Patricia Carswell 8 Feb 2018 12:11pm

Fitness: tips and fads

Remember Jazzercise, Bokwa and the cabbage soup diet? While some trends endure, most become a Lycra-clad memory by February. Patricia Carswell looks at this year’s fit tips and whether they, and you, will stay the course

mermaids fitness fads 630
Caption: Tired of jogging? Why not try on a tail at the mermaid academy?

ONE STEP BEYOND: old favourites given a makeover

Indoor rowing

Sir Bradley Wiggins is the latest convert, and more and more people are trying their hand at indoor rowing. But forget slogging away on your own: the big thing is group rowing classes. Most involve sprints on the rowing machine interspersed with body weight exercises. They’re a powerful, calorie-burning, full-body workout.
Where? Try Virgin Active (, Gymbox (, the Ahoy Centre in Deptford ( or British Rowing (
Worth it? Classes cost between £4 and £20. You get a lot of sweat for your money.
Here to stay? You heard it here first: rowing is the new spin.

Retreats with fitness influencers

Active retreats have been around for years, but now they are featuring big name fitness influencers to lead the fitness or yoga elements. The sell-out courses typically involve bootcamp-style fitness periods, yoga and artfully-presented, healthy food.
Where? Try New Horizon Escapes ( or Wild & Free Adventures (
Worth it? They’re expensive – expect to pay thousands when you’ve factored in flights – but if you’re a fan of the celebrity trainer and want great, Instagram-worthy pictures, worth every penny.
Here to stay? As long as we have social media, definitely.

Hybrid training

Hybrid classes combine different forms of exercise to maximise the effects of contrasting disciplines. We’ve seen piloxing (pilates and boxing), yoga and spin, and pilates and high intensity interval training (PHIIT).
Where? Try boxerina – boxing and ballet ( and Swimsanity, swimming with interval training (
Worth it? If your fitness regime is as worn-out as a stale marriage, this could be the fillip it needs, but fusion classes often come at a premium (£20+) unless you already happen to be an existing gym member.
Here to stay? The craze will continue, with new mash-ups popping up every month.

NOT JUST FOR KIDS: putting fun into the gym

Play-based workouts

If you enjoyed British bulldog or tag as a child, you’ll love the new craze for play-focused workouts. The idea is to be so wrapped up in the games that you don’t notice the exertion.
Where? Try Rabble (different locations across England and Scotland,, Pure Gym (currently at Aldgate and Brighton branches, and David Lloyd (ask for the Prama classes,
Worth it? They’re good value, from £5 a session at Rabble and free as part of membership at Pure Gym and David Lloyd.
Here to stay? Definitely – what’s not to love?


Mermaids are in, and you don’t have to be under 10 to get in on the act. Mermaid classes involve swimming techniques with a mermaid tail attached and learning to hold your breath safely underwater. Some go deeper – quite literally – with freediving.
Where? Try MermaidsUK ( or Mayim Mermaid Academy (
Worth it? The price, from £8 to £100, depends on whether it’s a class or a one-to-one mermaid experience. It’s a terrific full-body workout, targeting your core, legs, arms and heart.
Here to stay? Unless Disney brings out another mermaid film, this craze may get washed out to sea.

Competitive classes

Adored competitive sports at school? Then this is for you. Gyms are introducing classes where you compete individually or in teams, sometimes with leaderboards to ratchet up the competition.
Where? Try One10 (, Digme ( or Kobox (
Worth it? It will push you further than you’d go by yourself. Prices vary and block-buying is cheaper.
Here to stay? Yes, but only for the super-competitive minority.

BRAVE NEW WORLD: getting technical about fitness

Live-streamed classes

Ever since Jane Fonda burst into our living rooms with her upbeat aerobics classes on VHS in 1982, fitness videos have been enormously popular. But the problem is you’re on your own – hopeless when motivation is low. Live streaming is the answer. You join a live class (anything from barre to spin to yoga) and some let you interact with the instructor.
Where? Try Yogaia (, Gymcube ( or One Peloton (
Worth it? Can be very reasonably priced – subscriptions start at £7.50 per month – and the live element, knowing others are sweating alongside you, is great for motivation.
Here to stay? Depends on the technology – may give way to something whizzier.

High-tech workouts

Fitness watches are just the tip of the exercise technology iceberg. Expect data feedback to drive gym use and fitness classes, and syncing gym equipment with your fitness device will become standard. Gamified spin classes are on the increase and high-tech interval training sessions will let you track your heart rate on a giant screen just to make sure that you are training in the right zone.
Where? Try The Pack (gamified spin) at Virgin Active ( and high-tech HIIT class, Blaze, at David Lloyd (
Worth it? These will come at standard rates, but you may well need a fitness watch for some
of the activities.
Here to stay? Yes, but it’ll be ever-evolving.

MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT: because mental health matters, too

Wellness coaching

For a generation taking mental health as seriously as their physical wellbeing, simply hiring a personal trainer feels insufficient. Enter the wellness coach: a life mentor who focuses on both your physical and mental health. You might work on goals such as weight loss alongside dealing with stress and mental issues. Do be aware that if you have serious mental health issues,
a wellness coach may not be qualified to help.
Where? Track down your coach at the UK Health Coaches Association ( Carefully check any potential coach’s qualifications.
Worth it? Sessions start at about £50 but can be much more.
Here to stay? We predict this trend will last, but only for the well-off.

Novelty yoga

The endless variety of yoga disciplines (hatha, ashtanga, Bikram, iyengar) isn’t enough:
yoga has diversified into novelty offerings. The latest variations on the theme include glow yoga (the studio is heated with infra-red, plus mood-enhancing SAD lighting), hip-hop hot yoga, Goga (yoga with miniature goats) and even beer yoga (yes, yoga combined with beer-drinking, which has appeared at festivals and pop-up events).
Where? Try Good Vibes (, ONE LDN ( and Mucky Bucket Farm (
Worth it? Usually tends to be at boutique studios so by definition quite pricey.
Here to stay? A super-flexible nine-day wonder.

Where are they now?

Shake weights

All the rage in 2010, these were specially-modified dumb-bells. The weights on each end were attached by a spring, and a perky instructional video showed you how to shake the weight for six minutes a day to engage muscles in the chest, arms and shoulders. Two million of them flew off the shelves in the first year, but it died as quickly as it grew.


It was Gwyneth Paltrow who brought this to public attention when she attended a film premiere in 2004 with circular welts on her back. The therapist creates a vacuum within a cup, which is applied to the skin. It is said to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow and relaxation, among other benefits. After Michael Phelps appeared at the Rio Olympics with cupping marks some anticipated a comeback, but it seems to have dropped out of fashion again.

Vibrating belts

Each decade since the 1920s has produced new versions of the vibrating miracle that vows to reduce fat and, in some cases, stimulate the muscles so you can tone up. The science is questionable. In 2009 the marketers of Ab Force paid $7m to settle a claim based on their assertion that applying electronic stimulation to the abdominal muscles would result in weight loss.


Huge in the 1980s, this involved a series of controlled, tiny pulsing movements that promised to improve muscle tone. The books, cassettes and videos were a wild success for author Callan Pinckney. But the exercise has come in for criticism for focusing on isometric movements that cause a build-up of lactic acid.

Waist trainers

We have the Kardashians to thank (or blame) for these outlandishly tight corsets that supposedly “train” your waist to become smaller.
The bubble burst when disillusioned customers began a class action against the most popular manufacturer, which was settled for $5m. No wonder Kim and Kourtney suddenly stopped mentioning them.