Exercise has come a long way since Richard Simmons' videos were one of the few options for sculpting or maintaining a lean physique.
Most gyms and wellness centers have also evolved from the meathead stereotype, with as many 55+ patrons pounding the elliptical as the post-college crowd.
The treadmill and elliptical will help melt the calories, but there are now more fun options that keep you dancing instead of watching Seinfeld reruns while you exercise.
Most dominant on the scene -- especially with older athletes or those who are new to a fitness regimen -- is Zumba. The latest craze claims you can "party yourself into shape" with Latin-inspired dancing and tunes from Grammy Award winning musicians.
As the folklore goes, Zumba was fashioned by a Columbian aerobics instructor who forgot his aerobics music and was forced to use a salsa and meringue tape from his backpack. The class loved "letting the music move" them instead of counting reps -- thus Zumba became all the rage.
Zumba Gold uses the same formula and specifically targets baby boomers. Moves and pacing are targeted to suit the needs of active older participants as well as new dancers.
Whatever their generation, Zumba enthusiasts all comment on the camaraderie that forms in Zumba classes. A far cry from running with an iPod, Zumba inspires dancers, who can't help but laugh and keep up the party atmosphere.
TRX = Intense
For those who don't dance without a bottle of wine in their system, Total Body Resistance Exercise, more commonly known as "TRX suspension training" is a fun alternative. This phenomenon was first developed by U.S. Navy SEALS. Using adjustable straps hooked by a carabineer to a mount on the ceiling, suspension trainees leverage their body weight to manipulate gravity. Since multiple muscles work simultaneously instead of just one group, the exercises burn fat quickly. Instructors incorporate cardio movements to further burn calories as well as tighten the core.
Because there's no rest between strength movements, TRX is classified as a high-intensity workout. According to Harvard Medical School, a 30-minute weight resistance training session burns between 180 to 266 calories, depending on the individual's weight.
Though it's possible to buy the suspensions and other equipment for a home gym, most TRX participants take classes at a local gym. Increasingly, stand-alone TRX training centers are popping up, like those in San Francisco, New York and Memphis.
Though the name is similar, CRXWORX is a specific training approach to attain a tight and toned core. Training targets the abs, glutes, back, obliques and "slings," connecting the upper and lower body. The average 30-minute, high-intensity class burns approximately 230 calories. The workout also promises to improve functional strength for injury prevention -- a career saver for health care workers.
The workout itself isolates and integrates various muscle groups with crunches, leg extensions, balancing and hovering.
Yin & Yang of Yoga
In the past several years, hot yoga studios have been cropping up in every mini-mall and the array of yoga classes is mind-boggling.
Among the most popular is hatha yoga, a slow-paced, basic course incorporating a variety of postures for increased vitality, strength and balance.
Yin-Vinyasa yoga combines the Yin practices of deep breathing with a more active muscle-coordinated Vinyasa flow. Vinyasa emphasizes the melding of breathing with dynamic movement to facilitate a natural sequence of poses.
An intriguing option, especially with the winter months approaching, is hot yoga. The idea is to create a hot and humid climate similar to India, birthplace of the yoga movement.
Birkam yoga is the most popular form of hot yoga. Though it was brought to the U.S. in the '70s, it's just now hitting full steam. Classrooms are maintained at 105° F and 40% humidity. Typically, students rotate through 26 postures that work everything from muscles to joints, glands and internal organs.
Ever since Kyra Sedgwick called it the"4-minute fat burn," gyms across the country have been bombarded with requests for Tabata training classes.
This high-intensity workout is a growing hit with athletes, celebrities and even average Americans. The basic concept revolves around interval training. Participants pick one aerobic activity such as jogging, running or biking, and perform the activity with the highest possible force for 20 seconds. Ten seconds of rest follow and the whole process is repeated seven more times. According to wellness folklore, Tabata training burns more fat than a traditional 60-minute workout and creates a 200% leaner appearance.
Just be sure to use an accurate timer, as enthusiasts say this is the hardest physical feat in a lifetime.
With this mind-numbing array of workout options, it's hard to find an excuse to stay sedentary. Even if none of these sound appealing, it's always easy to lace up the shoes and walk around the block.
Robin Hocevar is senior regional editor at ADVANCE.