Winter is beginning to wrap up. Early blossoms are blooming, days are warming, and you are looking to get more active.
Whether you’re a regular exerciser who wants to change things up or an absolute exercise newbie, it helps to know what credible fitness professionals consider to be the top fitness trends of any given year so that you can have some fun and experiment with new ways to move your body.
As it does every year, the American College of Sports Medicine has released its annual publication, “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016.” This year marks the survey’s 10th anniversary, and as always, it provides a glimpse into opportunities and possibilities as you customize your own regular routine for physical activity throughout the year. Fitness professionals highly encourage you to avoid getting stuck in a rut doing the same activities and instead, want you to plan to expand and change it up with cross-training, some of which you can optimize as the outdoor temperature becomes more inviting.
Review these trends, and see which ones you’d like to include in your own daily fitness journey.
- Tech is #1, with wearable technology. It seems that technology has permeated the consumer fitness market overnight, with experts estimating the category will expand to a $6-billion industry in 2016. Fitness trackers, smart watches, heart-rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices can be found in a vast spectrum of products, including Misfit, Garmin, Jawbone, Apple Watch, and Fitbit. Also mentioned are the new categories of smart fabrics and interactive textiles, which analysts predict will reach sales approaching $2.6 billion by 2017. A prime example of something new and exciting in this category is Alignmed, interactive functional-based apparel created to enhance posture and treat back pain. Who knew you could optimize postural fitness and treat pain by simply wearing the right shirt or sports bra?
- Body-weight training. Clearly, people have been doing some form of body-weight training for many years. However, health clubs and fitness professionals have now put more emphasis on this form of activity to help people keep active, especially when they can’t get to a gym class or workout session. Body-weight training programs use minimal equipment, making them a very inexpensive way to exercise effectively. When thinking about body-weight training, some people immediately conjure nightmare scenarios of countless push-ups and Mission Impossible–style pull-ups. Actually, body-weight training involves much more and is easily accessible and doable for most people. As I love to say, if you can find a wall, you’ve got an instant wall squat! I highly recommend you incorporate this trend into your fitness program.
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Globally, time-starved men and women are enjoying their HIIT routines, which involve short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery, and the routines typically take less than 30 minutes to perform. Science now shows that when you do HIIT, you can optimize your overall training and increase fat fuel utilization. People are interspersing HIIT two to three times a week with longer workouts when time permits. It’s great to have options!
- Strength training. I’m always happy to see strength or resistance training remain in the top-10 fitness trends. Long ago, only power lifters and bodybuilders hoisted weights. Flash-forward many years, and science has clearly shown that it’s imperative to incorporate strength training into activity programs for exercisers of any age. Building and maintaining excellent musculature is no longer just about looking toned and slipping into your jeans. It’s about being strong enough to survive as you age. If you fall and there’s no one to help you get up, you’d better hope you can do a simple bent-knee push-up, because that’s what you’ll need to do to assume the vertical. It’s terrific to note that more disease and disability rehab programs are now incorporating strength training to aid in sustainable recovery.
- Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals. When you’re seeking guidance in assessing your current level of fitness, as well as help creating a customized fitness program, you want the best, most educated and informed professional to assist you. In years past, anyone could hang a shingle and call him- or herself a fitness expert. Now we have fully certified professionals who have studied and passed certifying examinations to have the honor and opportunity to help guide your fitness program. You, as the consumer, need to request to see the certification of the individual you are seeking to employ as your trainer. There are ways you can educate yourself about a trainer’s certification(s), as some have multiple specialties. As a start, you can find trainers and their level of certification on national indexes that include IDEA Fit Connect or the Coalition for the Registration of Exercise Professionals (CREP). CREP maintains the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals, which is recognized internationally. Be informed and know the credentials of the fitness professional you’re relying on to keep your fitness program injury free and effective.
- Personal training. As more fitness professionals become educated and certified, there are more opportunities to use these fitness experts to help you individualize an activity plan. Community-based programs, commercial settings, corporate wellness programs, and medical fitness programs employ personal trainers; others are self-employed and work independently. Opportunities to work with a qualified personal trainer are everywhere, and you can even make it more cost-effective by employing a personal trainer to guide you and one or more friends through a customized group fitness program. Many trainers are also sport-specific, so if you’re signed up for your first triathlon, you can look for someone who can help you learn more about running, swimming, or biking specifically or coach you in juggling all three sports in your training.
- Functional fitness. Many people need to improve their balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance their ability to perform the activities of daily living. A functional fitness program typically replicates those physical activities so a person can stay independently active. This category of fitness began to rise in popularity once it was incorporated into basic fitness programs for older adults and for people of all ages who have short- or long-term disabilities due to accidents or medical conditions. Frankly, I’d like to see all physical activity programs incorporate more balance, flexibility, and coordination challenges. This would help to lay down a strong foundation for overall physical fitness to help prevent, as well as expedite recovery from, any impediments to physical activity throughout a lifetime.
- Fitness programs for older adults. It’s a new age for folks over 50 years old. Instead of assuming this population is physically unfit and disabled, we’ve seen the emergence of the “athletic old,” or men and women who are athletically fit and want to maintain that level of performance. The range of fitness is obviously very wide in this group, spanning from the very physically fit to those who are quite aged and frail. No matter where in that range you fall, you can find a program specifically geared to your unique needs. Check out Silver Sneakers, which is featured in over 13,000 locations nationally. Or, if you want to finally dust off your sneakers and challenge yourself in competition, head on over to the National Senior Games and find the sport you’d like to compete in at the state or national level. Whether you are 50, 60, 70, or more, you’re still amazing and filled with plenty of vim, vigor, and vitality, so come on and celebrate it!
- Combined approaches for exercise and weight loss. Most American adults are overweight, and it’s predicted that by the year 2040, more than 50 percent of Americans will be obese. To fight this trend, medical and fitness professionals are teaming with programs that marry excellent nutrition, coaching, and physical fitness. Needless to say, it’s imperative that increased physical activity be paired with a healthy whole-foods-based nutritional program to optimize the removal of excess body fat, especially internal belly fat, and maintain excellent muscle tone and strength. Coaching of some sort, whether by a registered dietitian, fitness professional, or licensed therapist, greatly augments a basic nutrition and physical activity program. Most corporate, nonprofit, and commercial programs now offer all three components to optimize an individual’s success.
- Yoga. Combining an emphasis on optimizing mind and body fitness, yoga is rapidly increasing in acceptance and use among men and women of all ages. There are many choices to further augment your basic activity program, whether you want a gentle restoration focus or a more aggressive strength-based format. The spectrum of choices includes restoration-focused forms like Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Anuara Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Sivananda Yoga; strength-based forms include Power Yoga, Yogalates, and Bikram Yoga (the one done in hot and humid environments). Instructional tapes and books are abundant, as are the growing numbers of certifications for the many types of yoga, including YogaFit. Sports teams now incorporate yoga poses to enhance flexibility as well as provide a mind-body focus and calm. Yoga instructors are becoming very creative in new program development, for example, Equinox’s a Higher Yoga, with edgy videos showing the extraordinary abilities of highly trained yoga professionals. Yoga is now cool, and even your mom’s doing it!
You have a wide array of choices to enhance your current activity program. Take a walk—or run—on the wild side and start a new fitness adventure this year!