Not Your Grandpa’s Gymnasium: The Future of Fitness Classes

By Martha Michael

Group Fitness Class

If you’re still going to aerobics to get buns of steel or trying to hunt down a Jazzercise class, chances are you’re either over 60 or you’re still partying like it’s 1999. There are some very unusual ways to get a workout these days … and we’re waaayy past Zumba now.

Pound

These classes marry a passion for drumming with a sweat-inducing, full-body workout. Pound Fitness uses intense music, of course – the kind you can drum to – and brags about being perfect for a wide range of ages. Sometimes referred to as “air drumming,” participants stay in constant motion while putting energy into the movement of two drumsticks.

The Poundfit.com website describes the beginnings of this popular practice. It was created by Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom, two athletic women who were “recreational drummers.” They launched the idea in Los Angeles in 2011 and now have more than 7,000 instructors passing on the passion for pounding.

“We turn workouts into jam sessions and balance into a lifestyle,” Poundfit promises. “We’re not afraid to turn up the volume – in class, as humans, or in life.”

Lyra

Aerial fitness is not just for circus acts anymore. Though bending and twisting on hanging hoops is nothing new, seeing Marge from the workplace water cooler twirling on them is. But people at all levels -- especially those who do not respond well to traditional workouts such as walking and running -- are choosing the practice for its charms.

“By using your own body weight and gravity, you can work out in the air without putting strain on the joints or back, and you might just enjoy that cool feeling you had as a kid on the monkey bars or in gymnastics class years ago,” said Julie Mitchell in the Marina Times, a San Francisco Bay-area newspaper.

Mitchell compares Lyra to Cirque du Soleil to explain its popularity, and mentions variations of the style, such as aerial yoga.

Glow Yoga

Speaking of yoga, San Francisco was, as always, the center of innovation in 2010 when Glow Yoga creator Natasha Ivantsova put the “light” in “enlightenment.”

She believes yoga “will move your life towards your true potential,” according to online fitness site BurnThis.com. Though yoga students often look to the practice for its spiritual contributions, the unique aspect of these flow-in-the-dark classes involves the illuminating effects of neon and black lights, sometimes using glow stick bracelets and necklaces also. Glow Yoga San Francisco also has a “red light therapy” in which you remain in a capsule for 20 minutes, benefiting from the light to improve your circulation and skin while also lowering your anxiety level.

Animal Flow

Mike Fitch created Animal Flow a few years ago and literally turned to nature for the moves.

“We’ve seen all different disciplines of bodyweight training mimicking our friendly, furry critters in one way or the other,” Fitch says on his website, Global Bodyweight Training. “Using animal movements is ingrained in our DNA.”

He continues to trot out the benefits of this form of exercise, including development, stability, flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. You can get a visual for the type of training you get in Animal Flow classes with the names they use for their movements, such as “crab walking” and “side apes.”

Keeping Up With the Kids

Moves like the “side kick-throughs” of Animal Flow and the quick position changes of Lyra and Pound workouts may create some physical challenges, especially the older the participant. Animal Flow, for instance, involves wrist mobilization exercises, which may be too much for someone without previous practice, and seeking treatment may become necessary.

Hand and wrist conditions are increasingly being treated by chiropractors, according to the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.

“Chiropractors responding to focus groups and surveys indicated wide experience with older patients presenting with conditions of the upper extremities and provided suggestions for effective treatment,” it says. “(Examples included) low-impact stretching exercises, rehabilitative passive stretching, traction, soft tissue work, and home exercises. Chiropractors further indicated that with older patients they considered ‘management’ a more realistic concept in treating chronic conditions rather than ‘cure.’”

In other words, most chronic musculoskeletal conditions can be managed through conservative routine care, thereby decreasing the symptoms associated with the condition. If left untreated, however, the symptoms usually return.

Other concerns about new forms of fitness include too much pressure applied to areas of the body that aren’t prepared for it. For instance, you can experience low back pain to one side if there’s stress applied to your sacroiliac joints. If your movement becomes inhibited, you’ll want to visit a chiropractor, who’s trained to detect joint dysfunction and improve motion associated with the restricted joints.

Of course, moving your fitness forward is an attractive proposition for those of us who like a challenge or get bored with routine. It may also be that we just don’t want to see Richard Simmons sweatin’ to the oldies anymore.

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