Hottest ways to break a sweat

An instructor at Virgin Active demonstrating Zuu, a high-intensity interval training session. - PHOTO: VIRGIN ACTIVE
An instructor at Virgin Active demonstrating Zuu, a high-intensity interval training session. - PHOTO: VIRGIN ACTIVE

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If you are searching for the newest workout fad for this year, look no further than your body.

Bodyweight training, using your own weight as a source of resistance, is hot, said a survey on fitness trends this year by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). It climbed from second spot to top the list.

On its heels is high-intensity interval training (Hiit), which had topped the list last year.

This is followed by the rising demand for educated and experienced fitness professionals, a trend that has remained steady.

The survey was completed by more than 3,400 health and fitness professionals worldwide.


Mr Christian Mason, director of Virgin Active gym in South-east Asia, believes that the first two exercise trends are still gaining momentum globally and will definitely be popular in Singapore.

Zuu, a high-intensity workout that mimics animal movements and uses only one's bodyweight, has remained popular since it was introduced at Virgin Active here in October 2013, he said. Attendance rate is 90 to 95 per cent for each class, which lasts 30 to 45 minutes.

"Singaporeans are similar to the Westerners in their health and fitness habits - they are short of time and eager for results," observed Mr Mason.

That is why Hiit training, with its ability to burn calories and produce results in a shorter time span, is generally well-received.

Thirty Hiit, a 30-minute high-intensity, circuit-training workout, has been such a "phenomenal success" at Virgin Active Singapore that the gym was inspired to devise and launch a new Hiit programme worldwide, he said.

The new workout, called Grid, will be offered at its Raffles Place club next month. The 30- to 45-minute session features six primal movement patterns - push, pull, bend, twist, squat and lunge.

Indeed, it is not just about the workout, but also about its duration.

"We are seeing a greater demand for 'express workouts' that deliver results in a short period of time," said Mr Percy Reynolds, head of fitness at Fitness First Singapore.

He forecasted that 30-minute classes would continue to be a hit in Singapore, given the growing pool of fitness-conscious working professionals with busy lifestyles.


It is no surprise that new programmes typically attract more attention, but bodyweight training actually has a long history.

"People have been using their own body weight for centuries as a form of resistance training," said said ACSM in its press release for the survey last October.

"But new packaging, particularly by commercial clubs, has now made it popular in all kinds of gyms."

Mr Nelson Chong, founder of the Functional Training Institute, a fitness centre in Queen Street, said bodyweight training has long been practised by martial arts experts.

These include the single leg squats, hand stands, clapping push ups and plyometric jumps.

Today, this form of training can be seen in various exercises, such as yoga, pilates and gymnastics.

However, trends which were hot not too long ago, such as pilates, indoor cycling and the Latin-inspired dance workout Zumba, failed to claim a spot in the top 20 of this year's list of 39 exercise trends.


Fitness technology, which is missing from the ACSM's top 20 list, is likely to see continued growth here, predicted Mr Mason and Mr Reynolds.

In Mr Reynolds' view, fitness measurement metrics, especially mobile tracking tools that enable people to keep tabs on their fitness on the go, will be big.

Fitness First is, for instance, developing more ways for their members to track their fitness levels, including an assessment tool that uses a series of fitness tests to determine a person's biological age, which they can then compare with their actual age, he said.

Mr Mason said apps or wearable technology that give feedback about one's lifestyle habits will be popular.

"It's not just how many steps you take, but (something) more holistic in nature, such as looking at your sleep, mindfulness, stress and nutrition, for example," he said.

With more people embracing fitness, Dr Roger Tian, a consultant sports physician at Singapore Sports Medicine Centre and Changi Sports Medicine Centre, is predicting that more people will be going on "sporting vacations" to participate in overseas sports events, such as marathons, triathlons and bike races.

Functional training workouts, mimicking the way we move in daily life and targeting multiple muscle groups at one time, are also likely to be trendy here this year, he said.

Mr Chong said functional training has been gaining popularity over the last five years, with both boutique and mega gyms riding on the trend.

At his gym, his client base has risen from 200 about five years ago to more than 1,000 now.

A functional trainer with a deep knowledge of movement dysfunction can help one to achieve optimum health and fitness through good body balance and alignment. This helps to keep musculoskeletal issues - such as knee pain, frozen shoulders and slipped discs - at bay, said Mr Chong.

On the flip side, while there are many qualified and experienced fitness professionals, not many are adept at designing age-appropriate exercise programmes for different groups of the population, said

Ms Tong Yuyan, an exercise physiologist and trainer from Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.

For instance, there is a lack of fitness programmes tailored for the elderly, she noted. Such workouts may focus on boosting one's muscle mass and flexibility, as these qualities diminish with age.

"In addition, there is a need for fitness professionals and doctors to collaborate closely to provide holistic health care for people with chronic conditions; to ensure that a training programme is safe for them to carry out," she added.