David Smith, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at The University of Kansas Health System Sports Medicine and Performance Center, weighs in on the latest exercise trends – and cautions that fads come and go, but the basic principles of fitness remain the same.
Q: HIIT seems to be a popular exercise trend. What is it?
A: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of activity followed by short periods of rest and recovery. Typically, the total duration of HIIT is less than 30 minutes but some extend longer, depending on the exercise and recovery time.
This type of training can be done at home with videos or in fitness centers. Because it's designed to use all your muscle groups – upper and lower extremities as well as core – and increase your heart rate, it can be an excellent, efficient way to work out.
Like all exercise programs, someone starting HIIT should "start low and go slow." If you start too rapidly and exercise too intensely, you can get injured.
Q: Group training seems to be another trend. What are your thoughts about this?
A: Training in a group can provide valuable encouragement, motivation and accountability. If the group includes a personal trainer, fitness instructor or experienced partner, then learning proper technique and how to safely make progress can also be beneficial.
But some people prefer the solitude of exercising alone. You should determine for yourself if you prefer to exercise in a group or on your own. You can always try both and see which works best for you.
Q: Fitness trackers, step counters and smart watches are all the rage. What do you think about wearable technology?
A: It's really up to you to determine whether wearables are a help or hindrance. Personally, I find it helpful to keep some sort of fitness log to remind myself of how compliant I've been and then use it as a reward when I achieve a goal.