7 trendy workouts: Which is right for you?

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Gone are the days when going to the gym meant you have two choices: lifting weights or running on the treadmill. Today, numerous fitness classes and specialized workout programs promise to get you in shape – so many, in fact, that finding the best workout for you can be a little overwhelming.

That’s why we asked D.R. Ebner, PT, SCS, a physical therapist with Ohio State Sports Medicine, to tell us more about the benefits and risks associated with some of the most popular workouts in the country.

Ebner profiled high-intensity exercises, INSANITY home workout, yoga, barre, spinning, Zumba and high-intensity fitness and strength training. Find out which workout is best for you:

#1. High-Intensity Interval Training

What is high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?
HIIT is a 30-minute workout in which you alternate between a high-intensity exercise and a moderately intense exercise, such as 60 seconds of running sprints followed by 60 seconds of jumping rope. Ebner says HIIT can be applied to every type of physical activity, including cycling, rowing, boxing and running.

What are the benefits? 
You will burn lots of calories, build lean muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness. These workouts are perfect for people who don’t have a lot of time to exercise, but still want to break a sweat and maintain a healthy heart.

Are there risks involved? 
Ebner warns that by pushing your body to its limits on a regular basis, technique and form may break down which can lead to injury. He advises to not overdo it at the beginning and gradually increase the difficulty.

#2. INSANITY home workout

What is an INSANITY® home workout? 
It’s a total body workout that can be done at home and requires no gym equipment. These programs are similar to HIIT but are more challenging, involving three to five minutes of very intense exercise, followed by 30 seconds of rest. 

What are the benefits? 
These workouts will make you sweat and lose fat while giving you muscle definition, says Ebner. Because you can do it at home, they are also cost-effective and convenient for people who don’t have time to go to the gym. 

Are there risks involved? 
Ebner cautions the absence of an instructor or personal trainer means that if you’re doing a movement wrong, there won’t be anyone to correct you. So, without realizing it, you could end up repeating a poor technique, potentially causing injuries.  

#3. Yoga

What is yoga? 
Yoga is a practice originating from ancient India that involves meditating and holding physical poses and stretches for several breaths. There are classes for every level, including some that add a cardiovascular component to the workout.

What are the benefits? 
Practicing yoga can have a very positive effect on your health. “It teaches balance, mindfulness and proper breathing patterns; it’s also very good for increasing flexibility,” according to Ebner.

He added studies have also shown yoga to improve metabolism and lower anxiety. Plus, it’s low-impact, which makes it appropriate for people with joint issues. 

Yoga is a great way to complement other fitness programs. 

“If you do HIIT or another high-intensity workout add a day or two of yoga into your routine. The stretching and breathing of yoga would nicely complement the intensity of your other form of exercise,” explains Ebner.

Are there risks involved? 
The most common injuries among those who practice yoga are pulled muscles, wrist strains and back, neck and knee issues. However, such injuries are normally caused when people rush through the poses, according to Ebner. The best thing to do is focus on yourself, and not on the other people in the class, who might have years of experience.

#4. Barre

What is barre?
Barre is a fitness class that takes place in a ballet studio and uses a bar to do leg and core exercises. The classes rely on small weights and lots of isometric exercises, in which a muscle is working but not moving (example: pushing your hands against each other).

What are the benefits?
Barre classes keep you fit and build lean muscles. To Ebner, what’s great about the method is the focus on core control, spine alignment and tucking of the pelvis, which protects the lower back.
Fans of the method swear that time flies in a barre class, thanks to music and working out with other people. Being a relatively safe workout, it attracts people who may have injuries or pregnant women who want to keep exercising before delivering their baby. 

Are there risks involved? 
In a barre class, you may be asked to hold a challenging position and then do small pulses, moving the muscle one inch back and forth. If you’re new to the method, these small repetitions may make your body sore in an unfamiliar way. It’s not an injury, though, just a discomfort.

#5. Indoor cycling / spinning 

What is indoor cycling? 
Indoor cycling is a cardiovascular workout on a special stationary bike that incorporates endurance, high-intensity intervals and recovery. 

What are the benefits? 
It is probably one of the best workouts for getting a cardiovascular burn, as you virtually have no pause in a spinning class. Depending if you add resistance, you can also improve your muscular endurance, says Ebner. Finally, music helps with motivation and may push people to work harder than they normally would, but in a safe way.

Are there risks involved? 
People with certain spine conditions should be careful with indoor cycling, which often requires you to be in a rounded back position for a long time. 

“Most classes are pretty good about changing positions between a tuck and standing up on the bike,” says Ebner. But talk to a physical therapist if you have concerns.

#6. Zumba

What is Zumba? 
ZUMBA® is a total-body fitness program that uses dance moves and simple choreography to burn calories and improve coordination. 

What are the benefits? 
The huge benefit with Zumba is psychological, according to Ebner. “If people enjoy dancing, they may find that doing Zumba lets them enjoy exercise more than just running or going to another fitness class.” 

In terms of physical benefits, Zumba is a great cardiovascular workout, with some endurance and strengthening elements. 

This is perfect for people with a dance background or for those who don’t particularly enjoy exercising. Fans of Zumba say this workout doesn’t feel like exercise. 

Are there risks involved? 
Zumba is quite a safe workout, but people can get caught up in the music and lose focus on their technique, says Ebner. The injury risk is still small, however, since there is an instructor in the class who can work with you.

#7. High-intensity fitness and strength training

What is high-intensity fitness and strength training?
This intense workout includes cardio, weight lifting and body weight exercises. During a typical training session, you could be asked to run intervals then do sets of squats, deadlifts and push-ups. It offers a demanding but varied workout that challenges your body and pushes it further every day. 

What are the benefits? 
If you ever need an extra motivational boost or peer support during workouts, this workout might be perfect for you. Group classes are designed to push your limits alongside others. 

A great thing is that it can be tailored to your fitness level – there are even programs for children, elderly athletes and wounded veterans, according to Ebner.

“It’s a well-rounded workout that helps improve cardiovascular strength and muscular endurance,” he says. 

Are there risks involved?
As with other sports, if you try to rush through exercises or if you’re not using proper technique, you can suffer injuries. So, if you’re a beginner, take your time to learn and practice every movement before adding weights.

Final advice for choosing your exercise program:

Whichever workout you pick, the important thing, says Ebner, is that you choose something that motivates you. 

“When you find an exercise program that is both effective and enjoyable then you are much more likely to stick with it and see long-term success.”

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