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Fitness Fads Not All Bad If Balanced

Fitness Expert Says Fad Exercise Programs Can Provide Variety and Motivation

March 4, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Turn on the television and it can't be missed: the latest commercial for a fitness fad, from Yoga Booty Ballet to exercise gliders. The problem is that fad fitness programs don't target all components of fitness, but they can have a place if balanced, according to a fitness expert at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"Typically, one type of exercise will not create the perfect body," said Steve Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology in MU's College of Human Environmental Sciences. "It is fine to take part in a fad fitness program, but make sure to include enough variety in your exercise regimen that all components of fitness are targeted. People need cardiovascular exercise as well as something that strengthens muscles and increases flexibility."

Ball, who also is a state fitness specialist with MU Extension, points out that the coveted abdominal 'six pack' requires a combination of low body fat and muscle strength. Using an advertised ab machine may strengthen the muscles, but without cardiovascular exercise and dietary modifications to lose the body fat that covers them, the muscles can't be seen. Do beware of programs or machines that promise 'toned' muscles.

"Since there is no way to measure 'tone,' which is really a combination of low body fat and having some muscle, programs and machines do not run the risk of being accused of not providing it because it is not really measurable," Ball said. "Eventually, you have to get back to the basics. Think about what you can do on a regular basis and for a lifetime. Extreme programs rarely work in the long run."

Sometimes exercise trends can help provide motivation and variety. The body becomes accustomed to certain exercise if it is done repetitively. While any exercise program has some benefits, Ball reminds people to use caution before starting anything new.

"Don't have weekend warrior syndrome," Ball said. "Don't jump into any program too hard and too fast, or you will just end up sore and possibly injured. Take it easy at the beginning, and build up to longer and more strenuous workouts."