Trapfit is the latest fitness craze to hit Los Angeles; interval training … on trapezes. It sounds wacky, but is a great cardio workout that also builds strength and flexibility. And you don’t have to head to Hollywood to try it – or at least something similar. Aerial fitness classes are available all over the UK; the National Centre for Circus Arts lists nearly 60 offering tasters and courses.
Philippa Vafadari, artistic director of BandBazi, a performing arts company in Brighton, teaches two adult aerial classes a week. “People come to have fun and keep fit, and there is an artistic element to it, too,” she says.
An aerial class is a yoga-based warmup followed by conditioning on the trapeze – “Everyone hates this bit!” – hanging by the arms to build upper body strength, or by the legs and doing crunches.
Even beginners can go on the high trapeze if they feel ready. It helps if you’ve done yoga, rock climbing, gymnastics or dance before, but it’s not essential. Vafadari’s youngest customers are aged six, and one of her top performers is in his mid-60s. “I’ve seen people completely transform themselves: losing weight, building strength and finding grace,” she says.
As well as the physical benefits, some people take to the trapeze to improve their wellbeing. In fact, BandBazi got funding to set up a class for people on low incomes, benefits or with a history of mental health problems. “It’s such good fun and a great social thing – kindred spirits together, breaking down barriers,” say Vafadari. “After all, the circus has always been a place of refuge for outsiders.”