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Fitness forecast for 2017: Swimming still a core form of exercise

New year, new workout... Here's a look at some of the exercise trends set to gather pace in the coming 12 months

You're likely to see lots more women, and people of all shapes and sizes, tackling those squat racks and barbell sets in gyms these days

SOUPED UP SWIMS

Swimming never goes out of fashion, and endures as one of the most popular forms of exercise in terms of participation levels. Our obsession with tech and performance monitoring has already started making a bit of a splash; don't be surprised if you spot more and more people at the pool checking waterproof watches, timing their laps and breaking their workouts into warm-ups, sprints and drills.

"As a full-time swimmer, I know full well the incredible physical benefits that come from working out in the water," says Speedo ambassador and two-time Olympic silver medallist James Guy. "Swimming dramatically improves cardiovascular fitness and increased overall endurance, but it also helps build muscle strength and definition. What's more, it's a workout that can be enjoyed by people of any age and ability, the ultimate fitness staple."

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If you're not too confident in the water, many local pools will offer lessons or one-on-one sessions. YouTube has some good tutorials for improving stroke technique too, and why not grab some floats next time you hit the pool and mix things up? Virgin Active's partnered with Speedo to create 'Hydro powered by Speedo': 60-minute HIIT sessions featuring endurance swims, sprints and resistance activities, available at clubs nationwide (www.virginactive.co.uk).

KEEP LIFTIN'

Those days when it was just a bunch of beefy blokes in the weights section of the gym, admiring their veiny biceps in the mirror, are long gone. Well, actually that still is a familiar scene in some gyms – but you're also highly likely to see lots more women, and people of all shapes and sizes, tackling those squat racks and barbell sets, as we increasingly accept that strength training won't mean we'll wake up looking like Popeye, but could help us become leaner, stronger, less prone to injury and better able to maintain a healthy weight. The industry bods at Fitness First think this trend's only going to get stronger in 2017.

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Most gyms will offer weights-based classes (if you're looking for a specific one, try Body Pump). Good technique is crucial – both in terms of maximising results and injury-prevention – so make sure you get some proper advice before hitting the weights corner.

MORE MINDFUL EXERCISE

It's been THE wellbeing buzzword of the decade, so naturally mindfulness made its way into our exercise regimes in 2016 – with more to come in 2017. But don't be put off by visions of chanting, deep breathing and cheesy mantras (if those aren't your cup of tea) – it's simply about recognising our need to look after both our minds and bodies at the same time, and to take steps to rebalance. "2017 is going to be the year people truly become aware of the power of mindful exercise – the positive effect of exercise on mental as well as physical wellbeing," says Virgin Active global yoga ambassador Patrick Beach. "We'll see people beginning to have a deeper understanding of the connection between their body and their mind, and appreciate the importance of taking care of both."

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Getting mindful is personal and won't look the same for everybody – as long as it's working for you, great. However, incorporating some slower, intrinsically calming activities into your regular routine's at the heart of this trend. Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are obvious options – Virgin Active's introducing 'Calm by Candlelight' Yoga classes and beginner workshops from February.

NEW HIIT KIT

It seems safe to say high-intensity interval training – HIIT – is here to stay, but in terms of new classes and innovations, where's it going next? According to Fitness First, 'next generation HIIT' is going to be a key focus in 2017, with 'everyone searching for the next challenge to ramp up the intensity of their workouts'. For Fitness First (www.fitnessfirst.co.uk), this includes introducing three new pieces of HIIT CV equipment: the 'Assault Bike' (apparently popular with Crossfitters, options include scaled-up pedal resistance, various workouts, plus post-injury rehab), the 'SkiErg' (inspired by Nordic, aka cross-country, skiing, this offers a low-impact complete body workout that's especially good for arms, legs and core), and the 'SPARC' (standing for 'strength, power, accelerated, resistance, cardio', circuit and interval modes are designed to aid in fat loss, muscle, power and strength-building while being gentle on joints).

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Check out gyms in your area for new HIIT classes on offer, or do-it-yourself by mixing up online workouts. Fitness First's 'next generation HIIT' equipment's available at clubs now.

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