The new year is here. Why not follow up on your New Year’s resolution to get fit, and add some new types of workout to your routine?
We've put together 5 of the hottest trends in fitness, with help from the annual survey from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Science Fitness Journal. And, of course, there is tech involved…
1. HIIT: LIIT
High-intensity interval training may have the worst acronym ever but HIIT's success with fitness enthusiasts is no surprise. HIIT Sessions are in fact very beneficial for improving your cardiovascular capacity.
Their duration can vary, and you can have classes that are 30 minutes or much longer. The idea is to put together short, high-intensity workouts with short rests.
Even a 1-hour outdoor run could be considered interval training if you vary your pace correctly but HIIT, at least within the hardcore gym-going community, is normally a much shorter workout using a combination of various bodyweight exercises with the potential addition of kettlebells, dumbbells, skipping ropes… or anything that can involve very large amounts of effort.
However, there are potential risks to HIIT – especially for untrained people or those with certain conditions – and it is bloody hard work, to boot. So in 2018 the high intensity workout gets a smaller brother, with the really quite amazingly uncatchy acronym of HIIT: LIIT.
LIIT, as you might expect, stands for Low-Intensity Interval Training, and instead of working on the anaerobic energy system, it focuses mostly on aerobic exercise. Long story short: the sessions are slightly longer at around 40-45 minutes and executed at lower intensities, targeting the so-called 'fat burning' zone and lower cardio zone.
For this kind of workout a running watch with cardio tracking is ideal, as you can see at a glance you're working out at the right level of intensity. The ones with wrist-based pulse tracking can struggle at really high intensities, but should be happy with LIIT. Apart from the Fitbit Ionic which, weirdly, seems to be exactly the other way around, and loses accuracy at lower intensity.
2. Group training and circuit training
Second on the list of the ACSM survey is group workouts and classes. This can mean anything from HIIT structured as group training to spin classes, yoga or Zumba. Zumba!
The trend is growing in popularity because training with other people can be more fun and challenging – as long as you don’t mind getting sweaty in front of a bunch of other people. It's also because gyms are offering these alternatives more and more, targeting different levels and abilities.
Circuit training can include many types of workout. It normally involves the execution of a series of different exercises at stations that use different kinds of equipment, and even HIIT can be done in a circuit.
If you want to take the competitive element even further you could try the MyZone MZ-3 heart-rate strap. This lets you compare your effort levels with other MyZone users (live or retrospectively), with scores adjusted for your underlying fitness level. Depending on how you look at it, this is either a great way to create a level playing field, or grossly unfair to fitter users.
It's in this list of the best fitness trackers, anyway.
3. Virtual Reality
Fitness wearables are well established now. The next big thing is shaping up to be what you might call 'fitness simulators' or headset-less VR. Nobody wants to be working out in an Oculus Rift, as you can tell by looking at Palmer Luckey.
Perhaps the key player in this is Zwift, an online gaming app that works on your PC or iOS device. Zwift allows you to ride your bike or run through virtual courses. To do that you need to plonk your bike on a turbo trainer – a device that turns a road bike into a stationary exercise bike – or use a treadmill and a special footpod attached to your running shoes.
The virtual course interacts with the bike or treadmill, applying more resistance as you take on hills. It can be an extremely serious workout, and many hardcore Lycra warriors have already all but forsaken the road to train on Zwift. However, the idea could also be a great way to make exercise more fun for beginners who'd really rather start at home than hit the road or gym.
With running and cycling covered, triathletes must now be hoping for an endless pool with underwater monitors connected to Zwift…
4. Core training, stretching and stability
Core, stretching and stability should always be part of a workout session. At the end of every workout (like a run, bike ride, strength training with resistance machines or even HIIT), it is a great idea to include some core exercises and stretching. This routine will not only keep the core muscles strong, but will help the rest of the muscles you’ve used to be ready for the next day.
At the same time, it’s also great to target the core muscles in a more in-depth way during specific core sessions. Core muscles are not only the abs and obliques, but also the lats, glutes, adductors, back muscles, diaphragm, pelvic floor and some tiny muscles in your spine.
Core strength is crucial for any sport. Only when you have a strong and solid core can the other muscles at the extremities work properly.
5. Functional Training
Rather than fitness for its own sake, functional training is defined as the use of strength training, stability workouts, balance and coordination routines to improve and enhance someone’s ability to perform daily activities.
The concept is to focus the functional training of specific goals and results and develop the muscles and movements that will be required to perform that action in the future. There can be functional training for alpine skiing, tennis, golf, cycling, running, swimming, or even just walking up the stairs, if you're recuperating from an injury.
These sessions, as well as the others mentioned above, can be performed in different environments and circumstances: there can be indoor or outdoor classes, they can be executed alone or in a group, and they can involve a series of bodyweight exercises or weights such as kettlebells or resistance bands.
Functional training is a world away from the kinds of cardio and static, weight-based exercise that most people default to. It can help prevent accidents, reduce back pain and help in day-to-day life.
6. Modius Headset
If all that sounds a bit like hard work, maybe try the Modius headset. Its makers claim that "In lab testing we saw an average of 8-10% weight-loss, with up to 16% in some users. Moreover now we're in the hands of real people in the real world, these results are being reinforced: users have lost up to 21lbs after just three months use."
"How?", you may very well ask. The Modius uses painless, electromagnetic waves to stimulate your hypothalamus, the part of the brain that handles appetite. As a result, the makers say, you feel less hungry, and metabolism is increased. It also, apparently, stimulates your vestibular nerve, which is "necessary for the sensation of body position and gaze stability in relation to a moving environment." Uh-huh.
Since Modius offers a 90-day money back guarantee, you might want to try to zap your body fat with science. Personally, although Modius very kindly sent me a sample, I did not.