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Fitness trends aim for old, young

Staff Writer
CHRIS THELEN/STAFF
Valerie Barnes (left) and other women exercise during a ZUMBA class taught by Ebony Sanders (right) at the Kroc Center. ZUMBA is on the list of top 10 fitness trends in 2012.
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Instructor Ebony Sanders waves her arm over her head as she twirls and Valerie Barnes mimics her as a song from Rihanna about hopeless love blasts around them. The ZUMBA dance exercise class at the Salvation Army of Augusta Kroc Center is a biweekly ritual for Barnes.

“It’s a very good workout even if you can’t dance, and I can’t dance,” she said, laughing.

It is also one of the top 10 fitness trends for 2012, according to an annual list compiled for the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal by Dr. Walter R. Thompson, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University.

Many of the top trends are the same from 2011, in slightly different order. But two of the top trends – fitness programs for older adults and programs for overweight or obese children – are likely to be big concerns for years to come, Thompson said. Those are also two groups that fitness clubs struggle to attract or even have offerings that appeal to them, he said.

With the aging Baby Boomer generation, a group that likely has a lot of disposable income, that should be a priority for those clubs, Thompson said.

“They really need to take a look at that group and say, ‘OK, how can we capture that market?’ ” he said. “They’re not doing it right now.”

Older adults might not feel comfortable working out next to fitter younger people so gyms should design times – particularly off-times of the later morning or earlier afternoon – to cater to the older adults.

“If I can go there at 10 o’clock in the morning and the guy next to me is walking as slow as I am, I feel pretty comfortable,” Thompson said.

The Kroc Center has fitness programs tailored for seniors – such as seated exercise classes – and has senior classes in those later morning hours to attract them, said Heather Altman, the health and wellness manager for the center.

“We also have the senior aquatic classes, which are very popular,” she said.

Children are not getting the physical education they need in school but some innovative gyms are actually partnering with schools to provide it in after-school programs, Thompson said. The Kroc Center has youth fitness classes but also holds a monthly nutritional seminar with healthy cooking demonstrations for parents and kids together, Altman said.

“A lot of the parents think that they don’t have time to make healthy meals for their children, so they throw out pizza and hotdogs,” she said. “If we can show the parents that there are ways to make quick simple healthful meals for the children, then they can work on it together.”

As for ZUMBA, Thompson said he was persuaded to add it to the list of possibilities on the survey a few years ago and it was ranked 24th in last year’s survey before jumping up to No. 9 in this year’s. Still, he is not yet convinced it won’t turn out to be a fad rather than a trend.

“We’ll see what happens next year,” Thompson said. “My suspicion it is going to go the way of the stability ball and Pilates (which have dropped off the list). It is going to be popular for a couple of years and then drop off the list to be replaced by something else.”

Altman said ZUMBA might bring in those who are otherwise turned off by monotonous exercise routines.

“Rather they are going to just go dance, have some fun, and enjoy themselves,” she said.

That is what has brought Barnes back week after week since September.

“It’s not boring,” she said. “It’s not like if you do weights or get on a treadmill. It’s something different.”

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