What to expect when you join a gym

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to start an exercise program. One good way to do this is to join a gym. The equipment, exercise classes, access to fitness professionals, and the accountability of paying for a membership at a gym can help you meet your exercise goals.

But many people are intimidated by the gym experience or recall a time when exercise meant running, lifting weights, and a “no pain, no gain” mentality. The reality is the modern fitness facilities are constantly changing what they offer to meet the needs of people who are new to exercise as well as those with more experience who are looking for a new challenge.

Since 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has surveyed health and fitness professionals to identify exercise trends for the upcoming year. The report for 2015 was published in ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal in November. Here is a summary of the top ten fitness trends to look for in 2015.

The biggest fitness trend for 2015 is body weight training. Popular for building strength and endurance with minimal equipment, body weight training goes far beyond the push-ups and pull-ups you may remember doing in PE class. This type of training can be done almost anywhere, which is good news for people who are on a budget or want to train at home.

Next is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of training uses repeated cycles of short, maximal or near-maximal exercise alternated with short rest periods. These HIIT sessions last less than 30 minutes but lead to fitness improvements that exceed those of traditional longer-duration training. Beginning exercisers should note that HIIT training is intense, so starting slow is recommended.

These first two trends are relevant even in you don’t join a gym. A good example of a high-intensity, body-weight workout that you can do at home with minimal equipment was published in the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal in 2013. Because of it’s simplicity and effectiveness, it received much attention in the media and is the foundation of at least one fitness app.

Third on the list is educated and experienced fitness professionals. You should look for a facility that requires the staff to have fitness certifications that involve both education and experience. Some of the most respected certifications are through professional organizations including ACSM, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and American Council on Exercise (ACE).

This may include personal training, both individually and in groups. Personal trainers are excellent resources for people just starting out to learn proper techniques, set goals, and track progress. Experienced exercisers can get a motivation boost and learn new ways to enhance their training. Group personal training adds a team dynamic and can be more economical than one-on-one training. Again, finding a trainer who has experience working with people like you is essential, so ask for recommendations and references to get the best match.

Other trends on the list include strength training and yoga. Aerobic exercise, including walking, running, cycling, and swimming, are among the most common forms of exercise. But there are additional benefits to including strength and flexibility training in an exercise program. Building strength can make everyday activities easier, help maintain bone mass, and boost your metabolic rate. Activities like yoga can improve flexibility, which can help reduce the risk of muscle and joint injuries. Yoga can also help with stress management and promote feelings of wellbeing.

While this list does not include every popular or “trendy” type of exercise, it does capture the components of most types of training. CrossFit, for example, is a combination of body weight, strength, and functional training involving high-intensity intervals in a group setting.

Even if you don’t plan to join a gym or aren’t interested in the latest fitness trends, keep in mind that even something as untrendy as walking for 30 minutes each day can have substantial health and fitness benefits. And if you haven’t been exercising, this can be a great way to get started on a happy and healthy New Year!

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