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Wave goodbye to that tummy: 10 top ways to get fit


Bent into shape: Jennifer Aniston is a huge
fan of yoga, and this powerful variation can really burn the calories

Bent into shape: Jennifer Aniston is a huge fan of yoga, and this powerful variation can really burn the calories

Bent into shape: Jennifer Aniston is a huge fan of yoga, and this powerful variation can really burn the calories

Here's something that's guaranteed to dampen those feelings of seasonal cheer: the average person apparently puts on a whole five pounds in weight over the Christmas period. And we all know how difficult that can be to shift later, despite our best intentions when setting out New Year resolutions.

The thought of slogging it out on the treadmill or battling the inclement elements to walk off the poundage is a pretty depressing one. But there is a silver lining to this seasonal cloud: it doesn't have to be all pain for that fitness gain.

There are any number of fun, unusual and interesting ways to lose weight and get fit this New Year, and we've picked out 10 of the best.

Get your skates on

The suitably wintry activity of ice-skating gives you a good cardiovascular workout, burns fat and exerts all the muscles, as you'll discover afterwards if you've neglected exercise over Christmas!

It's an aerobic exercise but, unlike others such as jogging, ice-skating is low-impact and easier on the joints.

In terms of weight loss, recreational skating alone can burn up to 250 calories per hour (the competitive kind uses an amazing 450-1,000). It also builds endurance, improves muscle tone in the legs, back and stomach. Check out Dundalk Ice Dome www.dundalkicedome .com), Ireland's only year-round indoor Olympic size ice-skating rink, Navan on Ice (www.navanonice.ie) which offers lessons for beginners and is open until Jan 9; Cork on Ice (www.corkonice.com) which also has an ice slide and is open 'till January 16; or Limerick On Ice (www.limerickonice.com) until January 9.

Hang ten, dude

Long considered the preserve of Californian slackers with matted blond hair, surfing has been enthusiastically embraced in Ireland over the last decade or so.

Our waves are regarded as being as good as anywhere else -- though presumably a little colder than California -- and the sport is great for fat-burning and all-over toning. You use mostly upper body muscles to paddle and leg muscles to guide the board while riding.

It also works your core muscles (the ones that keep your tummy held in). There are surf schools for beginners (kids or adults) all along our west coast counties (and also one in Waterford), competitions and community activities.

Log on to the Irish Surfing Association's website (www.isasurf.ie) for info on all of the above. It's totally rad.

You go, yoga

We normally think of yoga as being very gentle and easy -- great for the mind and spirit, yes, but not so good for losing pounds. Say hello, however, to power yoga, described as "a full body workout" that "tones and chisels through isometric and isotonic movement".

The exercises burn fat and thus speed up the metabolism, leading to more fat being burned. Yoga is also great for toning the stomach, bum, arms and legs and -- perhaps most importantly -- imparts the sort of flexibility that most other exercises can neglect. Power Yoga Ireland, based in Mount Merrion in Dublin, offer a range of classes and courses.

See poweryoga.com for more. And who knows? You may even reach Nirvana while you're at it . . .

I think I'm turning Japanese

Kendo, meaning "the way of the sword", is a Japanese martial art that is becoming increasingly popular in Ireland, though still unusual enough.

It's sort of a version of fencing but instead of the white tights and thin fencing foil, you fight in a very cool costume and use a "sword" made of bamboo. It's good for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, makes you use all the muscle groups and is great for toning.

The Irish Kendo Federation has been in existence since 1998 and there are clubs in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Naas and Monasterevin, Co Kildare. See www.irishkendofederation.org for more.

Climb every mountain

Once seen as something of an 'extreme sport', rock climbing has become more mainstream in the last ten or 15 years, with more and more people taking up this tough but hugely rewarding pastime.

It quickly develops the strength of your arms, back, fingers, calves, shoulders and core muscles, even for beginners. Rock climbing also builds up agility, strength and flexibility.

Irish Climbing Online (www.climbing.ie) is an excellent resource for newbies and veterans alike, providing information on good locations, guidebooks, courses and instructors, kids' climbing opportunities and more.

And if you don't fancy hitting the nearest mountain, there are more than a dozen indoor climbing walls scattered across the country. See www.indoorclimbing.com for details.

Get in the game

Playing videogames no longer need involve lying on the couch like a sedated sloth, the only moving body parts being your fingers fiddling with controls.

'Exergaming' is the new trend, whereby you get a workout and have fun, by yourself or with pals, on machines like the Microsoft Kinect, PlayStation Move or -- the original and probably still the best -- Nintendo Wii. Box, play tennis, have a swordfight, do aerobics, wash windows, hop around like a rock guitaris . . . the possibilities are pretty endless and the rewards include weight loss, better cardiovascular health and, reportedly, some improved motor function. And it can be done in your own sitting-room.

Swing out, sister

We've all seen it done in the movies and on TV -- usually some guy in a snappy suit and a girl in a 1940s-style frock -- and thought, doesn't that look fun? Now you can give swing dancing a go yourself. Dancing of most kinds are a proven route to weight loss, and swing is as energetic as they get.

It gets the heart pumping, strengthens all the major muscles, can burn around 260 calories an hour and, because of the positions and movements, really tones the midriff; ideal for knocking a few inches off the waistline. Boogie Beat Swing (www.boogiebeatswing.com) runs classes in Temple Bar and Fairview in Dublin; at the other side of Ireland, Galway Swing (www.galwayswing.com) do likewise in the City of the Tribes and Limerick.

Put some bounce in your step

Trampolining -- sure, you're thinking it's just something kids do at birthday parties, right? And not an appropriate way for adults to lose weight and exercise. But you'd be wrong.

Trampolining has several major health benefits: it helps the body push toxins out of your system (through the G force exerted by the bouncing motion), particularly welcome after the annual Christmas binge.

Also, it increases muscles strength, especially in the legs; it lightens the load on your heart; it improves bone density; it gets more oxygen pumping and aids lymphatic circulation; it reduces cholesterol levels; and it stimulates the metabolism and digestive processes. All of which adds up to a slimmer, fitter you. And it's low impact, so your joints are safe.

Check out the Club Links section of www.trampolining-online.co.uk for information on a dozen trampolining clubs in Ireland, from Shannon to Dublin and Antrim to Cork.

It's Brazil-liant

Brazilian martial arts? Surely not. We usually think of soccer, samba and sexy senoritas when we think of Brazil, but capoeira is an indigenous fighting style, created by African slaves, which combines elements of martial arts, music and dance.

With its flamboyant handstands and flying kicks, it's an excellent all-over workout particularly for the arms and legs.

Some capoeira experts have the flexibility of yoga practitioners, and needless to say, it's very good aerobic exercise too. Get fit, get slim and learn how to kick some ass.

Oh, and Wesley Snipes does it. Good enough reason for you? See www.capoeiracandeias.ie for info on capoeira clubs in Cork, Limerick, Clare, Bandon, Dublin, Galway and Mayo.

Put the boot in

Actually joining the army, of course, would be sure to get you ship-shape in 2011. But instead we'll make do with fitness bootcamps, which use circuit-style training methods to increase upper body strength, reduce fat and improve fitness, stamina and energy levels.

Body and Mind Fitness (www.bodyandmindfitness.ie) in Ennis -- they do classes for both sexes -- the Blokes' Bootcamp and Ladies' Body Transformation Bootcamp -- so why not join up together? As the song says, you're in the army now . . .

Irish Independent