The modern way to get a better body
Clothing that tones your muscles, ballet as a workout – and a new way to diet. Gillian Orr rounds up the very latest fitness trends
Classical dance is having a serious moment, thanks to a sudden slew of ballet-inspired films, including Black Swan and The Adjustment Bureau, plus some high-profile productions such as Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, as well as the catwalks being awash with tutus and plume-infused fabrics. Adult ballet schools are bracing themselves for an influx of new members as people look for a more sophisticated way to get fit.
"It's very much in the public consciousness," agrees Fleur Derbyshire-Fox, director of learning at the English National Ballet. "We've seen an increase in demand and we're looking at extending our adult ballet classes. Many people would rather come here than pay for a gym membership that you may use for a month or two.
"You know that if you come to a ballet class, it's going to use all the large muscle groups, give you greater flexibility, which is fantastic for those sat at a desk all day, and you get to listen to beautiful music in a lovely environment. You get artistry and enjoyment, more than you would in many other fitness forms. It reduces your stress levels, too, which is one of the main things people often tell me. Students totally lose themselves in an hour of ballet, they really enjoy it, and it's a myth that older people can't do it – it really is for all ages."
Already hugely popular in countries such as Turkey, cherry juice is the next fruit juice expected to take off. Over recent years, the health benefits of pomegranate and cranberry juice have been raved about and they have managed to cross over from being a niche health product to being everyday beverages. Cherry juice also boasts a host of health benefits: it's rich in vitamin A and antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory properties – tart cherries have been shown significantly to reduce muscle pain following rigorous exercise – and it has antibacterial properties and is said to help remove toxins from the blood, meaning it's great for your skin.
As if that weren't enough, tart cherry juice is also proven to make you sleep better because of its relatively high content of melatonin, a natural antioxidant that has been shown in previous research to help to induce sleepiness at night and wakefulness during the day. Juices that use sour Montmorency cherries from America, such as Cherrygood, may also offer protection against heart disease. It shouldn't be too hard to find: various supermarkets have started to roll it out across the country.
Exercising with bare feet is expected to get even bigger in 2011. "Off the back of some research done into running with bare feet and the benefits of it, there's a lot of buzz about barefoot training at the moment," says Alan Holl, head of commercial fitness at Virgin Active. "It's the natural way to run, and means you usually land on the front of your foot, which reduces impact. If you wear trainers, you tend to land on the heel, the impact of which is not good for your legs and can even lead to knee and shin problems." Exercising barefoot helps to develop ankle, knee and hip stabilisation, promoting good movement and preventing injury.
Virgin Active gyms are offering the group exercise willPower & Grace, a barefoot training programme that aids the functionality of the entire body. Originating in New York, it is a cardio-meets-body-and-mind exercise class. A new book on barefoot running, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Barefoot Running by Dr Craig Richards, is published on 1 February, and Vibram FiveFingers, a company that manufactures a type of shoe that acts like a glove for the foot, allowing you to mimic exercising barefoot, while actually wearing some protection, is growing in popularity.
Expect to see the word "gravity" latched on to a number of different exercises this year – but don't panic, it's a lot less scary than it sounds. "Exercise that plays around with the idea of gravity is going to be really popular," says Lucy Miller, fitness writer of Health & Fitness. "You put less impact on your joints so it's obviously really good for anyone who has injuries."
Zero-gravity treadmills involve users slotting themselves into a big plastic bag, which inflates around their lower half and supports up to 80 per cent of their weight. This stops the joints from knocking while they exercise, and is much like doing aerobics in a swimming pool.
Gravity Blast is a high-intensity resistance workout on a piece of kit called the Gravity Training System. It's essentially weightlifting, but instead of using dumb-bells, users pull and push their own body weight. You lie on a ramp and adjust the intensity, which can vary between 5 per cent for the smallest gradient and 59 per cent for the steepest incline, with the equipment allowing you to exercise every muscle in your body.
Zero-gravity yoga is traditional yoga performed in a hammock suspended from the ceiling. The ropes help to create inversions that strengthen and stretch the spine, improve posture, reduce back pain and build core strength.
