There may not be a magic potion for longevity, but the insurmountable power and scientific evidence behind exercise, stress relief activities and nutrition has doctors today prescribing much more than a dose of medicine for improved health.
“There’s really no excuses because there are too many options out there, but it’s best to do something that you like and that works for you,” says Acadiana internist Dr. Stephen Salopek. Cardiologist Jon Leleaux, with Cardiology Specialists of Acadiana, is quick to give his fitness formula. “I’m looking for a moderate sustained aerobic exercise protocol for 30 minutes a day about six days a week, while feeling some degree of stress.” Salopek concurs. “Doing something is better than doing nothing.”
Here are 10 Acadiana-wide fitness trends and tools packed with powerful health benefits to help promote and maintain both physical and mental well-being.
Strength to the Core
Now more than ever, many physical therapists and physicians are referring their patients to Pilates studios, and there are good reasons for this touted physical prescription for healing.
Pilates, founded by German-born Joseph Pilates, is designed to build strength, flexibility, improve posture and balance while helping one gain inner awareness. Pilates incorporates mat work and the use of an exercise machine, the Universal Reformer, which resembles a bed with adjustable springs.
In Lake Charles, you will find Cindi Smith, a deeply passionate and consummate Pilates instructor, at Pilates to Fit. Smith, a PMA- (Pilates Method Alliance) certified teacher, completes a physical assessment of each client and then uses that information to develop an individualized Pilates Method program.
At In Balance Palates Studio in Lafayette, you will also find a PMA-certified trainer, plus private individual, duo and trio sessions. Broussard, Louisiana, just landed its first classical Pilates studio, Align Pilates Studio, which offers individual, group and tween sessions.
All across Acadiana, fitness centers vary in shapes and sizes, atmosphere and options, the latter of which has exploded to meet the growing demand of millennials and baby boomers seeking improved health in this era of fitness.
Sitting along Bayou Terrebonne on Park Avenue is Powerhouse Gym Houma, where you will find two weight rooms with premier exercise equipment and professional personal trainers. Les Mills group fitness programs, dance fitness, yoga, and spin classes reign here; there’s also a smoothie bar with snacks, supplements and child care at this 24/7 gym.
In the heart of Cajun country lies the iconic Red Lerille’s Health and Racquet Club, a sprawling 200,000 square-foot facility that has been operating for more than half a century and is south Louisiana’s largest health club. Eighty-year-old owner Red Lerille (former Mr. America and Mr. Universe) has kept this institution fresh by meeting the ever-evolving fitness trends of today; among the offerings are comprehensive weight training options, pools, tennis courts, and a plethora of fitness classes.
In the heart of downtown Lake Charles is Gigi’s Downtown Fitness Club, run by owner Gigi Kuehn. Varied workout options range from bodyflow to yoga classes, plus cardiovascular and weight equipment, and amenities include massage, chiropractic services, a steam room and a health bar.
Move Over Jazzercise!
The legendary Jazzercise has been reinvented over and over again as fitness instructors of this era try to quench the thirst of those yearning for more dance fitness while Zumba, the Latin variation of dance fitness, is speedily evolving to stay fresh. From the bayous to the swamps, these addictive and fun classes are in full swing and giving full-body workouts.
At Gerami Academy of Dance, they take the lead with numerous alternative dance-inspired exercise classes, classes that range from Drummin (moving to pulsating rhythms while beating drumsticks) to Ballet Buff (a muscle-toning and strength-building class done to the classical masters).
Down Highway 90 to Morgan City and Thibodaux, Zumba’s Fitness Dance Party is all the rage. This high-energy, calorie-burning workout done to a variety of Latin and international music genres, is sure to be addictive. Group classes are offered at both Thibodaux’s 409 Fitness Studio and Morgan City’s Atchafalaya 24 Hour Fitness.
If you like hip hop or kickboxing, then Brickhouse Cardio Club in Houma offers some great workouts to energetic beats. Turbo Kick and Cize Live are just a few of their rotating classes which are part of the Beachbody program.
If you enjoyed riding your bike when you were a kid, then cycling may be your key to fitness. If that’s the case, you’re in luck because there are several cycling clubs straddling Acadiana — organizations whose members are in it for the joy of the ride, its vital health benefits or both. Cycling is a great way to stay in shape and improve cardiovascular health without pressuring the knees and other joints.
In Lafayette and its surrounding towns, you can join a handful of groups, including the Petite Paris Cycling which spins out of Youngsville, Arnaudville and Carencro or the Krewe de Velo in Opelousas. If you are a beginner, the Couch Potatoes cycling group is a great option, while for a more advanced pace there’s Cajun Cyclist whose biking routes begin in Lafayette.
In Terrebonne Parish, specifically Houma, you will find Bayou Country Cycling which welcomes riders of all skill levels; the same can be said at Calcasieu Parish’s Lake City Cyclist, in Lake Charles.
(Safety Tip: As opposed to cycling alone, there’s safety in numbers, thus making group cycling a much safer option).
The human touch is being used now more than ever to help with a plethora of symptoms from stress relief, depression, insomnia and physical pain; many see it as an alternative antidote for anxiety and a decreased immune system.
At Lafayette’s Spa Mizan, the therapeutic journey actually begins well before a massage, just inside its tranquil meditation room with a client sipping Aveda's Comforting Tea. Among Spa Mizan’s array of services is the popular stress fix massage, which includes guided meditation, and the therapeutic body massage; both incorporate stress-melting aromatherapy.
