Your walking partner says she swears by a new technique. Your gym buddy raves about a weightlifting routine that “really works.”

Known as “gym science” by fitness scientists, unchecked this word-of-mouth gospel can put you at risk for injury, says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, president and chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). With all the fitness fads that pop up year after year, it’s hard to know which are safe and effective.

Learn which top fitness trends – as deemed by ACE’s 2010 annual survey of fitness and health professionals – are most likely to be wise choices and which are wise to avoid.


Trends to Try

• Collaboration among allied health professions: Just as a team of health-care professionals is clutch to managing care, the same also holds true when addressing fitness needs. Collaboration among personal trainer, physical therapist, primary-care physician and specialists can help you stick with your routine and ensure safety, especially for people with chronic conditions, such as arthritis, explains Bryant.

• Functional fitness: Focused on strengthening the core, functional fitness has become a staple, says Bryant. “As you improve the stability of the core and mobility, it will help with the performance of all functional movements.”

• Personal training: Due to the effects of the economy, group personal training is on the rise, says Bryant. These semi-private sessions, which include four to six people supervised by one trainer, can open the door to personal training to many who may not have been able to afford it in the past. The close supervision of a personal trainer can provide motivation and an introduction to fitness for beginners, as well as increase the effectiveness and safety of workouts.

• Sport-specific training: A trend driven primarily by parents looking to increase their children’s skill in their respective sports, Bryant says, baby boomers are also contributing by looking for a more tailored means to maintain their specific activities. “For those with arthritis, there’s a price they have to pay when they play their sports,” says Bryant. “Sports-specific training is designed to help maintain the muscular fitness, joint integrity, flexibility and balance so they’re able to safely and effectively engage in those activities.”


Trends to Avoid

• Kettlebell workouts: Using kettlebell weights that resemble old-fashioned dumbbells, these whole-body workouts rely heavily on the core and back muscles. While they can help increase functional fitness, Bryant says, “I would recommend extreme caution for these workouts because of the amount of control that’s required. If you don’t have good core stability and good joint integrity, the loads can be high on the muscoskeletal system.”

• Boot camp-style workouts: Fitness boot camps include a range of activities, both cardiovascular and high- and low-intensity strength training exercises, such as pushups, squats and lunges. These workouts can burn up to 600 calories, but Bryant cautions those with arthritis to avoid garden-variety boot camps. Instead, look for specialty camps that provide modified routines and talk to the instructor about any limitations you may have.