A load of pilox: Introducing a new fitness fad

Pilates combined with boxing – the latest idea to sweep through Hollywood and now heading for a gym near you

One is the route to a flat stomach for bourgeois ladies who lunch too much, and the other is the testosterone-fuelled favourite of the working man. There are few pastimes that could be more different than Pilates and boxing, but thanks to an LA fitness guru a combination of the two is poised to become the UK's next exercise fad.

Piloxing, with its string of celebrity disciples, including the actress Kirsten Dunst and the stars of High School Musical and Gossip Girl, has become America's most fashionable thing to be seen doing in Lycra. Invented by Viveca Jensen, a Swedish ballerina turned fitness fanatic, the hybrid exercise class is soon to leave the mirrored rooms of her exclusive LA studio and be exported to the rest of the world.

Using the balancing and stretching of Pilates and the cardiovascular work of air-boxing moves, piloxers wear weighted fingerless gloves as they are guided through moves. As with all Hollywood's body-beautiful money-spinners, it has already spawned a DVD and its own branded gloves.

"I started off last year doing really small classes with just 10 people in a tiny studio, but now it has gone crazy," Ms Jensen said. "In January I had to get another studio to fit everyone in, and I get emails every day from people wanting to learn." Hundreds of people now take her Beverly Hills class every week, and 2,000 copies of her DVD have already been sold via her website.

She has trained staff in her centre to teach the class, but now she plans to set up an international certification programme and bring her air-punching regime to Britain. "Every day we get requests from people in the UK wanting to buy the DVD and instructors who are prepared to travel to the US to learn it. My plan is to launch a certification programme and do workshop tours in Europe early next year."

Ms Jensen came up with the idea last year as a way to turn Pilates into a harder workout. "I've always been interested in powerful exercise and I had trained in boxing for fun. But because I was a dancer and that was all about being feminine, I wanted to make something that was sexy and feminine as well as being powerful.

"You go from throwing air punches, hooks and uppercuts to standing and balancing. It all works on core strength, and the Pilates part allows you to work on the muscles while catching your breath."

Neil Miller of the Frank Bruno Boxing Academy was not convinced. "I think they're two very different sports. We introduced boxing in schools to teach boys discipline and control, but Pilates is more popular with girls. I would say they're looking at a small audience."

Amy Swanson, an instructor with the Body Control Pilates Association, said she expected the phenomenon to be popular in Britain. "I definitely think it could take off as a gym workout. It's the sort of thing that someone like Virgin might get hold of, especially because there are celebrities involved."

However, Ms Swanson isn't planning to become a piloxing instructor herself. "I wouldn't teach it because I don't think Pilates needs fixing. I'm a purist. But I often say in my classes that Pilates principles can be applied to all exercises, because it's about alignment and muscle control."

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