Getting Fit Goes Beyond Lifting Weights

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For those who aren't fitness fanatics, getting back in shape is a goal to strive for. Though rates of overweight and obesity are high, society has also grown increasingly health-conscious in the last 10-20 years, as the growing number of gyms and other fitness centers can attest.

Still, for those hoping to shed a few extra pounds, the first step toward doing so can be the hardest. Many instantly think of the oft-intimidating nature of the local gym, where muscular fitness enthusiasts dominate the landscape. However, getting fit does not have to include weight training. While weight training can be a valuable means to get healthier and shedding pounds, there are a host of other exercise options that can lead to very positive results.

* Spinning. Spinning is a popular and valuable alternative exercise option. However, because it can be so demanding, spinning can be a tough routine for those making a lifestyle change. Once you've gotten into an exercise groove, spinning might be something to explore. Often set to aggressive, pulsating music, spinning involves riding a stationary bike through demanding courses featuring hills and other difficult terrain. 

* Aqua aerobics. For those who enjoy time in the pool, see if your gym offers an aqua aerobics class. This might not be as readily available at most gyms as spinning classes are, as lots of gyms don't even have pools.  For those who love swimming, look for a gym that does have a pool, and chances are, that gym will offer some derivation of aqua aerobics which consists of intense cardio movements mixed with some strength training. The chief benefit of a good aqua aerobics workout is that it will work all your muscle groups with low impact on joints -- making it ideal for seniors.

* Pilates. The popularity of pilates classes is now so great that many gyms offer classes several times per day. Not unlike yoga, pilates is both a physical and mental exercise. The exercises themselves can be quite demanding, focusing on stretching and breathing that strengthens the abdominal core.

* Abdominals. Few people look at their abs and don't think they could use some work. That said, nearly every gym offers a class focusing strictly on abdominal exercises. These usually range anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes in length. Anything longer than that might cause painful and unnecessary muscle strain, so beware of ab classes that might be longer than 30 minutes, especially if you've only recently gotten back into exercise.

* Fusion. For those who subscribe to the idiom that "variety is the spice of life," fusion classes (also known as total body conditioning) classes could be the perfect fit. That's because such classes are a combination of other classes. Because they combine so many different elements, these classes tend to run a little longer in length, oftentimes exceeding an hour in length. The benefit of these is that they build up your cardiovascular as well as muscular strength.

* Yoga. Arguably no alternative exercise class is more widely known than yoga. A centuries-old Hindu discipline aimed at promoting control over the body and mind, yoga classes are offered at nearly every gym or fitness center across the country. Much of yoga is concerned with helping you become stronger, more balanced, focused, and flexible. If you're looking for a non-competitive environment where you can move at your own pace, this might be the best workout program for you.