Fusion fitness classes pack Pilates with punch, yoga with jumps

By Dornene Internicolat NEW YORK (Reuters) - From yoga with leaps and jumps to Pilates that packs a punch, fitness experts say the craze for short, intense workouts has resulted in some odd pairings. While these hybrid routines may seem strange, they can be an efficient way to boost the heart rate and increase calorie burn when there is thoughtful reasoning behind them, they say. "My belief is to make the most of every second at the gym: get the workout done in the shortest time possible," said Stephanie Lauren, a certified group fitness and yoga instructor. The New Jersey-based Lauren is the creator of Plyoga fitness, a group fitness class that melds the slow stretches of yoga with the explosive jumping and leaping that is plyometrics. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which combines repeated short bouts of intense exercise followed by short recovery periods, is at the center of Plyoga. "Plyometrics and yoga are two of the most fundamental disciplines out there. We call them the yin and yang of fitness," she said, adding that many plyometric moves and yoga postures flow well into each other. "After you hold a yoga pose for a while, a squat thrust is recovery," Lauren explained. Strength, endurance, core development, balance and flexibility are among the benefits of the equipment-free class, she added. "Many hardcore exercisers just can't slow down enough to choose a traditional yoga stretch," Lauren said, adding that for some people the class is a way to get their heart rate up. A 2014 report from the trade association IHRSA (International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association) found that women are up to two to three times more likely than men to join group exercise classes. Swedish-born Viveca Jensen created Piloxing, an exercise regime that blends the stretches and low impact exercises of Pilates with boxing and dance techniques. The 60-minute choreographed workout is done in 37 countries around the world. The workout begins with an eight-minute warm-up followed by choreographed boxing, a sequence of standing Pilates moves, dance and then 10 minutes of floor work before a cool-down. "It's very much an interval training exercise. We want heart rates to go up," said Jensen, who claims that Piloxing can burn 400-900 calories per class. Jessica Matthews, an exercise physiologist at Miramar College in San Diego, California, said mixing a vigorous cardiovascular workout with a mellow, flexibility-focused activity has become common in hybrid fitness classes. "HIIT training has come center stage," she said. But Matthews, who is a yoga teacher and group fitness instructor, cautions against renouncing a daily walk or run. "HIIT shows that in a very short time we can elicit maximum benefits, but that's not saying that anything not HIIT should be tossed," she explained. Matthews, who has seen yoga combined with pole dancing, and ballet barre classes combined with resistance tubing, said that in evaluating a fusion class, it's important to assess whether you're getting the benefits of both modalities. She also urged consumers to find qualified instructors. "These classes need to be thoughtfully designed," she said. "That is the key consideration." (Editing by Patricia Reaney and Gunna Dickson)

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