While kettlebells have been around for a long time, they are rapidly gaining popularity, especially among women. These weights have been described as cannonballs with handles and are much more versatile than regular dumb-bells. "They look quite macho and quite fun," Miller says. "But it's different to lifting weights – you don't feel like a bodybuilder." Kettlebell exercises can be added to more straightforward interval-training workouts and they focus on building strength, endurance and flexibility, and working them into your routine will challenge your core muscles in a variety of ways.
Outdoor military training sessions have been growing in prominence during the past few years, but are set to soar in 2011. At the end of last year, the American College of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organisation in the world, announced its projected top 20 fitness trends worldwide for the coming year. It predicted the growing popularity of boot camp workouts, modelled after military-style training that includes cardiovascular, strength, endurance, and flexibility exercises.
"I expect more and more people will be going to boot camps," Miller says. "We're not quite sure why men haven't latched on to it so much. I suppose women like someone authoritative telling them what to do and they like to be instructed; they like to be shouted at. It's a quick workout, you go there, you're put through your paces and then you're out of there. It's outdoors as well and you're working with the natural elements. You can have a laugh with everyone else there: you all tend to support each other because you're all in it together."
The satiety index
After years of fad diets such as the Zone, South Beach and Atkins, 2011 looks set to be the year when many return to a more balanced approach to nutrition. "People are wising up to the fact that a lot of these diets that offer a quick fix don't really work in the long term," nutritionist and food writer Fiona Hunter says. "And they're so restrictive and not compatible with normal life."
One buzz term you may want to get acquainted with is "the satiety index", a commonsense approach to eating. "One of the big trends that started bubbling under the surface last year is the satiety index and the idea that certain foods will help you feel full quicker and for longer," Hunter says. "They tend to be foods higher in protein: lean meat, fish and foods that have a high fibre content, such as beans and pulses. The reason most people fail on a diet is because they get hungry. If you're restricting your calories, it's important those calories work hard for you and they're the right ones. It's not too dissimilar to the GI [glycaemic] index, but while that tends to concentrate on carbohydrate-based foods, the satiety index is more based on the protein and water content of foods."
Ellie Hughes, editor of Top Santé magazine, agrees, "We have found there's not a really new hot book or diet. People still want to lose weight, perhaps more than ever, but there's still a lot of confusion. But we are seeing a trend for people wanting to make healthier choices. So, for example, the WeightWatchers Pro Points plan has moved away from just counting calories to actually looking at what is in those calories. Before, you could get your calories from chocolate bars if you wanted, whereas now, it's about making more satisfying choices."
Both experts extol the virtues of Marks and Spencer's Simply Fuller Longer range, which is not so much about counting calories, but making sure you get the right ones that will keep you full, and we can expect this message to be at the forefront of weight loss in 2011.
Footwear designed to tone up your legs and bum has been all the rage recently, with the likes of FitFlops, Skechers Tone-Ups and New Balance Rock & Tone just some of the shoes flooding the market. Reebok's offering, EasyTone, was so successful that it decided to expand its toning category to include a range of clothing, Reebok EasyTone Apparel, which has just launched. Unlike your run-of-the-mill workout kit, this gear has built-in resistance bands to keep your muscles working just by wearing them.
While the tops are designed to strengthen and tone upper-body muscles and improve posture and body alignment, the bottoms strengthen and tone the hamstring, quadriceps and bum muscles with every step. The range features tops, trousers, Capri pants and shorts and, with the alluring Helena Christensen and Kelly Brook on modelling duties, expect to see plenty of women wearing them on the run, as well as competitors launching their own versions in 2011.
Kranking is essentially spinning for the upper body, that will leave you with toned, shaped arms to rival those of Michelle Obama. Devised by Johnny Goldberg, the very man who originally brought us spinning, you conduct the class in a group, using a stationary arm bike called the Krankcycle, which resembles an upside-down bike with a seat, front wheels, and hand pedals where the handlebars would be. Goldberg has called it "a cardio workout from the waist up" and it is certainly effective.
Virgin Active is running group Kranking sessions which will see six members attached to heart monitors, racing against each other, working up a competitive sweat. You engage muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest and back, and your core muscles have to work hard to stabilise the body. "Your heart has to work hard to pump the same amount of blood through your arms as through your legs because the smaller blood vessels create greater resistance," Goldberg says. It is already a firm favourite with the Hollywood set: celebrity fans are said to include Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck.
Independent News Service