Do fitness combinations work?

What’s the coolest way to break sweat in 2004? The latest, greatest, celebrity-endorsed workout? Enough! There are only so many ways the human body can move, and most of them have already been packaged as fitness activities. If you want the truth, this year’s fitness fads are likely to be a combination of two - or more - exercise disciplines with which you are already familiar, a concept that has been described as “fusion fitness’’. The IDEA Health & Fitness Association discovered in a recent survey that 70 per cent of fitness clubs now offer combination classes alongside traditional ones.

So, while last year you might have dipped your pointed toes into a ballet workout, this year you might be in for Lethal Legs, a combination of tae kwon do and ballet. Tiring of Pilates? Have a go at Aerolates, the new mix of dance and Pilates, or Fitness T’ai Chi, a more upbeat take on the ancient Chinese discipline. But does fusion fitness offer you the best of both worlds or simply dilute the “real thing’’? Richard Peck, studio coordinator at The Chelsea Club in London, believes that while fusion classes can keep exercisers motivated, by constantly presenting something new, they can only go so far in teaching people about any one particular fitness discipline. “If you mix and match these things, you won’t get the full benefits of any of them,’’ he says.

Rachel Holmes, an international fitness presenter and creator of Fitness Pilates and Fitness T’ai Chi, argues that fusion classes are a great way to keep exercise fun and inspiring. “For many people, exercise is boring,’’ she says. “Fitness consumers are always looking for the next new thing, but as exercise time is often limited, combining disciplines in one class is a way of getting the best results — and that is what forward-thinking instructors are providing.’’

Mind you, some activities sit together better than others. Can you really reach yogic nirvana in Disco Yoga, asanas performed to a funky backbeat, or get your kicks with aquacombat? And is TurboKick — a bewildering blend of dance, tae kwon do, boxing and t’ai chi — a case of jack-of-all-trades, master of none?

“Some of the more faddish combinations don’t sit together very comfortably,’’ says Peck. “You need to be particularly careful when mixing ancient disciplines with more modern exercise formats.’’ Chi Yoga (a blend of t’ai chi and yoga) and Yogalates (yoga and Pilates) seem like logical combinations, then. Or do they? “I believe that mixing yoga with other types of exercise presents a ‘watered down’ version of what yoga is,’’ says Jenny Pretor-Pinney, director of Yoga Place in east London. “Mixing yoga with Pilates or kick boxing has its benefits, but it is not yoga.’’ So far as industry veteran Dean Hodgkin, fitness consultant to Ragdale Hall, Leicestershire, England, is concerned, he’s seen it all before. “Even circuit classes, which have been around as long as anyone can remember, could be called fusion fitness because they combine aerobic exercise with strength training,’’ he says. Hodgkin does, however, point out that fusion could have its benefits. “Cross-training, mixing different types of activity, into your fitness regime has been shown to reduce the risk of injury and reap more rounded results, so a greater mix of activities could be better for your body,’’ he says.