Fitness fads come and go, sometimes as quickly as the latest fashion or pop music. You may recall when fitness-based video games or vibrating dumbbells motivated people to get off their couches and into a workout. Now in 2020, a new crop of fitness fads is thriving – like goat yoga, with baby goats frolicking about while you shift into poses.
But fitness fads don’t last long, which can threaten your commitment to exercising. “The biggest problem with exercise is staying with it. If you get bored with a fad or it disappears, you might become noncompliant,” says Walter Thompson, past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and an associate dean and professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University.
How can you avoid the fads and keep up with popular workouts? The answer, Thompson says, is following fitness trends – forms of exercise that have been proven over the years to be effective.
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Tracking 2020 Fitness Trends
Each year, Thompson and his colleagues at the American College of Sports Medicine reach out to 3,000 fitness experts throughout the world for their take on trends for the coming year. Survey results for 2020 fitness trends were published by the ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal at the end of 2019.
Most of the trends on the list are broad categories of workouts. For example:
- High-intensity interval training. HIIT alternates periods of rest and high-intensity activity that gets you to 80% of your maximum heart rate. “The ratios are short, like 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off, so you get breathless or you can’t move anymore,” explains Irene McCormick, a certified trainer and senior director of fitness for Orangetheory Fitness, an international chain of fitness studios. HIIT has been shown to produce similar or better results than moderate-intensity exercise when it comes to weight loss and reducing the risk for chronic disease such as high blood pressure. McCormick coaches seven classes per week and says there are many kinds of HIIT workouts. “Indoor rowing, boxing, aquatic or treadmill-based HIIT workouts are popular right now,” McCormick notes.
- Working with a personal trainer. Personal trainers are more accessible than ever, whether they’re based at a gym or able to come to your home or office. Many trainers now offer sessions online. “Clients can log in and work out on their own schedule. No need to worry about making it to the gym when their trainer can see them,” says Franklin Antoian, a certified personal trainer and owner of ibodyfit.com, which specializes in online training sessions. Note: When it comes to a trainer’s certification, make sure it’s from an organization accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. (Antoian is certified by the American Council on Exercise, an NCCA-accredited group.)
- Group training. This 2020 fitness trend takes personal training to a new level. Instead of working one-on-one with an individual, a trainer leads a large exercise class while coaching all of the participants. “The instructor calls out the move but walks around making sure everyone is using the correct form,” McCormick explains. “Everyone in the room might need to do the move differently.”
- Training with free weights. Whether you’re using little dumbbells at home, barbells at a gym or kettlebells in an exercise class, working with free weights has never gone out of style. “It’s inexpensive and easy to do,” Thompson says. The emphasis on strength training for better health, especially for women, is increasing free weight workout popularity. “Women have been so uninclined to lift and bulk up. But now they understand you need muscle strength to look and feel good,” McCormick says.
- Functional fitness training. This 2020 fitness trend improves weaknesses – like poor posture and tight or weak muscles – that can keep you from getting through your day. “If you can’t hinge at your hips, you can’t get off a couch,” McCormick points out. Functional fitness isn’t just for the activities of daily living, however. It could be sport-specific. “During a golf workout, for example, we may include a lot of rotational exercises. This will help improve the client’s backswing and follow through. This, in turn, should help the client drive the ball farther,” Antoian says.
- Fitness programs for older adults. The fitness industry is stepping up to meet the needs of an aging population. That means it’s easier to find classes catering to older adults – like functional fitness, tai chi (which improves balance), yoga (which improves strength and flexibility) and even low-impact aerobics classes that challenge the brain. “It’s called a cognitive workout. You may be taking a class, and the instructor calls out that you should say hello in another language to someone near you,” McCormick says. Exercise, socialization and learning are all associated with keeping the mind sharp.
- Outdoor activities. As more people recognize that physical activity isn’t just about choreographed exercise routines, outdoor activities are gaining in popularity, with a twist: You’ll find organized events with a fitness instructor guiding you on an afternoon or morning of Nordic walking, kayaking, hiking, biking or paddleboarding. “We’re also seeing pop-up boot camps from store sponsors like Lululemon or Athleta. Look on store websites to find them,” McCormick advises.
- Circuit training. Decades ago, circuit training meant hitting all of the machines in the gym. Today it describes a series of about 10 moderate-intensity exercises completed in a sequence. “Think of it like stations,” McCormick says. “Each station focuses on a different component of fitness. So maybe there’s agility with cones at one station and strength training with weights at the next.”
Which Trend Should You Choose?
If you’re not sure which trend is right for you, it may be time to talk to a health and wellness coach (which is also on the list of 2020 fitness trends).
Coaches help you figure out how to boost healthy lifestyle habits – such as exercise, diet or sleep – in a way that will work for you. “We don’t tell people what to do. That’s not the most effective way to change behaviors. What people need is support and partnership. They need to be empowered to play an active role in their health and to know they have the capacity to make change in their lives,” says Jessica Matthews, a national board-certified health and wellness coach and director of integrative health coaching at UC San Diego Health.
A health coach collaborates with you to come up with short- and long-term health goals as well as a day-to-day game plan to make the goals achievable. “As coaches, we help people bridge the gap between intention and action,” Matthews says.
You’ll find health and wellness coaches through local health clubs, doctors’ offices or just by searching online. Matthews says to make sure your coach is certified by the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (look for the letters NBC-HWC after a person’s name).
Tell your coach if you’re interested in trying a workout that’s among the list of 2020 fitness trends. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, try another one. And aim for the recommended amount of weekly exercise: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
The most important thing, agree the experts, is staying physically active. Thompson goes for a run three times a week, a steadfast routine since his college days in the ’70s. “The only way to benefit from exercise,” he says, “is to become a complier and stick with it.”