Gone are the days when getting a workout meant one of three things: hitting the gym, heading outdoors or embracing the comfort of your own home. Enter these global exercise trends that are strengthening bodies, empowering minds and helping people from all walks of life learn to love fitness.
HIIT: England, Japan, Canada
A workout that promises to blast calories and burn body weight in as little as 20 minutes? Um, yes please. No wonder HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is gaining in popularity. But there’s more to this trending form of exercise, which involves short bursts of super intense movements followed by shorter periods of easier motions, than its promise to get you in and out. Studies have shown that high-intensity workouts can burn upwards of 12 to 22 calories a minute. And perhaps the best part? You can follow the HIIT format for almost any exercise you’d like — from jogging to cycling and even kickboxing!
Functional Fitness: Canada
Second to HIIT, functional fitness is gaining popularity in Canadian cities thanks to its life-improving benefits. In fact, the ultimate goal of functional fitness is to train and develop the body’s muscles for activities performed on a daily basis, from sitting down or rising up from a chair to picking up an object from the ground. This makes it appealing to all age groups, especially older adults who may start experiencing trouble with tasks they previously completed with ease or individuals who are recovering from a physical injury. In fact, functional training has its origins in rehabilitation and is based on the approaches of physical and occupational therapists.
Spartan Races: Europe, Australia, North America
Since the dawn of time, humans have thrived off of working together in teams, from sports to dance to intellectual clubs. So why should recreational exercise be a one-and-done solo experience? Spartan races were originally created in Vermont but are now a franchised phenomenon in Canada, Europe, Australia and even South Korea. Millennials in particular are leaping at the chance to compete in these mud-drenched, barbed-wire cladded races complete with flaming spears every hundred yards. In 2012, about 1.5 million participants got in on the obstacle-racing craze. Compare that to the nearly 14 million people who finished average road races back in 2011, reported by Running USA. Yowza!
Imagine a giant blow-up volleyball court stationed on a local beach. Sounds pretty cool — and totally unlikely, right? Not if you’re from Spain, where Bossaball has become a country-wide fitness staple for the last decade. While it’s similar to volleyball, it also includes elements of soccer, gymnastics and a Brazilian martial art called Capoeira. On an inflatable court with trampolines on either side of the net (yes, this is for real!), players can bounce high enough to spike the ball across the net. While it’s mostly played on beaches, it’s becoming more popular to play indoors and has spread to over 25 neighboring countries, including Germany, France, Switzerland and Portugal.
Before cast members of The Office took on the sport via climbing on desks, jumping off chairs and pushing themselves off objects, few Americans had heard of the popular French-born exercise trend Parkour. Developed from military obstacle course training, Parkour literally means, “the way through,” or “the path,” and is essentially the art of running up walls, leaping across rooftops, balancing on rails…you get the picture. Those who practice Parkour focus mainly on balance, sprinting and running, landing high jumps, vaulting when an object is too high to jump over, and swinging to pass between gaps in the obstacle course. Many ClassPass-affiliated studios offer this high movement-oriented exercise, so the next time you’re looking to switch up your routine, give it a try!
Bikram Yoga: India
When most of people thought of being in a room heated to 104°F, they imagined a relaxing sauna where they’d spend 15 minutes or so before exiting with a giant breath of cold air in mind. That is, until the Indian branch of yoga created by Bikram Choudhury started gaining popularity. Also known as “hot yoga,” Bikram yoga is a 90-minute class that enhances a person’s flexibility, strength and breath in a more intensified way than traditional vinyasa or restorative yoga. The added element of heat makes breathing absolutely essential, therefore enhancing the focus directed towards it. It also increases your heart rate and can burn up to 1,000 calories a class! And while dripping sweat may not be the most comfortable — especially considering the various positions you’ll find yourself in mid-class — it helps detoxify your muscles, organs and glands. Perfect after a night out at the bars!