What is it about the impending summer season that compels so many people to get out and exercise? It could be the continual shedding of clothing layers, the thought of appearing poolside and feeling less than confident, or maybe it's just finding an excuse to be outside and moving around.
Doctors tell us we need anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day to maintain our weight, and even more if we're intent on losing a few pounds.
No matter the reason, there are plenty of fitness options just begging to be explored in 2012, from equipment that looks like it belongs on astronauts, to dance crazes that will have you shaking body parts you never knew could move. And even better, many of them require 20 minutes or less -- so no more excuses!
What it is: A whole new way to do yoga -- specifically, using a cocoon-like device hanging from the ceiling that allows you to twist and turn in ways you never imagined you could. Currently being offered in classes around the world.
What it is: Take all those complicated moves from Bollywood films, put them into an energetic class that forces you to learn intricate hand motions while moving your belly in ways you never thought possible, and you've got the trend. Dance studios are offering classes weekly, while places like Bollycore (shown here) specialize in the trend.
What it is: Originally created in 2000 by Greg Glassman, CrossFit combines quick, dynamic exercises with unconventional weightlifting (using equipment like kettlebells and sandbags) for an incredibly intense workout. There are millions of fans around the world, and Reebok recently picked up on the trend to launch their own program.
What it is: With more people spending time sitting at the desks (and all the risks associated with it), desk workouts are gaining in traction. Everything from the suggested Nano Workout shown here to a desk attached to a treadmill has been proposed. Just do what you can to make your space -- and day -- healthier.
What it is: Oh, we know, this workout isn't for everyone -- only those with some pretty great protective gear and apparently paragliding equipment. But we do like the idea of taking an afternoon activity to the next level and turning it into something that makes you huff and puff, as opposed to stroll. Anyone up for extreme vacuuming?
What it is: Fitbit, and a few other devices like it, are keeping track of you and your workout. Sure, your smartphone or iPod might have some software to count steps and time workouts, but gadgets like Fitbit go the distance, literally -- they'll calculate calories burned, how well you slept and whether or not you've been climbing hills and stairs -- and add it all up accordingly.
Gloves (For Feet)
What it is: The concept of barefoot running remains controversial -- but shoe companies seem to all agree that having footwear that fits your fit like, well, a glove can be beneficial to your workout. The Vibram Five Fingers (shown here) shoes have the separated toes, but almost every company has a flexible, lightweight choice for you.
What it is: Sure, Katniss Everdeen might best be known for her mad archery skills, emulated by kids like New Jersey's Nicole Donzella (shown here). But the Hunger Games character also needed some strength and wiles to make her way in the arena, and gyms have picked up on the popularity of that notion with workouts like 'Train Like A Tribute' this summer. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
What it is: As more and more companies recognize the benefits of healthy workers, that's getting increasingly included in employees' benefits, including programs that pay out according to pedometer readings, free gym memberships and even providing healthy meals for lunch. Find out if your office has something similar -- or talk to HR about implementing it!
What it is: Take jump rope away from childhood activities, and what do you get? One super tough workout that will make you wonder how you ever possibly double-Dutched in the first place. Some classes have taken it to the next level with classes like "punk rope" that incorporate squats and sprints for an even crazier workout.
What it is: Don't those shoes look like fun? Known as "rebound exercise shoes," Kangoo Jumps are meant to be worn while jogging, doing step class, what have you -- any time you're exercising. And despite looking like trampolines you wear on your feet, they're actually meant to protect ankles, shins and knees from damage, and require people to take in more oxygen because of the extra effort.
What it is: We've all seen them before - those multi-coloured, strangely intimidating bands at the gym that no one ever seems sure what to do with. But once you figure it out, it seems the uses are endless -- loops can circle ankles, thighs or stretch between arms, and come in different strengths to create a challenging workout no matter your ability. Check out this tricep exercise for a start.
