Pull your own weight
ATLANTA -- Forget fancy workout gear. One of the hottest trends of 2013 suggests you need nothing more than your own body weight.
Body weight training includes back-to-basics exercises -- pushups, planks, pull-ups, squats and other exercises -- and using the body as resistance is a leading trend this year. A survey recently released by the American College of Sports Medicine says among fitness trends, body weight training appears in the top 10 for the first time.
"The reason body weight exercises are becoming popular is because it's a proven way to get and stay fit," said Walt Thompson, associate dean for graduate studies and research in the College of Education at Georgia State University. He authored the study. "And it's related somewhat to the economy. Our mentality is more back to the basics."
Thompson said using your own body weight to work out has been around for centuries. Gyms are repackaging body weight training by adding lights, music and fitness instructors to make it seem "fun, exciting, new." And body weight training is something people can do in the comforts of home for free.
The American College of Sports Medicine survey, now in its seventh year, was completed by 3,346 health and fitness professionals worldwide. Other fitness trends rounding out the top 10 include strength training, sharing personal trainers and incorporating more diet programs into fitness programs.
So, what's fallen off the list? Pilates, spinning and stability balls.
Thompson believes while Pilates is still popular in some pockets of the country, enthusiasm has waned in recent years. He said it raises the question of whether Pilates was ever a real trend or more of a passing fad.
Meanwhile, yoga, while not in the top 10 in this latest survey, appears to have staying power. Yoga secured No. 14 in this latest survey. Thompson believes yoga's evolution to include many variations, such as hot yoga and power yoga, helps keep this form of exercise seeming new and fresh -- and ultimately convinces people it's worth paying for these classes even during lean economic times.
Jacob McLendon, owner of fitness center AGX, has seen interest in body weight training build for years now.
McLendon said people are more likely to combine intense cardio with strength training to achieve more well-rounded fitness. Some of his fitness clubs' most popular classes include a mix of exercises such as leg squats, pushups and plyometrics, which involves high-intensity jumping moves.
"People are getting more educated on the body and how it operates, and how body weight training not only makes you strong, but can help you with everyday movements in life like lifting your groceries into the car, walking up that flight of stairs," said McLendon.
"The aesthetic benefits of working out and how you look in the mirror is one thing," he said, "but the main fact people need to focus on is and are paying more attention to is what's going on under the surface -- your muscles, your whole internal system and how your organs work, the strength of your bones."
Meanwhile, Laura Sinton shares a personal trainer with a friend three days a week. Doubling up on the trainer makes it less expensive than one-on-one sessions, and having a workout buddy gives her accountability.
"I know if I am not there, my workout buddy is there expecting me to be there," said Sinton, of Atlanta.
The intense 60- to 90-minute sessions begin with a one-mile run and then include a wide range of exercises designed to make the body sweat and build muscles -- lifting weights, lunges, pushups and bench presses, and the list goes on. Her personal trainer devotes one session a week to body weight training.
Sinton, 55, started the three-times-a-week sessions with the personal trainer more than three years ago. While her weight has remained the same, her body fat percentage has dropped sharply.
"I recently had my checkup, and my doctor said, 'Whatever you are doing, keep doing it,'" she said. It's not particularly cheap, with Sinton estimating she spends about $500 a month on the personal trainer.
"It's an investment in myself," Sinton said. "I can cut out shopping for clothes and other things. The way I look at it is this is preventive health care. I can spend the money now or spend the money later on health problems."
She added, "It is the best stress reliever and makes me feel great."
Top fitness trends
The top 10 fitness trends predicted for 2013 are:
1. Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals: Educated and experienced fitness professionals claimed the top spot in 2013 for the sixth consecutive year. Fully accredited education and certification programs for health/fitness professionals are on the rise.
2. Strength training: Remaining in the No. 2 spot for the second year in a row, this trend is important for men, women, young and old to improve or maintain strength.
3. Body weight training: This is the first appearance of this trend in the survey. Body weight training uses minimal equipment, making it more affordable.
4. Children and obesity: With nearly 1 in 3 children ages 10 to 17 considered overweight or obese, childhood obesity continues to be a serious public health problem. A growing number of commercial and community-based programs are teaming up with schools to fight the obesity epidemic.
5. Exercise and weight loss: Incorporating diet and exercise is of growing interest among fitness professionals. A growing number of fitness programs are offering everything from meal planning to onsite nutritionists to regular lessons on nutrition.
6. Fitness programs for older adults: The Baby Boom generation is growing older and living longer. With this group typically having more discretionary money and time than others, fitness programs for older adults will remain a strong trend for 2013.
7. Personal training: As more professional personal trainers become certified, they are more accessible and available in a wide variety of settings from corporate wellness programs to community-based programs to medical fitness programs.
8. Functional fitness: Functional fitness uses strength training to improve balance, coordination and endurance in order to participate in daily activities without any stress. Often, this program is created for older adults.
9. Core training: Core training stresses strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax and back. It typically includes exercises of the hips, lower back and abdomen, all of which provide support for the spine and thorax.
10. Group personal training: This trend, fueled by the economic downturn, allows the personal trainer to provide individualized service catered to small groups of two to four people. This allows groups to have a discounted rate, while still giving the trainer a full schedule of clients.
Source: American College of Sports Medicine annual survey completed by 3,346 health and fitness professionals worldwide.