Using the Force? Lightsaber Fitness Classes Arrive

star wars, fitness, class, light saber
(Image credit: Matthew Bartolome Addictive Picture for Precision Parkour)

Exercise, you must. And with "Star Wars" mania hitting a peak right now, what better way to get in your exercise than with a lightsaber workout?

Lightsaber-themed fitness classes are popping up across the country, from New York City to Honolulu.

And these classes are more than just an opportunity to practice your sparring skills using a realistic-looking lightsaber — they're also a great workout.  [Secrets of the Jedi Lightsaber (Infographic)]

Working out with a lightsaber involves a mix of cardio and body-weight conditioning, said Keith Mylett, who started one of these saber-themed fitness classes at the Hawaii Jedi Saber Academy (part of a gym called Precision Parkour) in Honolulu.

In New York, classes are offered at the New York Jedi fitness studio. Meanwhile, at some locations of the East Coast sports club chain that includes New York Sports Club, Boston Sports Club and Washington Sports Club, a class called "Awaken Your Inner Force" is offered. In San Diego and other California cities, a Meetup group called the Lightsaber Team gets together for "Star Wars"-themed exercise.

In the Hawaii class, the students are sweating and smiling by the end, Mylett told Live Science. It gets your heart rate up, he said.

"Use the Force, Luke." (Image credit: Matthew Bartolome Addictive Picture for Precision Parkour)

The workout — which is similar to any type of martial arts training involving staffs, swords or sticks —targets the muscles in the upper body, Mylett said.

The toy lightsabers used in his class weigh 3 to 5 lbs. (1.4 to 2.3 kilograms), he said. "When held at arms length for nearly an hour straight, there is definitely some burn in the arms, back and shoulders," he said. There are also some benefits to your core and legs from holding a "strong, mindful stance" for an extended period of time, he added.

The workouts were designed by watching fight scenes from the movies and applying those movements to sword basics and easy-to-learn "blade on blade" fight choreography, Mylett said. 

Each class begins by warming up the arms and wrists. Then, the students are taught some basic lightsaber movements, focusing on proper form, aim, speed and power, Mylett said. Next, the instructors teach the choreography of the workout using a number system so students can remember the moves before partnering up to practice, he said.

Each class ends with a short meditation on the Force.

"Do or do not, there is no try." (Image credit: Matthew Bartolome Addictive Picture for Precision Parkour)

Mylett has his "padawans," or Jedi trainees, start out using a 36-inch lightsaber blade and a two-handed grip. "This is to emphasize safety and control — two hands can more easily stop a blade," he said.

The two-handed beginner technique is called "Shii Cho" and is "perfect for padawans" and "taking out a battalion of battle droids," Mylett said.

More advanced Jedi fighters then learn the Makashi style, which uses lighter-weight lightsabers that allow for one-handed attacks, he said. This form is "perfect for battling a Sith Lord one on one," Mylett said.

And for the Jedi master, there's the Soresu style, a more defensive form with "lots of flair," in which Jedi create arcs to defend the body, he said. "Perfect for deflecting blaster fire," he said.

For those interested in sparring at home, a 1-inch PVC pipe cut to between 3 and 4 feet (0.9 and 1.2 meters) could work as a make-shift lightsaber, Mylett said. But using anything that weighs more could potentially be dangerous, he said.  (Even moving at 50 percent speed, there's still a chance you could get whacked, he added.)

But for padawans and Jedi alike, a bright LED to simulate the lightsaber "really adds fun, excitement and that geek factor that makes saber dueling so awesome," Mylett said. 

Follow Sara G. Miller on Twitter @SaraGMiller. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.