As 2013 is wrapping up a number of different organizations are coming out with their “Top Fitness Trends” lists for 2014. First of all this is just a ploy for these organizations to get some easy media coverage. Second certain “trends” may be fleeting or temporary but what holds up over time is the fact that consistent exercise is the most important thing a person can do to take control of and improve his or her health. Exercise should be a component of following a healthy lifestyle and not about a particular type, mode or format of exercise that might be popular for a brief period of time.
That said, trends do change in the fitness industry because as a mode of exercise or piece of equipment helps users see results others will want to experience those results for themselves creating more followers of a trend. For example as people saw spectacular results from the high intensity challenges of constantly changing WODs more people were drawn to join their local CrossFit studio to achieve the same outcomes. Based on what I’ve seen being produced by fitness educators and what’s popular in the marketplace with fitness consumers here is my list of fitness trends that we will see in the coming year. There is no specific order; I wrote these down as they occurred to me. If you agree, disagree or feel I missed an important trend, please feel free to add in the comments.
1. Recovery strategies. High intensity interval-based workouts like CrossFit and Tabata-style training work but place a tremendous amount of stress on the body. The real secret to getting results isn’t just the exercise in the workout, but in taking care of the body during the recovery process AFTER the workout. Nutrient timing for muscle glycogen replacement and protein replenishment combined with techniques for relieving stress in fascia and connective tissue are popular with top trainers and will become more popular in the general marketplace. Over the past few years we’ve been beating ourselves up with high intensity workouts, in the coming year there will be an emphasis on how to recover from those workouts.
2. Loaded movement training. Most traditional resistance training exercises focus on linear movements in a single plane of motion – technically the path a weight travels is curvi-linear and joints slide, roll and spin in all planes as they go through a range-of-motion but I’m referring to the fact that in most popular exercises like chest presses, squats, rows or biceps curls the resistance (load) moves in a single-plane of motion. The human muscular system is completely integrated with all muscles connecting to one another via fascia and connective tissue. Moving in all directions at a variety of speeds using non-traditional equipment like Sandbells, medicine balls and ViPRs is an effective way to engage the entire myo-fascial system as one, integrated unit during exercise. The cool thing is that when more muscles are used the body burns more calories.
3. Group programs will continue to be popular: CrossFit, Zumba, “boot-camp” etc. people like to mix socializing and exercising. If you’ve never tried a group workout you don’t know what you’re missing. The dynamics of group training can push you to work harder helping you to achieve results in a shorter period of time.
4. Strength and power training for older adults: The reason why high intensity training works is that strength & power exercises can boost anabolic hormones which promote growth of lean muscle tissue. For the over-40 crowd these anabolic hormones provide an anti-aging effect and can be the fountain of youth. There is a ton (pun intended) of research to show that strength and power not only effective but is recommended for people up to 80 years old (and older).
5. Exercise as play: One reason why it can be hard for the average person to make time for the gym is the fact that we call it ‘work.’ A number of professional are challenging this concept of ’working out’ and are promoting the idea of ‘playing out.’ My colleague Derrick Price and the folks at PTA Global are doing some amazing stuff on using games to make exercise fun and engaging. If you have fun exercising then there is a probably a likelihood of you exercising more frequently.
6. Mobile apps to track fitness and nutrition. Let’s face it as we become more & more reliant on our mobile technology we’ll become better at using it to track our exercise and monitor our nutritional intake. I am far from a technology wiz but enjoy using Runtastic to track and map my favorite running and mountain biking routes. If you need some help staying engaged with a workout or nutrition program, spend some time playing with apps to find out which might work with you.
7. Online training. Until recently the only way to work with a trainer is by meeting at a gym or having them come to your house. A number of fitness professionals are becoming more skilled at providing fitness services from a distance using technology like Spark Motion, Skype and other programs to provide video-based fitness services over the inter-tubes.
8. Variability. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. This is absolutely true when it comes to exercise. Exercise is a stress stimulus applied to the body, if the same exercise is done over and over the body will adapt to it and won’t work as hard when performing the exercise – this is known as hitting a plateau. There is a lot of research showing that the heart-rate variability created by the use of work and active rest intervals makes interval training extremely effective for improving aerobic conditioning. Reactive variability training creates a constantly changing environment that the body is continuously adapting to over the course of a training session.
9. Workplace wellness. Exercise promotes good health. The 2008 guidelines for physical activity produced by the US Department of Health and Human Services identifies regular exercise the best way to avoid onset diseases like type II diabetes, heart disease or obesity. Organizations that provide health insurance to their employees have a tremendous incentive to develop programs to engage those employees and keep them healthy. Healthier employees are more productive and reduce an organization’s healthcare costs. Check with your employer or your insurance carrier to see if they offer discounts on health club membership or other programs to help promote fitness and physical activity.
10. Obstacle course races and mud runs. If you haven’t slogged through the mud, crawled under or climbed over obstacles or been chased by zombies during a race then you don’t know what you’re missing. Events like the Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash or Zombie Run offer fun and, often-times, truly challenging way to get out and be active with friends.
There you have it, some of the top trends to keep an eye on for the coming year. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do as long as you do it consistently. Have a great 2014!