Here in the States, we not only like to keep up with the Joneses, but also the Juans in Mexico, the Martins in France, and the Satous in Japan. In other words, we don’t like to be left out or behind even on a global scale.
This is the case with food – whose is better? – and fashion – who looks the best? But it’s also the case with fitness. Just as every other aspect of our lives differs culturally, you can believe that’s the case when it comes to working out, too. Grab your gym-going passport and take a look at what’s popular beyond our borders. You may be inspired to try something new!
The carefree lifestyle of the Spanish seems to translate to their approach to fitness, too. As a whole, they don’t seem to worry themselves too much with getting in to the gym. Their inherent lifestyle does a body good! “The majority of them eat a healthy enough diet (Mediterranean diet at its finest) and walk almost everywhere (if they live in a big city), so obesity isn’t that big of a concern,” said Kelsey Murray, an American teacher who travels to Seville to teach English. They certainly don’t give exercise the chore status that Americans do, as it’s naturally just a part of their lives.
These Euros are also not sweating out their evenings in the gym, rather they prefer to get out en plein air. Translation: They enjoy the outdoors. And why wouldn’t they? Beautiful scenery from nature and architecture provide an inspired background to walk, run, cycle, or even row. Because they are “discreet but effective,” Mireille Guiliano, author of the French Women Don’t Get Fat series of books, told Yahoo! that isometric exercises are very French. With a straight back, contract your abs for 12 seconds, hold, release, and repeat. You can do this on the subway, in your desk chair, in your office, or even at a fancy dinner date.
The Dutch are incredibly active, with more than 70 percent of men participating in a sport and 66 percent of women. Compare that to just 20 percent of American adults who exercise! The funny thing is, they aren’t doing it much differently than we are, they just actually do it. General fitness scores high on the interest level, with group classes like RPM, Body Balance, Body Pump and Boot Camp being very popular. Cycling is as much a common mode of transportation as it is a way of staying active. And even dance and soccer keep the Dutch moving!
The birthplace of yoga keeps this ancient practice alive and well. While the country is the birthplace of yoga, today only about 20% of the population participates. That’s still no small number of yogis, 247.4 million compared to 15 million Americans doing yoga. Another form of exercise that’s as native and ancient as yoga is Indian Club Training. Bowling-pin shaped clubs are tossed in an almost artful form, and can be used to strengthen arms and torsos. Think of the kettleballs we toss around State-side.
Martial arts meets dance in this intense form of exercise known as Capoeira, which is burning up in Brazil. It’s a true cardio workout that’s also able to work the major muscle groups, making it a total body workout that’s fun and even a little sexy. Capoeira is actually beautiful to watch, and your body will be to thanks to the incredible toning and flexibility benefits that come with sticking to the practice. While not nearly as ethnically relevant as say churrascaria, the Brazilian Butt Lift, a popular workout here in the States, was born of Brazilian Victoria Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio’s desire to tone and tighten her thighs and glutes.
Short, intense workouts are what’s keeping the Brits moving, and according to Pete Cohen, that’s specifically Tabata. It’s like HIIT, that has become so popular in the States, but on speed. The entire Tabata workout is just four minutes long, made up of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Then you repeat this process eight times. Squats, push-ups, crunches, medicine balls are all part of this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sweat session.
Right now in the US, some form of all of this is quite popular. Either because it originated here, think boot camp classes, or because we adopted it, think yoga, we are as much a melting pot for fitness as we are humanity. CrossFit, yoga, body pump or muscle pump, Spinning, endurance races and running are all some of the most popular forms of exercise that are getting Americans moving. We’ll no doubt export all of this, with the UK also being on the Paleo and CrossFit trains, and will find new ways to import the multi-national fitness approaches of our global neighbors.