Fit or fad?: Trimming the fat on Southwest Florida’s hottest exercise trends

Anyone who watches late night television can tell you that when it comes to fitness, there are dozens of options that promise firm, sexy everything in only five minutes a day.

If this were the dating world, we, as a nation, would be that guy your mom warned you about — commitment-phobic and preferring to have a string of one-night-stands with each new workout plan, then ditching it when a newer, hotter gimmick enters the fray.

But they’re not all gimmicks, and not all bad. Some fitness trends actually offer some legitimate health benefits and have real long-term relationship potential. Zumba, introduced to Southwest Florida a few years ago, seemed destined to be an in-and-out trend. Today, however, classes are bigger than ever, and devotees still sing the praises of this shimmy-centric workout.

While some fitness experts argue that fitness trends, especially those of the as-seen-on-TV variety, create false expectations and discourage people who don’t see results, Andrew Miller, local personal trainer and wellness specialist at NCH’s Briggs Wellness Center, contends that fitness trends aren’t all bad.

“Anytime you’re exercising you’re going to be moving your body and getting some kind of benefit. If it gets you moving a little bit, it’s better than nothing.”

But he offers these words of warning:

“If you don’t see the equipment in your local gym, there’s probably a reason for that.”

When asked to name some of the trend he’s seen recently, he can rattle off a list, from the Shake Weight to P90X, Crossfit and Insanity.

Here are a few that are taking Southwest Florida by storm, and why you should (or shouldn’t) give them a try while they’re here.

Pole/belly dance

While pole dancing and belly dancing are by no means new, their introduction as mediums for fitness has local ladies installing poles in their basements and ordering hip scarves and veils.

The combination of creativity, sexiness and fitness seems to be a winning combo for both of these workouts.

“A lot of the girls who come every week look forward to coming, it’s not like getting a gym membership where you go for a few weeks and then lose interest. People come to this because it’s fun,” says Mikal Mount, owner of Pole Dance Fitness of Southwest Florida.

And it’s a total body workout. Mount advises clients that they’ll feel it in their upper body, core and lower body the next day.

Likewise, local belly dance instructor Sherry Coffey stresses that belly dancing focuses heavily on the core, with emphasis being placed on flexibility, movement and control.

And both Mount and Coffey emphasize that absolutely any woman can take and enjoy their classes.

“We get 18-year-olds all the way through women in their 60’s,” says Mount of her pole dancing classes, adding “Our median age is probably mid 40’s.”

Crossfit, P90X, Insanity

Yes, there really is a workout called Insanity. It’s new and it’s developing a loyal fan base from the results it delivers — if you can stick with it. P90X and Insanity are two DVD sets designed for home workouts. Both require intense bouts of cardio intervals, plyometric exercises and strength work, and both offer nutritional suggestions to maximize weight loss. But keeping yourself motivated in your own living room, just steps from your sofa, is probably the greatest challenge to anyone trying these programs.

Similar to P-90x and Insanity is the rapidly growing Crossfit. Though Crossfit, by its own admission, puts its attrition rate at 80 percent, it almost seem to pride itself on that number. The workout is that hard, and company reps like it that way. Expect to do intense circuits of cardio, lift more weight than you thought possible and have trouble walking normally the next day.

Kangoo Jumps

These spring-laden boots aren’t new, but their weirdness factor has made them slow to catch on. They’re finally being seen on the streets of Southwest Florida, but still in small numbers. The idea behind them is to create a running exercise with less impact on the knees with opposing cantilevers attached the shoes, so, in theory, it should be a perfect workout choice for aging runners. The boot’s literature suggests they tone and strengthen lower body muscles, though possible side effects include looking utterly ridiculous.

Mommy and Me Fitness

Any new mom who has struggled to lose baby weight postpartum will tell you how hard it is to not only find time to exercise, but to find someone to watch your baby while you sweat it out. Which is exactly why mom-specific workouts that welcome children have become so popular. Local Baby Boot Camp franchise owner Courtney Williams, who runs classes throughout Lee and Collier counties, stresses how important this hour is for the moms she teaches.

“Often this is their only ’me’ time,” says Williams, herself a mother of two.

Between jogging with their strollers, doing lunges or sprinting to their baby, tickling their feet and then sprinting away, moms get plenty of exercise, and children are introduced to the idea that fitness is fun at a very young age.

One-fit wonders?

Sketchers’ Shape Ups, Ionic bracelets, the Shake Weight — everyone wants to know, do they work? The short answer is no; the longer one includes “who knows” in the case of Sketchers Shape Ups and Shake Weight.

While Sketchers touts four studies — all financed by them — showing results that the shoes tone and firm backsides, the company is actually facing a class action lawsuit that disputes these claims. There also are currently several lawsuits claiming that the shoes have actually caused injuries to those wearing them.

As for negative ion and holographic bracelets, there doesn’t seem to be any research showing why they would work, or even how they would work. A 2002 Mayo Clinic study on the Q-Ray bracelet demonstrated no significant on pain relief, no more so than the placebo effect.

The verdict is still out on the Shake Weight, the weights with flexible ends that theoretically firm up your arms from the extra effort it takes to control them as you shake them. Despite efforts to find someone in Southwest Florida who had bought and used with regularity a Shake Weight, no one was willing to come forward and admit they owned one. If you own one and love it, send your comments to news@naplesnews.com

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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