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Emerging Trends in Fitness: The Latest From Workouts to Wearables

Feb 29, 2024 09:25AM ● By Kimberly Whittle

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Multiple studies report that an active lifestyle offers mental and physical benefits, as well as a longer healthspan. Workout strategies and fitness equipment are continually evolving to meet changing consumer interests, incorporate scientific discoveries and take advantage of technological advancements. Here is a look at the latest emerging trends in fitness.


In-Person Versus Online Fitness Programs


Connected fitness equipment that replicates the gym experience at home with online programs led by professional trainers has experienced a downturn in sales since the end of the pandemic. Lululemon Studio Mirror went out of business and Peloton has lost 40 percent of its value. The financial struggles for connected fitness are expected to continue in 2024 as consumers seek in-person connections in the post-pandemic world. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association’s annual member survey reports a rise in gym and studio memberships and revenue across low-cost, luxury and boutique facilities; this upswing is expected to continue.


Advances in Technology


Wearable devices that track workouts, steps and active minutes, and use biosensors to monitor health data like heart rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns continue to be popular as their functionality expands. Enhancements to popular devices include Apple Watch’s ability to identify abnormal heart rhythms; Fitbit’s improved accuracy of health and fitness monitoring and storage software; and NADIX Activewear’s capability to tell if yoga moves are being performed properly.


Tech companies are expected to continue to improve the accuracy of their sensors, technology and connectivity, as wearables are part of a broader trend toward data-driven training. Real-time statistics like heart rate, velocity and speed can help individuals monitor the effort and intensity of workouts and help coaches tailor programs to each client, even in group settings. Companies like Meta and Les Mills are also expanding virtual reality for workout applications, allowing users to visit surreal locations for real fitness results without leaving home.


New Weight-Loss Drugs


A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training and diet can improve metabolic function, reduce body fat and increase the chances of maintaining a healthy weight. A new class of drugs called glucagon-like-peptide 1 (GLP-1) agonists, such as Ozempic and Trulicity, which have been used to treat Type 2 diabetes, also lead to weight loss and may improve heart health.


“This class of medications is not a replacement for exercise,” stresses Steven Masley, M.D., a physician, nutritionist and author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. “The drugs’ mechanisms of actions are very different; they are dramatically more expensive; and they have occasional worrisome side effects—in contrast with exercise that has multiple health benefits.Exercise does not just enhance weight loss and blood sugar control, it also improves brain function, helps you with sleep, reduces stress, strengthens bones, improves intestinal function and improves mood. For those taking GLP-1 medications, the best results will occur when they are combined with exercise.”


Blending of Health, Wellness and Fitness


An emerging trend is the blurring of lines between health clinics and fitness centers. Some medical offices are adding personal trainers to their teams in order to complement the work of doctors and nurses, while fitness centers are acquiring or developing their own clinics to prescribe weight-loss drugs, hormone replacement protocols, integrative therapies and infrared sauna sessions. One such example is Life Time Fitness’ flagship health club in Minneapolis.


Strength Training Craze


Strength, or resistance, training continues to grow in popularity, especially among Generation Z-ers that love to post photos of their fit selves on social media and appreciate the science-based benefits, including muscle building, cardiovascular improvements, increased bone density, reduced body fat and stabilized joints.


A study of more than 400,000 people published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those regularly practicing strength training along with aerobic exercise had a lower risk of death than those that performed only aerobic training. Another analysis from the same journal suggested that regular strength training was associated with a 10 to 17 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lung cancer and overall mortality.


In response to this emerging trend, Nike has developed a new line of strength training equipment; Pure Barre launched Define, a low-impact class that incorporates heavier weights; and Orangetheory Fitness expanded its workout offerings to include strength training.


Fitness in the Workplace


Some companies recognize the benefits of offering employees access to fitness facilities and health education classes, which lower insurance costs and increase productivity and mental health. If changes advocated by an American College of Sports Medicine task force come to fruition, billings for services by fitness professional would be covered by insurance.


Staying Active for Mental Health


survey by Lyra Health of corporate employee benefit leaders in the U.S. revealed that 95 percent of respondents said that mental health benefits are very important to prospective employees. Regular physical activity and exercise can boost mood and improve mental health, and individuals are increasingly recognizing their worth.


Kimberly Whittle is the founder and CEO of KnoWEwell, P.B.C. and the CEO of Natural Awakenings Publishing Corporation.

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