Spice Up your Exercise Program

They say variety is the spice of life – and variety is just the ticket for an exercise routine that has become dull and boring.

Perk up your program and get back on track to fitness with new and different exercise options. Today’s popular trends include high intensity workouts in Spinning and Tae-Bo, lower impact aerobics with Steps and stress-reducing activities like Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi.

Explore the possibilities and you are bound to find an activity that enlivens your exercise program and refreshes your mind, body and spirit.

Loud, thumping music and enthusiastic instructors will definitely wake you up for this intense workout. Also known as Studio or Indoor Cycling, Spinning offers you the opportunity to burn as many as 900 calories in a one-hour class, depending on your weight.

You can follow the instructor’s energetic directions and pedal to the beat of the music on your stationary bike or tailor your ride to the intensity level of your choice.

The bikes are designed to simulate real life bike rides, so you can modify the difficulty of pedaling to reflect mild to steep slopes or moderate to speedy pedaling.

The instructor’s routines may include sitting or standing in various positions in order to work the different muscle groups. And just in case you need some distraction while working up a sweat, some bikes even have video screens.

Step Aerobics
Millions of people enjoy this low impact form of exercise. Much easier on your joints than running, Step Aerobics offers similar cardiovascular benefits without the need for expensive equipment or a lot of space.

All you need is a flat surface, a box or platform to step up on and over and a good pair of lightweight sneakers.

Basically you start out by just stepping up on the platform and stepping back down again. As you progress you can intensify your routine by increasing your speed or raising the platform and then by adding arm movements.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, take a look at the multitude of choreographed step patterns available. Give them a try and spice up your workout while you go for the gold!

Yoga has become a popular and widely accessible form of exercise. It can be practiced by people of all ages and is readily adaptable for people who have disabilities or special needs.

Slow, gentle stretches and postures are paired with deep, steady breathing that enhances your blood circulation, soothes your nerves and increases your vitality. It is a great way to improve flexibility and strength, reduce stress and relax both your body and mind.

If you still yearn for a sweat producing workout, Power or Ashtanga Yoga adds a cardiovascular element to the classic yoga tradition.

Pilates is a regimen designed to improve flexibility and strength through a variety of stretching and balancing movements accompanied by resistance exercises and deep breathing.

Pilates focuses on the muscles of the lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks and pelvic floor. By strengthening this “powerhouse” of muscles, you can prevent injury, improve posture, increase flexibility and strengthen and shape the body.

These gentle exercises are recommended for strengthening the back and spine, and reducing stiffness in the muscles. The deep breathing and focus on the movements can help relieve stress and anxiety. Many practitioners feel that it helps to open and expand the mind as well.

If you follow a Pilates regimen you can expect to enjoy better posture, increased mobility in your joints, a flatter stomach, thinner waist and thighs, improved circulation and a sense of calm and well-being.

Tai Chi
Like Yoga and Pilates, Tai Chi is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. This ancient Chinese martial art seeks to cultivate and increase the circulation of “chi” or life energy.

Composed of a series of graceful motions that flow smoothly into one another, Tai Chi is practiced while the body is held straight and upright. Every part of the body is exercised equally and all the movements are performed with meditative concentration.

As you progress in Tai Chi the movements become more demanding. The controlled motions require a strong posture and plenty of muscle strength.

Tai Chi is not for the impatient. It takes time and practice. A “form” or sequence of continuous movements can include up to 60 positions and take up to six months to learn.

However, the rewards are many. Tai Chi develops your ability to concentrate, reduces stress, increases your muscular endurance and improves your posture, balance, coordination and flexibility.

New Trends to Watch
In addition to the popular activities listed above that can spice up your fitness routine and refresh your mind and body, there are also some new trends making their way into your city or local gym. Check out some of these alternatives to give your exercise program a new twist.

We all know that dancing is a great and fun aerobic exercise. Well, now you can find dance exercise classes popping up everywhere.

There’s everything from Belly Dancing to Hip Hop with a wide array in between. Take a Rhythm and Motion class, check out African dancing or go with Latin Rhythms. Spice up your exercise program with a little salsa and watch your mind and body perk right up!

The 30-minute program
Some clubs now offer quick and condensed workouts that can fit into your busy lifestyle. These programs are designed to be full-body workouts that incorporate both aerobic and strength training into one quick and simple program. Exercise machines are designed to be used in a particular order to strengthen your muscles while also incorporating the necessary elements of warm-up, stretching and cool-down.

Targeted fitness programs
In addition to the quick and simple 30-minute circuit training programs, there are also many new fitness classes and programs designed for people of all ages and fitness levels. Many gyms now offer classes designed for older adults with an emphasis on conditioning exercises for the bones and joints while also incorporating relaxation techniques. You can also find classes and clubs that cater to women, teenagers and pregnant women.


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