Tumble, Cheer, Dodge & dance Your Way into Shape

Bored with exercise? Mix things up with some of these fun, unusual fitness options. They're sure to get you moving.

Most of us need change to keep us interested, particularly when we’re trying to achieve new fitness goals. So just in time to rescue you from the winter doldrums—and from abandoning your New Year’s resolutions—here comes a fun new batch of fitness trends. “There is an incredible range of unusual options available right now,” says Gregory Florez, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and CEO of www.FitAdvisor.com.

Some of the wilder activities (circus sports, pool Pilates) may be offered only at trendy gyms, while others are likely to be available at your neighborhood YMCA (dodge ball, cheerleading). Tap, ballroom and Latin dance classes are starting everywhere. You can sign up for these—with or without a partner—at almost any dance studio, county parks and recreation service, community college or gym—or learn at home with an instructional video. So whatever your passion, and whether you prefer a group class or the privacy of a home video, there’s an interesting exercise routine waiting for you.

If you’re already the daring type—or have always wanted to be more adventurous—try an airborne exercise routine on the trapeze.

What to expect: Many trapeze classes incorporate gymnastics, such as rings and tumbling, with aerial work.

What it does for you: Builds body awareness and coordination as well as strength in your back, chest and arm muscles. “It’s great to watch the change in women who come in lacking upper-body strength and then gain confidence in their own muscles and skills,” says Lara Paxton, creator of Trapezius, an  aerial school in Seattle.

Who can do it: Not for anyone with injuries or physical limitations.

Crunch Fitness, a nationwide chain of fitness studios, offers a circus sports class that promises participants “the abdominals of an acrobat, the triceps of a gymnast and the lats of a trapeze artist.”

What to expect: Sessions involve hula hoops, acrobatics, tumbling, juggling and a human pyramid—definitely not your standard workout.

What it does for you: Works on strength, flexibility, balance and
physical confidence.

Who can do it: Not for anyone with injuries or physical limitations.

Ballroom/Latin Dance
The best part about making dance lessons your regular fitness routine? Acquiring impressive
skills that you can easily find an occasion to showcase—while getting in shape and having fun.
What to expect: Low-impact aerobics. But instructors stop between songs to demonstrate new moves or correct your performance, so there are plenty of breathers.

What it does for you: Those new to exercise will build up some cardio endurance. If you’re already fit, these classes are a fun way to hone balance and coordination.

Who can do it: People of any age or ability.

Tap Dance
Though tapping originated in America, today even trendy dance clubs in London feature tap dancers. Considered a cathartic form of self-expression, the stomping part is a great way to vent stress.

What to expect: You’ll learn a few basic moves and build gradually on those. 

What it does for you: Not only is tapping an excellent cardiovascular workout, but it also improves leg strength, balance, rhythm and coordination.

Who can do it: People of any age or ability.

Dodge Ball
Several school systems have cut this playground game from their repertoire, but adults are now forming teams and leagues, perhaps inspired by Ben Stiller’s movie DodgeBall.

What to expect: The old-fashioned game of your youth, without the bullies intent on smacking  you in the head.

What it does for you: You get a total-body workout from throwing, catching, weaving, sprinting and dodging. 

Who can do it: People of any age or ability.

Cheerleading Class
Longing for pom-poms, short flared skirts and beaming smiles? This class is for you.

What to expect: A little bit of everything: aerobics, acrobatics, cheering and human pyramids.

What it does for you: Strengthens
your core torso and back muscles while maximizing overall flexibility. 

Who can do it: Not for anyone with injuries or physical limitations.

Aqua Pilates
Water-based workouts are good for anyone with injuries or joint problems. “In hip-level water, your body weight is reduced by 50 percent; in shoulder level, by about 90 percent,” says Mary E. Sanders, MS, adjunct professor of exercise science at the University of Nevada, Reno.

What to expect: The low-impact, challenging horizontal moves associatedwith Pilates have been adapted to a standing-up pose for a water environment.

What it does for you: Water offers freedom and fluidity of movement while acting as a liquid weight room. It’s a combination of cardiovascular and weight training. 

Who can do it: People of any age or ability.

Aqua T’ai Chi
The same gentle movements practiced on land are enhanced and made more challenging by the water’s resistance.

What to expect: A vigorous cardio-vascular fitness regimen without joint stress or pain. Whether you have never exercised before, have suffered an injury or are in the best shape of your life,
aqua t’ai chi can give you a good workout, says Sanders.

What it does for you: The resistance of the water provides weight training as well as improving flexibility and balance. 

Who can do it: People of any age
or ability.

Nancy Brand Patel is a freelance writer and editor living in Richmond, VA. She sometimes kicks up her heels with a salsa or ballroom dance class for exercise.