A-list beauties are buzzing about the benefits of this unique toning method. But can it really melt belly flab and ease joint pain? FIRST health and wellness columnist Jorge Cruise weighs in!
Sure, we’d all love to have enviably jiggle-free arms and a flat stomach like Wendie Malick, but weight lifting and cardio get so monotonous, sweaty and painful. That’s why we were interigued when we heard that the Hot in Cleveland alum doesn’t endure grueling sweat sessions to keep her figure looking great. Her secret: a series of slow, rolling movements preformed on a Pilates-style machine called the Gyrotonic Expansion System. The method was developed in the 1970s by celebrated ballet dancer Juliu Horvath as a way to help him stay in shape while healing from an Achilles – tendon injury. Horvath designed the series of movements, and eventually the Gyrotonic machines, to keep this muscles limber while maintaining and building core strength, balance, stamina and coordination. The low-impact method grew in popularity with other dancers, and soon Gyrotonics began to infiltrate rehabilitation centers, sports-training facilities and elite gyms as fitness buffs and celebrities saw its impressive results. How does Gyrotonics work? Experts explain that the method (which includes moving with and against a series of resistance pulleys and rotating handles) lengthens and tones muscles throughout the body, focusing on the core and spine. The flowing sequences isolate the deep-tissue abdominal muscles that cinch in the waist and strengthen the lower back, while constant fluid arm movements open up the shoulders. The net effect, say trainers, is tighter, stronger muscles throughout the body, as well as improved posture. Women report that regular Gyrotonic sessions make them look taller and leaner – giving them a coveted “dancer’s physique.” There’s another reason Gyrotonics is so hot in Hollywood: It helps flush trapped fat. While many forms of exercise encourage movement along a single axis (like lifting your arms up and down during jumping jacks), Gyrotonic sequences entail a full range of motion (similar to spinning your arms like a windmill). By completely opening up and rotating the joints and engaging all the muscles, this natural motion is said to relax tight fascia (connective tissue) and stimulate the flow of lymph fluid – the two body systems responsible for ferrying stored fat to be burned for fuel and eliminating fat – trapping, energy-draining toxins from the body. And through Gyrotonic movements are slow, they are constant. This style of motion gently increases heart rate and sparks muscle activity to increase metabolism and torch calories. Fans of Gyrotonics also love that the movements don’t trigger soreness like most forms of exercise. The method has been gaining popularity as a non-traditional physical therapy for knee, back and hip injuries. That’s because the machine’s unique system of pulleys and circular motions doesn’t strain the joints, making it possible for patients to loosen up stiff joints, release built-up muscle tension and gain strength with our pain. The payoff: Women report enhanced mobility, relief from chronic aches and overall improved quality of life. What’s more, the soothing nature of the fitness method is said to lift mood and help women decompress from a stressful schedule. Despite the promised benefits, trainers caution that inf practiced improperly, Gyrotonics can result in strained and pulled muscles, especially because the system’s motions can be a bit difficult to master. (One woman said it was lie rubbing your stomach while patting your head.) That’s why it’s crucial to work whit and experienced instructor. Another drawback: Because of the equipment required, most teachers offer only one – on – one or small group sessions, so Gyrotonics instructions can come with a sizable price tag, with classes starting at $60 per hour.