Slip sliding away: Slide aerobics comes from America and looks ridiculous. But, says Sarah Lewis, it's being hailed as the Next Big Thing in fitness training

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The Independent Culture
Slide aerobics is being hailed as the Next Big Thing in fitness training. Imported from the US it has more than a touch of West Coast loopiness about it.

For a start, it looks completely ridiculous. The concept of sliding around on what is essentially no more than a large baking tray seems a trifle unhinged to say the least. But then who would have put money on step aerobics taking off as the fitness phenomenon of recent years? Slide aerobics seems set to follow.

The slide itself is a 5 ft x 2 ft piece of slippery plastic with rubber 'stoppers' running the length of the shorter sides. Elasticated pieces of material resembling bath-caps are put over your feet enabling you to move on the slide. Simple enough until you get on. The initial sensation is much like being on skis for the first time - exhilarating yet terrifying. 'It's all a matter of confidence,' says instructor Sharon Vickens at Islington's Sequinpark gym, north London. It's comforting to know that the stoppers are not so called for nothing, allowing you to come to a halt when your foot comes into contact with them.

The physical benefits are numerous. The slide's versatility means that it provides an all- round workout. A standard class lasts an hour, comprising of a 15- minute warm up (off the slide) followed by 30 minutes sliding and finally a series of leg and abdominal exercises. Slide aerobics burns calories at a rate of 400 every half hour and works the arms, legs, tum and bum. The sliding movement is particularly good for the thighs.

Ski bums should also take note. 'The lateral movement of sliding mimics the basic movement of skiing, so slide's the perfect way to get fit for the slopes,' explains Sharon who has been teaching slide aerobics since Christmas. 'We've had some mixed reactions about it,' she says 'but I'm sure it'll take off. It's particularly good for advanced trainers as they have more confidence anyway, but we do insist on two twenty-minute induction courses before anyone tries a class, irrespective of their fitness level. It's generally very overweight people who feel intimidated as they're scared they'll fall over and look silly.'

Those who shudder at the thought of keep-fit, with its connotations of navy knickers and draughty gyms, would do well to check out this new form of aerobics, now taught throughout the UK. 'It's not just a young person's thing,' says Sharon. 'Slide aerobics is appropriate for all ages . . . To combat stress or to work out aggression are just a few.' It could well give the phrase sliding down the slippery slope a whole new meaning.

For details of slide aerobic classes and workshops in your area, contact Leisuretime International (UK) Ltd on (071-487 3201); fax (071-487 4771)

Sequinpark (women-only gym) hold classes at: 134 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 (071-241 1449); 240 Upper Street, London N1 (071-704 9844); 17 Crouch Hill, London N4 (071-272 6857); 81-84 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 (071-284 0004)

(Photograph omitted)