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Fitness trends expected to come on strong

By Kat Carney
CNN Headline News

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(CNN) -- When it comes to fitness, there's no shortage of gym classes, workout videos, and exercise equipment. But what are Americans really doing and how will they exercise in the months to come?

According to IDEA Health and Fitness Organization, exercisers were in search of a "kinder, gentler" workout this year. The IDEA 2003 Trendwatch report identified yoga, Pilates and stretching and flexibility programs as those gaining in popularity.

Kathie Davis, executive director for IDEA, says this trend is driven by baby boomers and new exercisers looking to improve balance, agility and posture.

This trend is also reflected in equipment choices such as the stability ball, Bosu and Reebok Core Board, as well as home exercise videos like the best-selling "Pilates for Dummies" and Yoga Journal's series of workouts.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says Pilates and yoga will continue to be popular in 2004, but the trend will be to blend mind-body workouts with those that are more traditional, such as yoga using a stability ball.

Mind-body workouts won't be the only buzz. "Functional" fitness is also expected to take center stage. These types of exercises work several muscles and joints together, rather than one at a time.

ACE also predicts that fitness centers will begin to adopt a "pay-as-you-go" policy for those gym-goers put off by three-year contracts. Gym attendance has been down over the past year, and fitness chains hope that flexible pricing will bring exercisers back -- just in time to get started on that New Year's resolution to get fit!

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