Tai chi is a Chinese martial art movement practice that is often described as “meditation in motion”. It is designed to gently strengthen and relax the body and mind. It focuses on serenity through movement, connecting the mind and body through a series of posture flows. Tai chi can be performed by people at different ages and fitness levels. Research has found that tai chi improves balance and coordination and strengthens muscles. Research has also found it to help prevent falls in the elderly and those with Parkinson’s disease. During my time living in Macau and travelling China, I loved watching groups of men and women, young and old, gather on the streets to practice tai chi. It is a very safe form of exercise, requiring no fancy equipment.
Pilates is a mind-body, low-impact exercise option that focuses on the principles of breath, concentration, centring, control, precision and flow. Pilates is a whole body workout. Classes, however, can differ greatly, ranging from more strength-focused gym workouts to clinical rehabilitation. The balance between mind-body work will depend on the training or focus of your instructor.
There are two forms of Pilates: Mat Pilates and Reformer Pilates. Mat Pilates uses only body weight for resistance with the addition of props like balls, bands and weights. Pilates aims to stimulate awareness of the body, focusing on postural alignment and muscle recruitment. Pilates is made up of a repertoire of exercises designed to build your strength and control. It is a fantastic exercise option and can be tailored to different levels, medical conditions or injuries. Pilates has been found to help those experiencing low back pain as it helps to build lower back stability, core strength and focuses on body alignment.
Reformer Pilates is also a low-impact method of movement, similar to Mat Pilates, but is done using a machine known as a reformer. The reformer is a bed-like frame comprising of a system of pullies, springs and a carriage that moves. This makes the exercises more dynamic and offers increased intensity. The springs offer assistance and resistance, aiming to strengthen and lengthen your muscles and joints. They can be adjusted to modify the workout to suit different ability levels, so don’t worry if you are a complete beginner. Reformer Pilates was designed to help build core strength and improve body awareness. Exercises can be done in a variety of positions, from standing to sitting, or lying on your front or back. I regularly recommend it to my patients to help them back to health after an injury.
F45 offers a 45-minute workout merging high intensity interval training with a circuit style set up. Each class starts with the trainers demonstrating the exercises of the day. The exercises are displayed around the gym on screens so you can easily follow the workout. The daily workouts rotate between cardio and strength, using a mix of functional exercises. F45 tends to be more cardiovascular fitness focused, so if you enjoy getting sweaty during aerobic activity, you will enjoy F45. Each workout session provides a full body functional workout, improving your energy levels, metabolic rate, strength and endurance. I love my F45 classes and am impressed by the variety of exercises. Two trainers are present during every workout to monitor your form and advise how to simplify exercises if needed, so don’t be put off if you are new to exercising.
CrossFit started in a Californian gym in 2000, and has fast become an extremely popular Olympic lifting-style exercise option. It is a high intensity workout that builds your strength and conditioning through a series of challenging workouts. CrossFit is a class-based format that offers a different one-hour workout every day. A typical CrossFit workout is split into four parts. First, a functional movement or group game warm up. Next, there is a strength component which includes powerlifting moves like squats or deadlifts or Olympic lifting moves like clean and jerk. The main section is the “Work out of the Day”, also known as the WOD. This is a 20-minute circuit of different full body exercises. As Many Reps or Rounds As Possible (AMRAP), one of the many CrossFit acronyms, for 20 minutes will definitely get your heart rate up, pushing you to fatigue.
CrossFit may offer greater risk to those new to exercise if not performed properly under the skilled guidance of a coach. However, it is safe to say, I have never pushed myself more in a workout than when I did CrossFit.