The greatest workout on earth?

CIRCUS MOVES: Many types and styles of circus arts classes are offered around the country. One program at the Circus Arts Institute in Atlanta utilizes a variety of equipment. Participants learn both aerial and ground tricks. They use soft ropes, trapezes, circus rings and balance boards. They also have the opportunity to learn a variety of brain balancing activities such as juggling. Students swing, stretch, kick and flip to build strength. "You're coming in and learning a series of tricks -- that's what you're doing -- but what's really happening is you're lifting your own body weight, and you're turning your body upside down in space. You're having to engage your core," Carrie Heller, M.S.W., director of the Circus Arts Institute told Ivanhoe.

REAL BENEFITS: Researchers from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and Heller conducted a study to determine the benefits of circus arts fitness. Using a pen and pencil survey, they collected data from nine people before and after they participated in an eight-week adult circus fitness program. The two men and seven women ranged in age from 29 to 52 years, with an average age of 39. The researchers measured several factors including upper and lower body strength, flexibility, nutrition, mental focus and perceived overall health. They found overall trends for the performance assessment for upper and lower body strength and flexibility improved in all areas. For example, in pre-test, students were able to hold the flexed arm hang for 22.9 seconds. At post-test, they improved to 27.89 seconds. In general, students reported feeling stronger after completing the program. In fact, the overall strength perception increased from five to 7.25 on a scale of one to 10.

BE CAREFUL! While the circus arts class may be a fun workout, experts say to exercise a little caution. "At minimum, see your physician first," Mark A. Flood, D.O., an orthopedic spine surgeon from Banner Desert Hospital in Mesa, Ariz., told Ivanhhoe. Heller also says to be sure your instructor has formal circus training and trained spotters on hand for safety.

COST: The cost of the Circus Arts Institute class is $216 for eight weekly, 90-minute sessions. However, this cost may vary depending on where you decide to take the class.

For More Information, Contact:
Carrie Heller
Circus Arts Institute
Atlanta, GA
(404) 549-3000

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