Inside an historic red-bricked church on Bayou Teche in Breaux Bridge is Visions Salon & Spa whose 30-year reputation extends far beyond the Crawfish Capital of the World. Swedish and deep-tissue massage reign here, the latter of which features the ancient cupping suction technique. (Fun fact: Michael Phelps used cupping during the Olympics).
At the palatial 8,700-square-foot Spa Du Lac inside L’Auberge Casino Resort, relaxation unfolds amid a luxurious setting. Among their extensive menu of unique massages are two favorites, the Himalayan salt stone and Sugar Baby body scrub.
Yoga’s Healing Journey
Westernized fitness-based power yoga and traditional therapeutic yoga are simulataneously sweeping the nation by storm. The explosion of yoga studios offering the best of both of these worlds is feeding a new generation seeking alternative methods to mending the body, mind and spirit. This ancient practice is used to heal injuries, anxiety, depression; not only that, but yoga can improve sleep, sexual function, blood pressure and lung capacity.
The Yoga Garden in Lafayette prides itself as a therapeutic yoga center assisting in healing through the ancient roots of yoga. This oasis has an outdoor garden for a variety of yoga practices, including aerial yoga and an indoor studio.
On Lafayette’s southside, you’ll find Oui Yoga where the room temperature is usually set at 95 F and power yoga dominates, offering a more vigorous intense challenge. Oui Yoga also offers a YOD (Yoga of the Day).
In Houma, The Yoga Center has a wide range of practices from stretch and strengthen to regenerate and restore classes. Root2Rise in downtown Houma delivers power yoga, chair yoga and meditative sessions.
Shall We Dance?
Whether you like to dance or have two left feet, this aerobic activity is packed with benefits for the both the body and the mind. In addition to helping overall fitness, dancing can tone muscles and help sharpen cognitive function.
In downtown Houma, you can get a great cardio workout like the contestants on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," but — get this — you can be a complete novice and still reap the rewards. Studio 371 offers tango, rumba and cha-cha lessons, to name a few, and walk-ins are welcome.
Laissez les bons temps rouler and at the same time, stay fit as you move to the sound of Cajun and zydeco dance. The atmosphere is always alive at Dance Around the World in Lafayette, where Cajun and zydeco lessons are among the lengthy repertoire of classes. Move a few miles east to Breaux Bridge, and you’ll find Cajun Dance Lessons by Cal & Lou, a dynamic husband and wife team who will bring the dance instruction to your very own doorstep.
Looking for something eclectic? Then head straight to the International Dance Company in Lake Charles, and try your hand at the Hawaiian hula, belly or tribal dancing.
Digesting Good Health
The mounting scientific evidence of the power of nutrition has taken off, warranting the proliferation of health food outlets. Nutrient-rich foods can help ward off diseases like cancer and aid in our overall longevity; even more immediate, some studies find that healthy foods can can combat fatigue, ADHD, and help us fight weight gain.
The Beet Juice Bar in Lafayette serves mouth-watering, cold-pressed organic juices which are simultaneously nutrient-dense and mineral-rich. It’s all about anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and probiotic creations at The Beet where the power-packed bottled mixes include the “Head to Toe” which is packed with fortifying ingredients. Juices are also custom-blended according to an individual’s health needs or medical conditions. The Beet’s owner, Patti Howell, is a certified Holistic Health Counselor who conducts nutrition classes and food demonstrations for clients at Miles Perret Cancer Service.
Helping people eat healthier, whether at home or in restaurants, is the Greenhouse Salad Company, a first-of-its-kind for Lake Charles. The Greenhouse offers both fresh and organic ingredients in its signature salads, or you can create a nutrition-packed salad of your very own. The Power House and the Kale-Yea’ are two of its most popular choices.
Fitness apps for your smartphone and tech gadgets like smartwatches and fitness trackers have become integral parts of the personal fitness universe.
These activity trackers which, among many things, measure heart rates, quality of sleep, blood flow and step counts, are being used to help motivate people to reach their fitness goals. The tech trend is expected to continue to explode in coming years.
While fitness trackers can be a useful monitoring tool, some doctors say be wary about whether or not readings truly mean you had a good workout. “My concern is that people will say ‘my FitBit says I walked three miles today’, but the problem is that is not sustained walking,” says Dr. Leleaux.
Fitness tech wearables on the horizon? Smart shoes, biometric shirts, and smart bandages, and, as with technology, much much more.
While hiking is great exercise, some might say that Acadiana’s hiking actually takes place on paddling trails. More and more people are utilizing Louisiana’s waterways to improve physical fitness and, at the same time, enjoy Acadiana’s unmatched cinematic backdrop. The experts agree: paddling works out the body’s core and is an instant destressor.
While paddling is for all skill levels, Kayaking 101 classes are offered at Pack and Paddle in Lafayette. Acadiana Fitness Paddles in Lafayette offers weekly paddle trips led by Alexis Romero on Lake Martin, the Atchafalaya Basin and Lake Chico.
Take your paddle workout through several Acadiana parishes while on Bayou Teche, which was just designated a national paddle trail. Bayou Teche Experience in Breaux Bridge provides shuttle service and kayak rentals for those who don’t own their own boats, and it has qualified instruction and paddling excursions on other Acadiana waterways as well.
Pelican Paddlers organizes trips for all fitness levels in Lake Charles and Sulphur. The group’s jaunts predominately take place on Lake Charles, the Houston River, Prien Lake and Indian Bay near the I-210 bridge.