NEW ORLEANS - If you've ever admired the body of a dancer, there's a new workout program that may be right for you.
36-year-old Amy Storper said she's never looked or felt this good,not even in her 20s before becoming a mother.
"My body just changed, and I mean, I had a little boy. He wastwo at the time, so classic story, I was trying to lose the baby weight. I had no stomach muscles whatsoever and it's an amazing thing that happened," Storper said.
What happened over the last year was she tried a new type of workout, called Xtend.
"What I've noticed the most about Xtend is it really chisels the body just a little bit more," said NOLA Pilates owner Kim Munoz.
When Munozfirst openedNOLA Pilates in Lakeview, she only offered Pilates and then later added vertical fitness called Pole Perfect. But she remembered a new workout she heard about in Boca Raton, Fla. while evacuated for Hurricane Katrina,a program that combines ballet and Pilates.
"They love it because it's non-impact on their joints, but it's small, meaningful movements and they get a great workout and they feel amazing," Munoz said.
Munoz said no dance experience is needed. You'll get a workout in three areas: cardio, strength and flexibility. Her classes are growing with people aging from 15 to 72 years old.
"We have a client who's been with us now since we opened and her body has totally transformed," Munoz said.
The class is 55 minutes long, using small light weights with lots of reps, resistance bands and work at the ballet barre. There's floor work, movements targeting the upper and lower body and core.That includes the abs. There is also a lot of stretching.
"When you look at what Xtend is, it's a combination of strengthening the muscles and elongating the muscles.That seems to be a missing link in most programs. We never get back to the elongation of the muscle," said Fitness Expert Mackie Shilstone of East Jefferson General Hospital.
Experts say no matter what type of strength training you're doing,even with weight lifting,it is essential to fully stretch the muscles afterwards so you don't tighten and injure the tendons. That's what Xtend is doing. And there is a reason why this program appears to be elongating muscles.
"This type of activity won't necessarily make leaner longer muscles from a scientific stand point. What happens is you lose body fat.Body fat is on the surface and it also is within the muscle. But if you lose muscle fat then you have leaner muscle," said Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, the head of Family Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center.
And while there is no science about physically making a muscle longer, Xtend is doing something else good for the muscle and entire body.
"What we do know is it will build something called muscle endurance.They are also better able to burn fat, to handle insulin to keep your body from storing fat in the truncal area, to lowering cholesterol, to lowering blood pressure," said Dr. Melinda Sothern, a weight-loss expert with the LSU Health Sciences Center's School of Public Health.
You're not going to get the quicker benefits you would from intense aerobic workouts, but that is why some people like this program. It's more moderate and low impact,keeping them motivated to keep coming. And it's not just for women.
"I can tell you right now that you have quite a few NFL players who are using Pilates.I can tell you I know quite a few tennis players who are using Pilates. Ballet, balance, balance training which ballet would give to you, is the key to successful sports," Shilstone said.
Even Lynn Swann, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, did ballet.
And there is another benefit to working your muscles. Don't use them, and they decline 1 percent a year beginning in the mid 20s. Use them, and they decline only 1 percent every 10 years.
"The body ages more rapidly if you don't use it in every aspect, and that's just because the human body is meant to be used and be active," LeBlanc said.
Besides losing inches, Amy said she's eating better and enjoying the benefits of being more active.
"It just makes things easier bending over, going up and down stairs. You wake up and feel good instead of waking up and feeling tired.My husband just last night says that he sees a big change, that I just walk around more confident."
Doctors also say that working out in a group can also help motivate people to stick with an exercise routine.