Unfortunately, though, this theoretical variety doesn't always translate to diverse experiences in real life, as anyone who has experienced déjà vu while holding yet another plank as yet another techno playlist blasts away in the background can attest. Next time you're looking to try something new, skip the fads that remix things you've done before--instead, try one of these six unusual workouts preferred by fitness fans in the far corners of the world.
1. Capoeira (Brazil)
First things first: it's pronounced cop-ooh-EY-ra, as this martial arts instructor tells eHow. Part fighting style, part dance, capoeira is a traditional Brazilian martial art known for bounding acrobatics and complex kicks and spins. Capoeira is a lot of fun; fittingly, it's referred to as a "jogo" or "game," and participants are called players. It's also a great workout. According to The Guardian, benefits include agility and flexibility enhancement, increased cardiovascular stamina, and improved balance.
You've probably already heard of parkour, which has gained a steady following in the U.S. over the past several years (the New York Times covered it as early as 2012), but you may not know that this urban obstacle course program originated in France. Parkour is said to have its roots in French military training, so it's no surprise that this intense workout involves vaulting over barriers and scaling walls.
A typical Muay Thai class begins with a warm-up consisting of stretches, strengthening exercises like squats and lunges, and jump rope work or shadowboxing for a cardiovascular boost. Afterward you'll don pads and mitts to practice specific kicks and punches with a partner, and you'll work on your clinch, a gripping maneuver done in close proximity. You can find Muay Thai classes at boxing gyms like the Austin Kickboxing Academy in Texas.
4. Aikido (Japan)
In case you aren't happy with the martial arts options on this list so far, here's another one: aikido, which hails from Japan. Aikido is a defensive martial art that emphasizes harnessing your opponent's energy to subdue him or her without causing injury, which means in addition to its fitness benefits it also has applications as a self-defense class. You might enjoy aikido if you're curious about exercising with a weapon in your hand, since training sometimes involves working with a wooden sword or staff to practice disarming techniques (though you won't learn any armed combat skills).
If you're a runner dealing with training plateaus or overuse injuries, reverse running may be a good option for you--it engages a different set of muscles from forward running while making similar cardiovascular demands. Furthermore, studies have shown that reverse running requires 30 percent more energy than traditional running, which translates to greater calorie consumption. You can enjoy the many well-cited benefits of reverse running even if you're not already a runner. For safety, try this exercise in an open field or other unobstructed space.
As with all exercise, these workouts vary in effectiveness depending on the abilities and physical condition of the person practicing. And you should always consult your doctor and a licensed trainer before undertaking a sport you've never tried before. As long as you're safe and smart, you can start exploring spiced-up alternatives to your tired old fitness routine right away.
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