Back to basics

Back to basics

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, pullups, 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.

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 club AGX, has seen interest in body-weight training build for years. He said people are more likely to combine intense cardio with strength training to achieve more well-rounded fitness. Some of his 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, who has fitness centers in Chamblee and Sandy Springs, Ga.

"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 ... 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 Wilkinson 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 Wilkinson 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.

Wilkinson 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 Wilkinson Sinton estimating she spends about $500 a month on the personal trainer.

"It's an investment in myself," Wilkinson 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." So as Wilkinson Sinton starts the new year, she plans to keep her fitness routine intact.

"It is the best stress reliever and makes me feel great," she said.

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