What workouts, approaches, and health tools reigned supreme in 2016? Take a look at this list of the top six fitness trends of the year to find out.
1. Wearable devices
Odds are, if you don’t own a Fitbit, Garmin, or Jawbone, you know someone who does. These fitness trackers, worn on your wrist, allow you to monitor calorie burn, daily activity, steps taken, and quality of sleep by pushing data through to your smartphone.
Fitness trackers are thought to have many benefits. In a day and age where more than 2 in 3 adults is considered overweight or obese, being more aware of how active you are each day is a step toward bettering your health.
And people have latched on: According to data from the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker fact sheet, total shipment volume of fitness trackers in the first quarter of 2016 saw an increase of 67.2 percent from the 11.8 million units shipped in the first quarter of 2015.
Keep in mind that research on the effectiveness of fitness trackers is mixed. One recent study found that fitness trackers were less effective than just following a simple diet and exercise routine in helping people lose weight.
The study followed the progress of a group of 471 young adults ages 18 to 35 whose body mass index was between 25 and 40 after they completed the same standard weight loss program. The segment of the group that relied on a fitness tracker lost less weight over the 24-month period after the program than those who relied on continuing the “standard behavioral weight loss approach.”
Experts speculate that people may become overly dependent on the devices rather than relying on internal motivation, hard work, and willpower.
2. Online workouts
Whether you follow along with a class on your computer in the privacy of your own home or work with a personal trainer virtually, online fitness has really taken off. For someone with a tight budget, time or personal restraints, or who just needs a bit of direction, getting in shape online is a great new option.
Sites like Fitness Glo and Trainerly offer low-cost group class options, paying either per month or per class, that you can participate in remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. Many certified personal trainers are now offering virtual services to expand their reach as well. If you’re not a fitness beginner but need some personalized help, structure, and motivation, this is an option for you. After an initial assessment with the trainer, they provide you with all workout routines online and you work out on your own, checking in with them weekly or biweekly. A quick Google search will pull up many options, but beware who you are trusting, and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
3. Strength training
Strength training not only promotes muscle growth and physical strength, but it also aids in long-term weight loss by improving metabolism. It’s an essential component of a physical activity program for anyone, regardless of gender, age, weight, or fitness level. Strength training, especially for older adults, can prevent injury and make daily activities easier. For women, the “strong not skinny” movement is in full force, encouraging them to focus on gaining strength instead of dieting unhealthily.
Lose weight and get in shape in less time? That’s a win-win for many people today. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, includes short rounds of intense work broken up with equally short recovery periods.
HIIT sessions stimulate a higher excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) because you consume more oxygen during them. This then creates a larger deficit to replace post-workout, burning significantly more calories during and after than a low- or moderate-intensity session of the same length.
You can easily participate in HIIT on your own, and many gyms now offer HIIT-type group classes as well. One thing to note: Pay extra attention to your movements during HIIT. Because the intensity is cranked up and you’re giving it your all, you may be more prone to injury.
5. Wellness coaching
More than just personal training or nutrition counseling, wellness coaching focuses on the behavioral, emotional, and mental parts of health and wellness. Its goal is to help the client break unhealthy habits and inspire healthier ones.
Health, and the reasons behind unhealthy habits, aren’t always crystal clear. Improving one’s health requires much more than making it to the gym every day. Therefore, a more holistic approach to a healthier lifestyle in combination with diet and exercise can be the key to success for many people.
And here’s some good news if you wear your fitness tracker religiously. Despite the study mentioned above that was less than flattering for fitness trackers, one published in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal found that activity trackers can actually work well when paired with wellness coaching.
6. Functional fitness
Functional fitness, by definition, aims to support you in your daily activities, making them easier for you to accomplish. These workouts are filled with compound movements that work more than one joint and muscle, promoting balance and strength. Functional exercises include:
- walking lunges
- standing shoulder press
So what’s ahead for fitness in 2017? Look out for dance and aerobics, team-based fitness, and even more advanced fitness trackers.