5 new exercise classes to shake up your workout

Most recreation and fitness centres offer a plethora of programs that vary in intensity and can help you reach your fitness goals. Here are some of the classes to out look for and what they do best.

5 new exercise classes to shake up your workout

1. Tai chi chuan

  • The name of this ancient Chinese martial art form (called tai chi for short) loosely translates to "the supreme ultimate boxing system." It involves slow, steady movements that incorporate both the physicality of the body and the mental strength of the mind. It is both motion and meditation.
  • Most of the movements are performed in a standing position, with inner calm being a key component. Numerous studies attest to tai chi's benefits in improving balance, flexibility, and cardiovascular health in people of all ages, but particularly in older people with and without chronic conditions.
  • Tai chi can reduce pain and disability from arthritis, significantly reduce the risk of falls, lower blood pressure, relieve stress, and improve aerobic capacity.

2. Pilates

  • Pilates was created by German fitness instructor Joseph Pilates as a way to strengthen the body and help recover from and prevent injuries. It utilizes a series of low-impact, controlled movements that are designed to improve balance, flexibility, and core strength, accompanied by slow, steady breathing.
  • Programs sometimes involve the use of special fitness machines that Joseph Pilates invented.
  • Unlike with tai chi, which has been the subject of hundreds of research studies, researchers are just beginning to uncover the health benefits of Pilates. So far, they've found that it can relieve lower-back pain better than standard medical treatments and improve flexibility as well. Best of all, the risk of injury is very low with a trained instructor.

3. Ball classes

  • You've probably seen those oversized rubber balls at the store or fitness centre. They're wonderful tools for strengthening your abdomen and back and improving your balance.
  • Try lying across a ball on your back to do situps. The combination of the abdominal exercise and the added effort required to balance on the ball supercharges the motion. Or simply sit on the ball with your feet hip-width apart and lift one foot at a time. Can you keep your balance?
  • Classes that integrate balls offer a low-impact option for improving muscle strength and flexibility.

4. Kickboxing

  • You might call kickboxing the high-impact aerobics of the 21st century. This is the class for you if you're looking for a great endurance exercise with a dollop of strength training thrown in. You'll even get a bit of stretching for that extra flexibility work.
  • In kickboxing, you incorporate movements from the boxing world, including kicks, punches, and squats, for a full-body workout. Come to class ready to work hard.

5. Kettlebells

  • Kettlebells is a Russian fitness routine that incorporates solid cast-iron weights that look like bowling balls with handles. Like Pilates and yoga, kettlebell routines focus on strengthening core muscles. Unlike those two programs, however, you also get an aerobic workout because you move quickly.
  • The program is designed to work several muscles at a time in a dynamic fashion rather than a static "lift-lower-lift-lower" approach.

Whatever fitness goals you might have, classes are a fun way to stay motivated and keep your workouts fresh. Use these tips to find a class that will get you moving.

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