What it is: So many people think about the hardcore aspects of their workout -- the running, the pedalling, the general pushing -- that they often forget about the after-effects. But utilizing a tool like this massage bar can help muscles recover and increase flexibility for stronger bodies.
What it is: Forget about heading out to gyms with expensive fees -- the new tendency is to use what's around you as gym equipment. So beyond playgrounds and general public facilities, that means benches, stairs and and empty hallways can all be fair game.
Online Fitness Classes
What it is: Taking the workout video to the next level, studios are streaming their fitness classes live for membership fees. Places like Flirty Girl Fitness (shown here) allow users to get in on their boot camp and weight classes from across the city -- or across the world. Seems like a great way to add variety to at-home routines.
What it is: By no means new, plyometric exercises rely on speed and power for impact -- exercises that use short bursts of energy, like doing jump squats or lateral hops. Popular with athletes who need to change directions or sprint, the small amount of time required in order to get results with plyometric exercises means they've gaining interest from the general population too.
What it is: Seeing a theme here? With schedules tight, people increasingly want answers to the question, "What can I realistically get done in less time?" Books like this ("Quick Fit: The Complete 15-Minute No-Sweat Workout") can help with their principles of exercise that can be done in your office, in your living room, wherever. The point that doctors stress, however, is to just do something -- sitting around figuring it out won't help you at all.
What it is: Rock climbing gyms, with their intimidating walls complete with grooves and harnesses, have been around for a while now (as, of course, has the sport of scaling mountains). But now gyms are making it even more convenient with portable climbing walls. Ostensibly meant for corporate events, they could also make a pretty fun party activity (assuming, of course, that no one's been drinking).
Socacize: What it is: Our editors did a pretty great job explaining how Socacize helps you get down and ready for Carnival, but it does take some guts to make your way to a class dedicated to shaking your butt (and various other body parts). But it sure sounds like a fun way to exercise, doesn't it?
What it is: This kind of short workout has its roots in Japanese training, from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a former researcher at Japan's National Institute of Fitness and Sports. It consists of doing one exercise intensely for about 20 seconds, then resting for 10 seconds -- for eight rounds (about four minutes). The workout increases aerobic capacity (helping with the length of time your body can exercise), as well as anaerobic capacity (the intensity at which you can work out).
What it is: Pools are well known for their low impact workouts that get results, particularly when it comes to the familiar act of swimming laps. But recently people have discovered water's natural resistance, which helps build muscle and essentially turns the pool into a full gym. Try out these exercises in the shallow end, or combine them with some treading in the deep end -- it's amazing how hard you'll work without sweating.
What it is: Working out at home but need a little motivation? Video games for Wii and Kinect -- the systems that require you to move while playing -- have exercise-specific options, like Your Shape Evolved 2012 (shown here) or the Wii Fit board. Their big advantage? Instant feedback -- and a makeshift personal trainer to keep your butt in gear.
What it is: Yes, walking has been around literally forever, but it's getting a switch this summer with a transition to Nordic walking. Is that just walking with poles, you're wondering? Somewhat -- except those poles help you move faster, burn more calories and strengthen your upper body. So what if you look like you've lost your ski hill?
What it is: It looks like a cross between a scale and a Stairmaster, but the Xiser's fans (and scientists who created it) swear by its effectiveness. Working from a "sprint" mindset, the equipment works only when both legs are moving up and down really quickly -- so results can be seen with only five minutes (or a commercial break!) on it.
Yoga With Weights
What it is: Yoga is so zen, so calming, so stress reducing ... until, of course, you put some weights into it. The idea of doing yoga poses with weights stems from many would-be yogis feeling like their strength training is falling by the wayside when they do yoga. Instructors say the practice is safe, but to use lighter weights and be especially careful when trying out balance poses.
What it is: Dance fitness doesn't get any more ubiquitous than Zumba -- so why haven't you tried it yet? Combining hip hop, Latin moves, martial arts and some belly dance, it's all sorts of routines thrown into one fun party -- that just happens to burn 1000 calories a session.