Bored with your regular workout and desperate to try something new? Here are some of the summer's hottest workout trends.
Ready, sweat, go
What it involves: Thought it was just for children in the playground? Well, skipping is undergoing something of a revival among adults, who are beginning to realise how this simple activity builds bones, burns fat and improves strength better than many other exercises.
Body benefits: The US National Institutes of Health claims that skipping burns more calories than any other popular exercise except for fast running. Ten minutes of moderate skipping, they say, will use up 70 calories, but if you are an extremely energetic skipper, expect to burn 110 during that length of time. Experienced skippers can burn 1,300 calories in an hour of vigorous activity. It is a favourite of many medical experts. In the UK, the British Heart Foundation charity holds an ongoing Jump Rope for Heart campaign and offers free skipping workshops for teachers to highlight how effective the activity is in combating childhood obesity. Indeed, many teachers in the US and UK use it in physical education classes as a form of "brain gym". It helps to refocus students' attention and get rid of pent-up anxieties as well as get them fit. There are other benefits too. Weight-bearing exercise is essential for building bones. According to research by the UK National Osteoporosis Society, just 15 skips a day can make a significant difference in the prevention of the disease.
Do it yourself: Beyond the body-changing effects of skipping, it is cheap and portable - invest a few dirhams in a rope and you have a ready-made workout wherever you travel. Avoid traditional woven rope as it's heavy (even more so when wet) and slow to turn, making many of the moves difficult. Ball bearings and calorie counters also add unnecessary weight. Your best bet is a lightweight, flexible plastic or leather gymnastic speed rope made by one of the big sports brands such as Reebok and Nike. Make sure the rope is the correct length for you by standing on the middle of it and pulling the handles upwards until the rope is taut. The handles should be in line with your shoulder blades at that point - if they come up higher, cut or tie the rope accordingly. Gradually ease yourself into a workout, starting with a 1:3 skipping-to-rest ratio (you skip for a minute, then rest for three), building up slowly. Technique is important - knees and ankles should be bent and your torso straight when jumping. Arms should be by your side with the rope turning from the wrists and forearms. From this basic position, you can add variations as you get fitter and more proficient. Elite skippers rarely just jump over the rope; they incorporate up to 200 kinds of manoeuvres. In competitions they often do push-ups, cartwheels and handstands while skipping over a rope spinning at more than 300kph.
What it involves: Shopping or the gym? If retail therapy comes top every time, then you might be the ideal candidate for mall walking or "mallercise". Power walking around shopping centres and marching up stairs and escalators while simultaneously doing a spot of window-shopping is now such a popular way to work out that trainer manufacturers are making special "mall-walker" shoes "to give extra traction for smoother, slicker mall floors". Fans say the advantages of mall walking include the fact that shopping malls are traffic-free, weather resistant and safe.
Body benefits: A 30-minute speed walk incorporating some stair climbing can burn around 200 calories. At the University of Calgary in Canada, physiologists looked at the effects of an eight-week mall-walking programme on health and well-being. After two months, results showed that the subjects were walking further and weighed less than when they started. Perhaps more significantly, they displayed high self-motivation, with 63 per cent of subjects mall walking three or more days a week. Another Canadian study revealed that shopping malls are the second most popular walking site for people aged 45 and older, with more women likely to choose them as an exercise destination than men. The charity Breast Cancer UK has given the exercise the thumbs-up by recently launching a Shop for Life mall-walking programme to encourage women to be active in their fight against the disease. Do it yourself: According to research by Breast Cancer UK, the average woman covers 2km when shopping - so add speed and you have a ready-made workout.
What it involves: Do you work out with music? If you like to run with a beat, you are not alone. Many top athletes do the same. Now comes Audiofuel, a service in which you can download workout-specific soundtracks with a beat that complements your running speed and the length of your daily jog. Select a running compilation of 20, 30 or 40 minutes' duration from the dozens on offer, download it to your iPod or MP3 player and off you trot. Each bespoke compilation includes an eight-minute voice-over detailing a warm-up and stretch routine and a five minute cool down.
Body benefits: For some, music can boost sports performance. Research by Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sport psychologist at Brunel University in London, has shown that a good tune can distract the mind, enabling the body to work harder. In one of his studies, he found that exercisers who listened to music put in up to 10 per cent more effort without realising it. Motivating music has also been also shown to boost mood during a workout and can make you feel more alert, all of which means you get more return for your effort.
Do it yourself: Log on to www.audiofuel.co.uk and choose from a 20-minute Shoot the Breeze medium-intensity workout to a 40-minute Adrenaline Junkie running accompaniment. Coming soon is a 10-week Fuel Me Fit programme that aims to transform you from a walker to a runner through music. Or, of course, you can select your own beat. "The most important thing when exercising to music is that the music inspires you to keep going," says Karageorghis. "There is no right or wrong choice - classical, rock or pop are fine if they do it for you."
What it involves:An exercise bike with a difference. Developed by the American-based personal trainer Johnny Goldberg - the man who invented spinning - it takes place on a specially designed stationary "arm bike" called a Krankycle and aims to do for the arms what riding a normal bike does for the legs. A Krankcycle has a seat, suspended front wheels and hand-pedals (called crankarms) where the handlebars should be. You half-sit, half-stand while you "pedal" with your hands.
Body benefits: A typical Kranking class lasts 40 minutes and provides a decent cardiovascular workout in spite of the fact that you are focusing on the upper body. The heart has to work hard to pump the same amount of blood through your arms as through your legs because the smaller blood vessels create greater resistance. This resistance can be increased as you get fitter and it is harder work than it seems. Muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest and back are fully engaged and the core muscles work hard to stabilise the body. Of course, you won't burn as many calories as you would spinning, but expect to use around 220 in half an hour. Do it yourself: The Kranking workout is already running at some fashionable gyms in the US (including the Reebok Sports Club New York and branches of Equinox) and is scheduled to be rolled out in 40 countries around the world, including the UAE, in September.
What it involves: You have tried the vibrating Power Plate and platforms to get into shape, now the latest equipment designed to shake off the pounds is the Flexi-Bar, a fitness tool that looks like a plastic garden cane with rubber pieces attached to the middle and each end. Devised by German physiotherapists as a therapeutic tool, it has become a popular training aid for athletes looking to improve their core strength. To operate it, you shake it forcibly a couple of times until momentum takes over. Against this vibration you perform various exercises, such as squat-thrusts and lunges. In theory, the shock waves of the vibration through your body force it to work harder.
Body benefits: It's harder to work than it looks and is not just a case of waving your arms up and down to get going. Since the shaking movement is controlled by contracting the abdominal muscles, you need to recruit the muscles that run the length of the spine to keep it moving. Relax the core muscles and the bar simply stops. In a class you will perform all sorts of exercises using the vibrating bar as resistance.
Do it yourself: Many gyms around the world are launching Flexi-Bar or Flexi-Pump (adding weights to the mix) classes. But you can also try it at home. Purchase a Flexi-Bar from www.flexi-bar.co.uk and download exercises or try an accompanying workout DVD.