A New Year, a New Workout

Fitness pros give their picks for the hottest exercise trends for 2008.

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

As anyone who's ever watched a New Year's Day infomercial can tell you, this is the time of year when new workout trends take center stage. And this year, experts say, exploring those new workout trends may be easier than ever.

"Many of the most popular new workout trends going forward in 2008 are centered on addressing not only our real-life needs, but also our limitations, including time and money," says certified personal trainer Sue Fleming, creator of the Buff series of fitness DVDs and director of BuffFitness.com.

Fleming says one thing we'll definitely see more of in 2008 is 24-hour fitness centers. Like open-all-night Laundromats, these do-it-yourself workout centers make it possible to exercise any time of the day or night.

But what if you need some help getting fit? Well, there's a new exercise trend for you as well. Walter Thompson, PhD, a professor at Georgia State University and spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, says the trend is toward more and better-trained fitness professionals.

"One new workout trend you can expect to see in 2008 -- and beyond -- is health and fitness professionals being required to achieve a higher standard of education and certification, which is something that will benefit everyone trying to increase their level of fitness, from the beginner clear through to the pro," says Thompson, author of the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2008, published in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal.

This also means there will be more trainers who are educated at coaching people with limitations, be they age-related, a result of chronic illness, or other factors, Thompson says.

But all this, experts say, is just the tip of the iceberg. Thompson, Fleming, and Fabio Comana, MA, MS, a research scientist from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), helped WebMD hone in on eight top workout trends for the year. Here's what they had to say:

Workout Trend No. 1: Personal Trainers

If you thought personal trainers were only for Hollywood types, think again. All three experts who spoke with WebMD agreed that this year, more people than ever will seek the benefits of personal instruction.

"When you do things on your own, you tend to do the same things over and over," Fleming says. "A personal trainer mixes things up, motivates you, and reduces your risk of injury by helping you work out correctly."

Making it all possible, experts say, is more affordable prices for personal training. Depending on where you live, it could cost you around $50 per hour. Further, more trainers are agreeing to conduct group sessions. This means you and a friend (or three or four) can split the cost of a session and still come away with most of the benefits of one-on-one training.

But choose your trainer wisely, Thompson says. Look for credentials that really mean something.

"If you're looking to hire a trainer, find out what their certifications are, and then find out if their certifications are certified by NCCA [National Commission for Certifying Agencies] -- a group that will help you learn if those letters after your trainer's name really mean anything," he says.

Thompson says the fitness industry is working to establish universal accreditation guidelines, which will help make it easier to choose a trainer.

Workout Trend No. 2: Strength Training

While lifting weights isn't exactly new, experts say that more and more people will benefit from this type of strength training in 2008.

Thompson says his worldwide survey of fitness professionals indicates that many people will focus on using weights to increase or simply maintain strength, particularly as the Baby Boomers head toward their 60s and beyond.

"It will be very common for most trainers to incorporate some form of weight training into not only fitness routines, but also for programs that focus on cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, and metabolic disease management," like diabetes, Thompson says.

Fleming adds that many exercisers will likely mix strength and cardiovascular workouts into a single new workout trend.

"Instead of doing a set of weight training and then resting, you do a set and then go directly to anther exercise, engaging a totally different muscle group, so there's no rest period in between," she says. "The result is that you're working on different muscle groups but keeping your heart rate up so you get the best of both types of workouts in less time."

Workout Trend No. 3: Core Training