Here’s a look at popular, enduring formats and programs as IDEA turns 30.
Thirty years ago there was really just one option in group fitness: high-impact aerobics. Now, as IDEA Health & Fitness Association turns 30, there are many wonderful choices. It's impossible to list the current top 30. Here, we review some of the programs that are enticing people into the world of group exercise. From the water to the studio, choreographed to "come as you are, " group fitness is flourishing—which means it's a great time to enjoy moving and grooving in a group.
The aerobics industry began with dance-based workouts, so it’s exciting to see them again become so popular—and so prolific. There’s a full spectrum of options, from freestyle to fully choreographed, and each has its unique “hook” to draw in participants.
Could you have predicted the international celebrity flair that Louis Van Amstel of Dancing With the Stars, and his Spanish counterpart, Jonatan Cañada, would bring to the jitterbug, jive, paso doble, salsa and tango? Or could you have foreseen that multi-Grammy winner Kike Santander would turn his hit-making attention from J.Lo to QiDance (formerly Batuka)?
Then there are the branded programs that have stormed the globe, particularly Zumba® and Les Mills (SH’BAM™ and BODYJAM™ are their dance programs). Zumba is in more than 125 countries, including Iceland, Papua New Guinea and Afghanistan, and over 12 million people per week take a class. Asked about these impressive numbers, Darren Jacobson, vice president of instructor programming for Zumba, in Miami, commented, “I believe it unlocks the dance passion of years gone by for many people and is a recipe for a dance party that feels more like being out with a group of friends rather than grinding away in a gym.”
Kari Anderson, ACE-certified fitness instructor, frequent presenter, video star and owner of The SeattleGYM has been teaching for about 33 years. She has seen the ebb and flow of dance-based fitness, so her take on it is quite interesting. “Dance has been making a huge comeback—maybe as a response to the popularity of . . . all the dance-based television shows. It’s not so much that [dance] has returned; it has evolved to better fit in with current popular trends.”
Whether it’s hip-hop, disco, dance pop, cardio ballet, funk, MTV-inspired dance, line dancing, low impact or even the “original” high-impact aerobics, any group exercise class with a dance component is a winner in 2012!
Who could have known 30 years ago that there would be classes called metabolic conditioning, Drums Alive®, TurboFire®, BODYATTACK™, stomp fx, P90X®, step, outdoor circuits, boot camp, Tabata and high-intensity interval training (HIIT)?
Some of these popular programs are branded; others are styles or formats. What makes all of them “must-haves” is their worldwide and generation-spanning appeal. Richard Beddie, chief executive officer (CEO) of Fitness New Zealand, in Christchurch, finds that “by far the most popular classes are prechoreographed programs in the traditional group exercise space, such as step. Small-group training is still growing strongly as the range and variety continue to evolve.” He credits this growth to the fact that participants get “a greater level of personal attention than [in] many forms of group exercise, but at a price point that makes it accessible to a larger market. At the same time, the interaction between participants enables bonds to form, which assists in [building] regular attendance and retention.”
Tamer Farag, founder and CEO of FACTS Academy, in Cairo, also gives a nod to the social aspects of group fitness. “The fitness industry was booming in the Middle East and North Africa until the revolutions that occurred in many of these countries. [After the turbulent events of the Arab Spring, ] people gathered and socialized once again [in the clubs], but this time in order to feel secure.”
Tamara Grand, a trainer and instructor in Port Moody, British Columbia, is a huge fan of Tabata training, and her comments reflect the opinions of many. “I love it for a number of reasons: it’s quick, efficient, intense and whole-body. Regardless of your fitness level, you can always push yourself out of your comfort zone for 20 seconds at a time. And as an instructor, I can teach an exercise once and only have to offer minor form cues as we progress through the intervals.”
What is it that makes boot camp, circuit and interval training so popular? Paris-based Fred Hoffman, MEd, 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, ACE-certified fitness professional and author of Going Global: An Expert’s Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry (Healthy Learning 2011), travels the world teaching. Here’s what he sees: “The group dynamic is one reason [people like these classes so much]. This feeling of belonging has really contributed to their success. Also, the music is motivating, and people are getting a good workout and seeing positive changes in their bodies and health.” Asked what makes these formats appealing to him as an instructor, Hoffman mentions his love of circuit: “I’m able to use a variety of equipment, the participants are enjoying themselves, and the time goes by quickly, which helps their focus and energy.”
Hoffman is also a huge fan of step, which is still on group fitness schedules worldwide. “For me, it remains fun and a great cardiovascular workout, ” he says. Those two reasons help explain step’s longevity and continued popularity.