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Fitness Trends: What's Smart for Your Heart?

From high-intensity interval training and indoor cycling to yoga and boot camp, a Johns Hopkins expert looks at the latest fitness crazes and how to know if they’re right for you.

What the Experts Do
Mix It Up for Fitness Fun

Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin, M.D., likes to get his workouts from a variety of sports. He participates in a tennis group, which pairs fitness with social time. “I also play golf—and try to walk the course rather than ride in a cart,” he says. He’s open to new fitness ideas as well. “A friend recently convinced me to try Zengo cycling—lots of spinning in a dark room with loud music to pump you up,” Martin says. “It’s nice when exercise is not just a task but a fun part of the day.”

Trendy exercises come and go, just like trendy clothing and foods. Whether you should join in depends on your interest, motivation and fitness level. “Different things work well for different people,” says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin, M.D. “What’s great is that there are so many options today that make working out more of a fun or social activity than a daily chore.”

Hot Fitness Options

Body-weight training, using your own body weight as a form of resistance training (such as push-ups, squats, lunges, etc.), and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery, top the list of top trends for 2015, according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s latest annual survey. Also on the list:

  • Forms of yoga (including Power Yoga, Yogalates and hot Bikram Yoga)
  • Group personal training (with two or three people at the same time)
  • Outdoor activities (hiking, canoeing, kayaking)
  • Circuit training (a group of 6 to 10 exercises that are completed one after another in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a certain number of reps before having a quick rest and moving on to the next exercise)
  • Boot camp (highly structured activities modeled on military-style training)

Past trends have included such now-familiar workouts as Pilates, Zumba®, indoor cycling, stability ball workouts and more—and there are new ideas being introduced all the time.

“There’s no one way to work out,” Martin says. For heart health, what matters is that you meet, and ideally exceed, the CDC guidelines to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, he says.

Tracking your progress with a wearable device is a hot trend that can add fun and motivate you to compete with others.

Fitness That Fits You

Here are some questions to help you evaluate a new fitness routine:

What’s your current level of fitness?

Someone who is just starting to fitness walk might have a hard time with an intensive new program at a gym. “You don’t have to join a gym and do something intense,” Martin says. Whatever you choose, make sure to get your doctor’s OK before starting.

Does the workout further your fitness goals?

Consider complementary activities. If you’re a runner, weight training can work different muscle groups. If you lift weights, something like yoga can help you stretch. Many trendy programs call themselves “hybrid workouts” and combine fitness goals.

What appeals to you about it?

Don’t go for a new sport just because everybody else is doing it. You’ll stick with something longer if it holds intrinsic appeal—for instance, if it involves music you love, takes place outside, or gives you a chance to connect with other people.

Do you feel OK during and after the workout?

While exercising, watch how you feel. Scale back if you become very short of breath or experience pain, Martin says.

“If you’re too aggressive at first and feel very poorly after, you might be discouraged about continuing,” Martin says. “Exercise doesn’t bring overnight changes, so you have to find something that works for you that you can sustain over the long run.”

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