New-Age Exercise: Workouts for the Soul

March 24, 2020


Health conscientiousness and fitness have moved comfortably into the mainstream in developed nations and are picking up steam in the developing world, driven by the hyperconnectivity of young adults and increasingly by middle-aged professionals and retirees.

Fitness as a pastime has evolved as new-age practices and conceptual workouts gain traction that could see them supplant more traditional exercises like playing sports or going to the gym.

While familiar workouts such as personal training, weights and hiking remain popular, modern fitness trends have broadened to encompass novel and tech-assisted forms of physical activity like high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga and meditation, and worksite health and well-being programs, to name a few.

There is already evidence of an exciting variety of new workout regimens gaining a foothold in Egypt as more people begin to take heed of these inventive and stimulating ways to stay healthy.

Trending Up

The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal, an annual worldwide survey, identified the top five fitness trends for 2020 as wearable tech, HIIT, group training, free-weight training and personal training. It also cited health and wellness coaching, functional fitness training, circuit training, body weight training and regimens targeting older adults, are among the top trends.

Dubbed by many industry insiders as “workouts for the soul,” a variety of emerging fitness programs “create a space to tap into the emotional zone, where people can shift not only their physical energy, but more importantly their emotional energy,” says Tevia Celli, director of education at CycleBar.

CycleBar is a U.S. chain offering spinning classes with a focus on mental and physical empowerment, technologically advanced equipment and uplifting music-induced workout spaces. “It’s a form of active meditation at a time when people are hyper-focused on taking care of their emotional and spiritual selves just as much as their physical selves, so combining the two will be important,” says Celli.
Fitness trends as we move into a new decade share a focus on one key attribute: convenience, according to Lucy Connor, content marketing executive and blogger at Glofox, a fitness and gym management software company. New fitness studios, workout programs and classes show an increasing focus on flexibility in terms of providing a great experience that is both enjoyable and manageable.

Many call these new types of workouts “boutique fitness,” which Connor believes is changing the way the industry operates by attributing more significance to unique experiences, personalization and freedom.

Body, mind, soul

Yoga and other forms of meditation, HIIT, and health and wellness coaching stress the importance of mental well-being and fortitude to go along with physical conditioning. Such forms of exercise constitute a major bloc of popular fitness trends.

HIIT typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with brief periods of rest. Despite warnings about the potential for injuries, HIIT workouts are exploding in popularity, primarily among young people.

Yoga HIIT is an innovative hybrid regimen, like the yoga and pilates mash-up known as Yogalates or Aqua Zumba. Yoga HIIT combines divergent workouts to burn calories and lengthen and strengthen muscles.

Millennials in motion

Things like holistic well-being aided by wearables (FitBit, Apple Watch and Samsung’s GearFit among others) that allow users to track everything from exercise and sleep patterns to meditation has become a major segment of the global fitness market, especially among millennials and young adults.

Although the mix of workouts considered “group training” is not new, it is a form of exercise on the cusp of going to the next level in terms of its reach and scope. The social aspect of group training is its primary appeal, especially for millennials and Generation Z  who constitute about 80 percent of gym users, according to the 2019 Les Mills Global Consumer Fitness Survey.

Group training targets four fitness levels, with instructors teaching and using many types of classes and equipment, from cardio-based sessions, spinning and cycling to dance-based workouts like Zumba and step aerobics.

Circuit training, which also placed in the top 20 global fitness trends in the ACSM survey, is typically a group of about 10 exercises completed in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a specific number of repetitions or a set time period before a quick rest and moving on to the next exercise.

Never too old

While youth and young adults largely determine the direction of fitness trends, there has been a considerable uptick in the popularity of exercise and fitness regimens intended for middle-aged and elderly people.

Many in those age groups prefer home workouts, as technology has transformed  the way we can stay fit using tech-centric gym equipment, intelligent rowing machines, weightlifting systems and AI personal training for example. First and foremost, home workouts are convenient, which maximizes their appeal to older individuals navigating busy schedules and long commutes.

Functional training already has made an impact on the fitness market through CrossFit. Instead of how many kilograms can be lifted or reps completed or calories burned, functional training has begun to focus on technique.

This type of workout emphasizes balance, coordination and building strength in correct and sensible ways. Such fitness programs for older adults are among the top 10 trends as people live, work, and remain healthy and active longer.

Egypt’s Fitness Evolution

Recent research by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a U.S. nonprofit, shows the “wellness market is growing at a historic rate, nearly twice as fast as the global economy.” This surge is certainly evident in Egypt through a variety of forward-thinking experts, classes and gyms that are transforming the way Egyptians approach fitness.

Consider BeFit, the full body fitness company founded by athlete Aly Mazhar in 2013. BeFit uses cutting-edge programs such as its signature six-week “Transformation Challenge” that covers strength, endurance, power, speed and agility using an eclectic mix of functional training. It is one of the leading “concept” gyms with six branches in the country.

Trainer, health coach and founder of B-URN, Amina Naguib introduced a new training method to the fitness scene in Egypt. It is a high-intensity, low-impact, 45-minute full body workout performed on the Megaformer (a market-leading pilates and cardio apparatus) and based on the Lagree Fitness Method.

Ignite has built a reputation as one of the country’s leading performance training institutes. Its ATHLEAN cardio-based class is an imaginative new workout that incorporates all sorts of footwork. Participants complete a three-lap warm-up followed by footwork drills, jumping rope intervals and sprints, ending with 10 minutes of stretching.

Fitness studio Cyclopedia’s approach to spinning utilizes four color zones throughout a one-hour session. These zones represent different combinations of resistance and speed, with the instructor assessing the performance of each participant by the color indicator on their machines. The class combines HIIT and regular interval training, one of the first in Egypt to do so. Cyclopedia also provides other focused programs, including TRX Suspension Training, yoga and pilates.

Palestra is a fitness center that focuses exclusively on dancing as a way to stay fit. It offers various genres of music for dance classes ranging from hip-hop and jazz to Latin and Arabic. Classes follow an established technique and are led by instructors in the style of an aerobics class and have gotten rave reviews for being intense yet reasonably paced and fun.