Workout Trends for 2008 (cont.)

Core training refers to exercises that strengthen and condition the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and back -- an area that ACE research scientist and trainer Comana says is often in critical need of attention.

"In most people, the body has literally forgotten how to activate core muscles, which is one reason we see so many back problems and poor posture," Comana says.

Too much sitting -- especially while hunched over a computer -- tends to lengthen back muscles and shorten core muscles, so that when we stand or walk, our bodies don't get the support they need. That means we slouch, shift our weight, and cause muscle imbalances that can result in pain.

Thompson says core training typically includes exercises that concentrate on the muscles of the pelvis, lower back, hips, and abdomen, "all of which provide much-needed support for the spine," he says.

One of the best ways to strengthen core muscles, Fleming says, is to use the Swiss Ball -- also known as a stability ball, or Bosu Ball (see below). Other core-strengthening exercises likely to gain popularity this year include push-ups and sit-ups. Also, Fleming says, there are "one-legged exercises, such as a bicep curl, done while standing on one leg -- which increases stamina while it strengthens core muscles."

Workout Trend No. 4: Fusion Fitness

This form of exercise blends two or more activities into one session -- and it's a concept ACE sees as a major fitness force in 2008.

"It's the merging of traditional and nontraditional exercises, and it's also a blend of cardio and toning and conditioning -- and it really helps you maximize your outcome from each session," Comana says.

Among the most popular fusion classes, says ACE, are yo-cycling, a blend of yoga and spinning; and Yogalates, a blend of yoga and Pilates.

Workout Trend No. 5: Swiss Ball/Bosu Ball/Stability Ball

These large balls (think mega-sized beach ball -- about 35" around) are inflated with air, then used while doing a variety of exercises that increase muscle tone and help with balance.

"You can sit on it, do bicep curls on it, use it to do push-ups," Fleming says. "It can help strengthen core muscles, as well as aid in developing better balance and better stability overall."

She says that these balls, along with free weights, are the only equipment she advocates using.

Workout Trend No. 6: Pilates and Yoga

These aren't new trends, but they're continuing to gain ground. While in previous years' surveys, fitness experts have lumped these two activities together under the umbrella of "mind-body" fitness, this year they are predicted to drum up more individual interest.

"There is now enough of a distinction between these two mind-body workouts to classify them separately, and on our survey, they came out just a few points apart in terms of increasing popularity," Thompson says.

Comana adds that workouts that focus on life balance and wellness -- which include Pilates and yoga -- should be a strong force in 2008.

Workout Trend No. 7: Spinning

The indoor-cycle workouts known as "spinning" are growing in popularity, experts say. Different from just exercising on a stationary bike, spinning is done at a high intensity with bikes that are designed to simulate both uphill and downhill travel.

Done in a group setting, often with an instructor who describes the "terrain," spinning is a lot like pedaling outdoors, but without the heat, cold, humidity, or rain, Thompson says.

"I think it's essentially the class atmosphere that will be strong in 2008, and that is what will continue to draw people to spinning. It has a bit of a social aspect to it, which a lot of people enjoy," Thompson says.

Medically Reviewed January 4, 2008.

SOURCES: Sue Fleming, certified fitness trainer; director,; author, Fashionably Buff. Walter R. Thompson, PhD, FACSM, FAACVPR, professor of kinesiology and health, professor of nutrition, Georgia State University, Atlanta. Fabio Comana, MA, MS, exercise physiologist; research scientist, American Council on Exercise. Thompson, W. American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal; vol 11, no 6.

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Last Editorial Review: 1/4/2008