Exercise still best way to reduce stress

We want bliss and toned biceps. Strong bodies, strong minds. Is that too much to ask? Apparently not.

The biggest and still growing fitness trend for 2002 is any stress-reducing form of exercise that also sculpts muscles, say fitness organizations that survey gyms nationwide to gauge popularity of classes.

If you are shopping for the next magic bullet, consider these hot moves for 2002.


Membership in yoga classes around the nation has climbed gradually and steadily in the past five years. Now instructors are looking for new ways and new places to do the ancient East Indian meditative stretches, twists and balances.

This has spawned hybrids that range from the ridiculous to the practical. There’s the incongruous disco yoga, as well as in-flight yoga, bed-top yoga, yoga for athletes, yoga for kids, prenatal yoga and office yoga.

What could they possibly come up with next? Yoga at the dentist’s office? Yoga with in-laws?

People seem to like things that even sound Asian. One company, Both Sides Up, markets a big, rubber mound resembling half a ball. It is used by Olympic athletes to help develop balance.

The company named the tool “Bosu.” Rhymes ,sort of, with “tofu.”


Everything old is new again, in part an appeal to the baby boom generation. It’s that middle-aged crowd that still drives exercise trends, said Christine Ekeroth of the American Council on Exercise.

Weight lifting, one of the oldest forms of physical fitness, is no longer practiced just by burly power lifters. Now it is often known by the kinder and gentler name of “strength training.”

The trend is toward weight-lifting classes with 3- to 10-pound hand weights, rather than the solitary hoisting of bulky barbells.

Expect to see lots of women in these classes now that we’ve figured out that lifting weights makes us look better in tank tops.

“Weight lifting fell out of vogue when people thought it wasn’t as good as aerobics for fat burning. Now research shows it increases your metabolism enough to really burn some off,” said Mark Occhipinti, president of American Fitness Professional Associates, a membership organization for personal trainers, gym owners and gym managers.

“Core conditioning” is another revived exercise, one that dates to military-style regimens and Jack LaLanne’s fitness TV show, which aired 1956-1970.

Core conditioning basically is exercising your abs and back. One popular tool is the “stability ball,” which is, frankly, an unstable prop on which to lean while toning the tummy and back.

The balls have been used for many years in physical therapy; now they’ve

rolled into the gym.


Gym owners need to get downright inventive to meet the needs of an inquisitive public that has little time to take a variety of classes.

Thus, hybrid classes were born. Underwater tai chi puts the gentle form of the Chinese exercise in the pool to increase


Hard-core kickboxing is joined, among the hip, with mellower tai chi. Madonna is said to now be practicing “yoga arts,” a combination of traditional yoga and the more aggressive Korean martial art called kuk sool.

Fusion also helps combat boredom. Indoor bicycling classes, where membership around the nation rose dramatically before leveling out, took a weird turn last year at one L.A. gym, where spinners were being handed karaoke mikes and told to sing while cycling, just to keep things interesting.