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Trying out a variety of fun and interesting ways to exercise can help you stay motivated—and break up the 150 minutes per week recommended in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Almost half of the respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey said they are interested in trends such as CrossFit™, ballet barre-inspired classes, Zumba®, TRX® training, and slide boards. But many popular exercise regimens require attendance at classes led by a specialized instructor and/or special equipment, and both can come with significant costs.

Here are the details on different fitness fads, along with suggestions about how to incorporate aspects of each into your own workouts.

CrossFit

CrossFit involves a series of varied, high-intensity fitness classes led by trainers who provide each person with individualized feedback. It’s an excellent way to build strength and stamina and target all major muscle groups in a structured fashion. The strong support and teamwork among CrossFit members can also be beneficial.

However, participants who don’t use proper form and alignment are at high risk of injury. Some CrossFit trainers may also promote the Paleo diet, which isn’t for everyone. Consult your doctor and/or a registered dietitian before beginning any type of new diet or engaging in high-intensity exercise.

Matthew Herrold, a certified personal trainer in Somerville, Massachusetts, points out that CrossFit offers one free class for newbies who are unsure of whether or not they’re ready to make a financial commitment. CrossFit also has a Web site that posts the daily workout routine and video demonstrations.

Learn more about CrossFit

Ballet Barre

Ballet barre-inspired classes have become increasingly popular over the last few years. According to Herrold, barre is “essentially a fusion of ballet and Pilates.” He adds that it’s beneficial for strengthening parts of the body not typically challenged in standard cardio and weight training.

Although the classes usually feature certain types of equipment, such as a barre and mats, there are free online tutorials available that you can try at home.

Learn more about ballet barre.

Zumba

If you like to dance, Zumba is a fun, easy way to get in a great cardio workout. This Latin-inspired trend utilizes hour-long classes made up of a series of dance routines led by a specialized instructor. Margaret K., a junior at University of South Carolina in Columbia, shares, “Zumba is super fun! I’ve also heard of hip hop and other fast-paced, dance-oriented classes.”

Zumba dance moves typically alternate between fast and slow rhythms, and can incorporate some resistance training. Many campus gyms offer Zumba classes at no cost.

If you’ve never tried Zumba before, check out some free videos online. A major benefit of Zumba-from-home (besides that it’s free) is that you can control how long you’re going to get your dance on.

Learn more about Zumba.

TRX training

Popular among Navy SEALs, baseball players, and Olympic athletes, the name of this unique fitness approach stands for “total body resistance exercise.” It involves the use of suspension equipment, which facilitates the use of body weight to build strength.

TRX training can be very effective at improving fitness, but only if done properly and consistently. It can be difficult to do without supervision from a professional.

It’s also very costly, at hundreds of dollars per piece of equipment. The TRX Suspension Trainer is able to leverage gravity and total body weight in order to improve body strength, balance, flexibility, and joint range-of-motion. In addition to instruction manuals and books, TRX-training tutorials are available online, through DVDs, and on smartphone apps.

Learn more about TRX.

Slide boards

A slide board is essentially a long board on which you can slide back and forth. (Socks are required and no shoes allowed!) The movements enhance coordination and work the core and lower-body muscles. Slide boards are versatile; you can do mountain-climbing motions, various types of lunges, leg curls, and slides on them.

However, Alex Wisch, a certified personal trainer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, cautions that slide boards are not for beginners. Wisch advises, “It’s important for people to master basic lower-body moves first—such as side lunges and squats—to prevent knee injuries.” If you’ve done this, and want to try some side-to-side moves without the special equipment, place a towel, paper plates, or pieces of cardboard under your feet on a smooth floor.

Learn more about slide boards.

Benefits on the Cheap

Trying out various fitness trends in a classroom means you’ll be supervised by a certified instructor and get support from others in the class. But the main drawback is financial. Luckily, there are many ways to stay active and have fun without burning a hole in your wallet.

Rachel R., a senior at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, takes group aerobics classes at her college gym for free, and David B., a junior at the University of Montana in Missoula, suggests body-weight training using pushups, planks, and sit-ups. He explains, “The best part is that you don’t need any equipment so there’s no spending a ton of money. The workouts can be short or long, depending on how much time and effort you want to put in.”

Ketty F., a senior at Caldwell College in New Jersey, uses a Wii Fit™ at home. She says it turns physical activity into a game and can be done in the comfort of her dorm or living room. Ketty also suggests doing exercise moves during television commercials, a few minutes at a time, which can add up.

By being creative, you can stay physically active without paying for expensive classes or fancy equipment.

 

Low-Cost Fitness Trends

Respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey suggested the following physical activities:

  • Hula-hooping
  • Routines posted on social media Web sites
  • Smartphone fitness apps
  • “Deck of Cards” workout
  • Walking or running outside
  • Workout videos; many are available at libraries for free

Take Action:

  • Research fitness trends to find which may be right for you.
  • Find a routine that’s compatible with your interests and fitness level.
  • Consider whether you like group classes or prefer to work out on your own.
  • Look into free alternatives before making a financial commitment.

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Jenna Volpe is a registered dietitian and certified group exercise instructor in Massachusetts, with a specialty in weight management and eating disorders.