ (HIIT)- several short intense bursts of exercise, followed by rest, contained in workouts of 10 to 30 minutes maximum.

“It is far more effective at burning calories both from carbohydrates and fat than low intensity, steady state exercise,” says Williams.

“Not only does it burn high amounts of calories in one short session, it also has a significant post workout calorie burn so you get double ‘bang for your buck’.”

While HIIT has its benefits, experts do advise that it should be approached sensibly, and not every workout session should be HIIT - Williams advises aiming for two to four sessions per week if you train regularly, and building up slowly if your body’s new to it.

PLAYGROUND STYLE FUN

From tribal dance classes to specifically-designed ‘fitness playgrounds’, 2014 looks set to be the year we start smiling, instead of grimacing.

New ‘freestyle’ areas at selected branches of Fitness First gyms are complete with monkey bars and primary coloured boxes.

“It replicates how we moved as children,” explains fitness expert Tom Eastham. “Swinging across monkey bars not only brings the fun back into fitness, it’s also guaranteed to improve muscle tone, definition, and cardio fitness.”

The ultimate smile-raiser - dancing - is back with a vengeance too.

Billed as ‘the next Zumba’, Fierce is a South African tribal dance class.

If that sounds a little too embarrassing, FitSteps, is a new ‘fusion’ dance class blending Latin and Ballroom dances, and claims to burn up to 600 calories in one 45-minute class.

Launched by Strictly Come Dancing stars Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite, and former contestant, champion swimmer Mark Foster, FitSteps wholly believes in the power of dance to make you feel good - “and because you’re having so much fun,” says Lowe simply, “you don’t even realise that you’re working every part of the body.”

Dean Johnstone, chief executive of Minds Ahead and joint leader of the centre of excellence in Leeds.

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