7 Crazy Fitness Fads That Really Should Die In 2014


Raise your hands – how many people are resolving to exercise more in the coming year, again? Exercise is great, but some of the fitness fads of the past few years are way past their prime.  Nothing is to say these routines won’t burn calories and build muscle. Just like any other exercise, they do have the benefits of moving your body and expending energy.  There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these exercise routines. However, the are each a bit ridiculous, so say goodbye to these nutty fitness fads this year and embrace reality.


1. Pole Dancing:

Pole DancerPole Dancer
Image: Wikipedia Commons

Yes, stripper dancing burns calories and takes skill and coordination. It is also risky, thanks to falls, broken bones and (ugh!) skin infections from unsterilized poles. Exercisers wear heels for their workout session, which is dangerous and can lead to tendon problems.  The pole dancing workout does make you use upper body and leg muscles, but the overall fitness value is questionable.  Medical Daily  reports you burn about 250 calories per hour pole dancing. This is about the same as a regular gym workout. You will certainly get bruises and “pole burns” on your hands and other parts. Doing it without a well-trained coach can be downright dangerous according to caloriesecrets.  Unless you are planning on going pro with your pole dancing, skip this one. 

2. Yoga-plus-other stuff: 

Anti Gravity YogaAnti Gravity Yoga
Image: Wikipedia 

Yoga by itself is great for mind-body connection, stretching and strengthening. In the last few years, however, the trend has been to add stuff to yoga like doing it in super-hot rooms, or paddleboard yoga. Hot yoga, or Bikram yoga, includes 90 minute sessions in rooms heated to 105 degrees.  Hot yoga is especially dangerous for people with heart disease, and fainting is common, according to the Mayo Clinic.   Stand up paddleboard (SUP) yoga combines the benefits of yoga with intensive balance training on the paddleboard.  Huffington Post notes there are many benefits to SUP yoga, but there is always the danger of falling into the water and the injury risks from that. One of the sillier yoga mash-ups is upside down yoga, or doing yoga while suspended from the ceiling wearing an “anti-gravity” harness or “cocoon.” The brainchild of a co-founder of Cirque de Soleil does make yoga lower impact, practitioners note. However, there are few lower impact exercises than yoga already.  Dailymail.uk  notes that calling the practice “yoga” really stretches the definition of the term. Upside down yoga has the risk of hilarious Instagram photos in addition to falls, twisted limbs and other entanglements.

3. Gas Mask Workouts:

Gas Mask TrainingGas Mask Training
Image: therxreview

Gas mask training is not just for soldiers and firefighters anymore. Nope, hardcore exercisers have been modifying Army surplus gas masks to create tougher workouts. The masks restrict oxygen intake, simulating high altitude exercise. Fans rave about exercising until they “see stars” and equate the gas mask workout to “being strangled while you are exercising.” Adherents on therxreview claim the benefits of this sort of training include more lung capacity and the body producing more blood cells to allow functioning under this level of stress . Unfortunately, these “hypoxic training aids” don’t really filter out oxygen from the air you breathe. They do make your lungs and breathing muscles work harder to suck air through small holes, which leaves less energy left over for exercising.  The MMA Training Bible  notes “gas mask” training is great if you are training your respiratory muscles, but pretty useless for improving fitness results anywhere else.  This workout seems more than just silly – it seems downright suicidal if used improperly. In addition, you look pretty silly doing circuit training wearing something that prevents you from breathing. 

4. Running Backwards:

Retro RunningRetro Running
Image:  Wikipedia commons

Also called “retro running” or “gninnur” – running spelled backwards – has legitimate uses in physical therapy for treating hamstring injuries. Now it has races, champions and even a group of enthusiasts lobbying for it to become an Olympic sport.  Bodybuilding.com offers a thorough and very scientific breakdown of the pros and cons of backward running in exercise routines. They note it is usually done in short bursts rather than in marathon-length sessions. The main risk is tripping and falling, plus spraining your neck looking behind you all the time. Maybe just run backward on a treadmill for safety’s sake.

5. Stiletto Workout:

High Heels Race 2011High Heels Race 2011
Image:  flickr

Working out in high heels to improve balance, tone the legs and strengthen your core muscles has been called “the world’s worst workout” by Prevention Magazine. The workout actually does the reverse of what its founder Nicole Damaris claims. She insists the workout tones core and leg muscles and teaches women to walk safely in heels. It really stresses the lower back, messes up your center of gravity and shortens your Achilles tendon notes ABC News, not to mention the risk of ankle injuries just from strapping on sky-high heels and trying to stand.


 6. “Mud, Obstacle and Beer (MOB) Races:

Spartan RaceSpartan Race
Image:  Wikipedia

I will admit events like the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder are fun – to watch. Unfortunately, they are also dangerous. One competition in June 2013 logged 38 emergency room visits, ranging from chest pain to dislocated joints, head injuries, electrical burns, drownings and paralysis (Baltimore Sun). In my city’s Tough Mudder events over the past two years, there have been a handful of deaths (KSHB), and other events have suffered the same fate. National Geographic catalogs some of the problems with these races. For starters, people don’t train for MOB events properly, so they essentially run the obstacle-laden 5K races as Weekend Warriors.  Another problem is the timing of the events – midsummer in a Midwest heat wave, for instance. Combine this with the obstacles like live electrical wires, barbed wire, muddy and hilly terrain and beer-gut sporting contestants and you have a train wreck in action.

7. Standing on Stability Balls:

Standing on Stability Ball at Stonehenge - WinningStanding on Stability Ball at Stonehenge - Winning
Image:  Wikipedia

Physical therapists and trainers normally use stability balls for crunches, stretching and core work. However, the fad in the past few years is for gym rats to stand on the balls and do curls, shoulder presses and other exercises best done on solid ground. Men’s Health lists this as one of the three most dangerous exercise fads. Standers have fallen and crashed into weight machines, benches and other people. Remember, gravity always wins.

So please, stop doing silly workouts this year.  Instead, try something that is relatively safe and effective!

Warrior DashWarrior Dash

Image:  flickr