Rise of Boot Camps: Popularity, health benefits of the latest fad


Ashley Leverenz, senior justice major, and Nina Her, junior occupational therapy and Spanish major, cool down from their workout in the Mount Mary College fitness center.

Jumping jacks, sprints, squats, crawling and centipede push-ups combine into one fast-paced workout better known as boot camp.

When people envision boot camp, images of strong, fit men and women performing rigorous exercises come to mind. However, this new form of boot camp strikes the nation as a workout geared toward physical fitness and fast results.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, in “the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of U.S. adults … and approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 – 19 years are obese.”

As concern about obesity increases across the United States, it has triggered weight loss programs to storm infomercials. Television networks have also jumped on the bandwagon. NBC’s popular show, “The Biggest Loser,” promotes boot camp workouts, using vigorous exercises to burn calories and fat quickly.

“People see that the participants lose a lot of weight in a short time, and they are looking for those same results,” said Cathy O’Loughlin, group fitness coordinator at the West Suburban YMCA in Wauwatosa.

In addition to the expectation of fast results, boot camp provides a time convenience because the exercises happen in quick, penetrating bursts.

“Most people do not have two hours per day to spend at the gym and a shorter, high-intensity workout can help them achieve the results they are looking for,” O’Loughlin said.

Jen Barton, a certified fitness instructor through Les Mills, a worldwide organization dedicated to group fitness and team training programs, also stressed the time advantage of boot camp.

“A good workout will get a 24-hour ‘afterburn’ where your body is running more efficiently and burning more calories even as you watch TV,” Barton said.

Like other popular workouts such as aerobics and weight lifting, boot camp appears to have found its niche in society.

“Jazzercise was big for a while, then step classes, bosu, yoga finally caught on and now boot camp/cross fit classes have been in demand, especially for those who just want to be challenged more,” Barton said.

While the workout focuses on weight loss, boot camp exercises provide many other physical benefits.

“[The exercises] utilize muscles that are used in everyday activities such as reaching for something over our heads, bending to pick something up, lifting children or groceries, or walking up and down stairs,” O’Loughlin said. “Participants see the benefits through increased range of motion, increased strength and coordination, and improved cardiovascular fitness levels.”

While the intensity of the workout appears intimidating, Barton reassures folks the workouts are lots of fun, and the children to whom she teaches boot camp “love it.”

Children and adults can sign up for classes as the workout intensity adjusts to meet the exercising needs for each individual. The more physically fit one is, the more concentrated the workout is.

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