Three experts give their take on next year's top 10 fitness trends as listed in American College of Sports Medicine's worldwide survey. They are Dr Benedict Tan, Changi General Hospital sports medicine chief and chairman of Exercise is Medicine Singapore; Dr Patrick Goh, a sports physician with Sports Medicine International at Camden Medical Centre; and Mr Keith Tan, managing director of boutique gym Aileron Wellness .
What it is: Fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitor, GPS tracking devices and more. These can tell you how far you have run, how many calories you have burned, and help you monitor your progress towards your fitness goals.
Dr Patrick Goh: The personalised data can be highly motivating, and so is the ability to link up with a community or be part of a virtual exercise environment. But such gadgets can be a little expensive and are not a must-have.
What it is: Training that uses one's own body weight. It is affordable as it uses minimal equipment.
Dr Goh: It can be done while travelling, but some exercises may not be suitable for those with injuries or who are weak.
Dr Benedict Tan: The intensity of bodyweight training can vary greatly. This presents good opportunities for progressive training - the "ceiling" can be as high as what Olympic-level gymnasts undertake - so the athlete does not stagnate. It is not dangerous if one exercises in line with his ability level, gets professional instruction and uses appropriate training surfaces, technique and equipment.
HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)
What it is: Short workouts of 30 minutes or less, characterised by short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery.
Dr Goh: The workouts appeal to people who are pressed for time but there are potential cardiac safety issues for the unfit, and those with cardiovascular disease or who have hypertension.
Mr Keith Tan: HIIT can put the body under a lot of stress. It may not suit those who are very stressed at work and elsewhere as the workout will drive up their level of cortisol, or stress hormones.
What it is: A key part of a complete exercise programme for adults of all physical activity levels.
Mr Tan: This helps to build up bone density, muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis, but if not done properly, it can aggravate an existing injury. Always do it under the supervision of a qualified trainer.
EDUCATED, EXPERIENCED FITNESS PROFESSIONALS
What it is: Fitness certifications are getting more important.
Mr Tan: Some trainers are not adequately educated. I feel this is unethical because a poorly prescribed workout programme can be detrimental to a person's health.
What it is: Personal trainers remain in demand.
Dr Tan: Personal trainers need to be qualified. Unfortunately, the certifications are neither uniform nor harmonised. It may be a case of caveat emptor for consumers. To reduce the risks of injuries and other adverse events, engage personal trainers from reputable health and fitness facilities. The onus is also on the consumer to give accurate information and feedback to the personal trainer, such as pre-existing injuries or illness, and post-training symptoms.
What it is: Using strength training to improve balance and coordination, and to help one better perform the activities of daily living.
Dr Goh: Helps to create daily work-related fitness as well as lower the risk of injuries if carried out properly. It requires well-qualified trainers who can analyse daily tasks and break them down to their respective fitness components.
FITNESS PROGRAMMES FOR OLDER ADULTS
What it is: Safe and age-appropriate fitness programmes.
Dr Tan: A structured programme and supervision can be useful for the uninitiated or less experienced.
Older adults tend to have more chronic diseases, so they need to take more precautions, including getting appropriate supervision.
Mr Tan: Older adults tend to be less flexible and have less physical strength, so the programmes can focus on improving mobility and balance, for instance.
EXERCISE & WEIGHT LOSS
What it is: Exercise continues to be a key part of weight loss plans.
Dr Tan: An effective weight loss strategy reduces caloric intake and increases caloric expenditure.
It is easier to reduce your intake by 600 calories than to exercise to burn 600 calories. But exercise expends calories as well as accords many physical and psychological benefits, such as increasing muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness, reducing incidences of depression and so on.
What it is: Bikram yoga, hatha yoga, yogalates, ashtanga yoga and other variations.
Dr Goh: Flexibility and strength are useful for functional activities and to prevent injuries. But injuries can occur. Be aware of past injury and get medical clearance if needed. Choose your instructor or class carefully as standards of strength and flexibility can differ vastly .
Dr Tan: Injuries of the medial meniscus, on the inside of the knee, is common among yoga practitioners as sitting in the lotus position compresses that part of the knee. This is especially so if the pose is held for a long time and repeated.
Flexibility is good but being overly so can be a problem.
For example, when we extend our spine, the ligaments will limit the extension. If they are too lax, the spine will be able to extend further. In the long term, this damages the facet joints in the spine, leading to facet arthropathy or a disease of the facet joints.