From HIIT to Wearable Technology: Top Fitness Trends of 2019
Unless you’re a fitness professional, keeping up with the latest developments in the exercise industry is far from easy. Hardly a week goes by without some new gym, workout or gadget being launched into a world that’s already chock-a-block with gyms, workouts and gadgets. Some of these plunge into obscurity as quickly as they hit the headlines. Others, meanwhile, become fitness classics, making us wonder what on earth we did to get in shape before they came along.
To help you stay in touch here’s a quick guide to some of the fitness trends you may fancy trying, including those that have stood the test of time and others that are trends in the making.
The Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019, published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal (i), declared wearable technology – devices including fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices – the number one fitness trend in 2019 (it was also the top fitness trend in 2016, when wearable tech first appeared, and in 2017). These devices can track your heart rate, calories, sitting time and much more, the journal explains.
The popularity of wearable tech is attributed to our need to confirm how fit we are, plus they can help motivate us to do better by allowing us to compete against others or even ourselves. And, thanks to the valuable feedback they can give, they’re a hit with everyone from fitness pros to beginners.
Bling it on
The latest generation of wearable tech devices is aimed at people who don’t necessarily want to look as if they’ve just stepped out of the gym. Smart jewellery is aimed at the design conscious, particularly women, with necklaces, bracelets and even rings measuring everything from your steps, your sleep pattern and calorie burn to your body temperature and breathing rate (some even track the female menstrual cycle and fertility).
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT has been popular for a while now, and there’s no sign it will disappear from our gym class schedules anytime soon. According to the ACSM, HIIT involves short bursts of high-intensity bouts of exercise carried out at 90 per cent or higher of your maximum ability, followed by a short period of rest and recovery.
However, because you work yourself hard many HIIT workouts are shorter than the average cardio session – some are over in as little as 15 or 20 minutes. Indeed, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), when it comes to HIIT it’s the intensity of the workout, not the duration, that makes it deliver results (ii). In fact too much HIIT is unnecessary, which explains why shorter sessions have become almost the norm.
There may be several reasons why HIIT is effective, says the ACE. One explanation is that, thanks to the fact you work out at close to maximum intensity, you continue to burn calories for hours after you finish. Another is that HIIT places a significant amount of metabolic stress on muscle tissue, with the body producing higher levels of human growth hormone and other chemicals to help repair damaged muscle proteins. This in turn could lead to bigger muscle gains and better definition (iii).
Thanks to its popularity there are numerous HIIT and HIIT-inspired workouts to choose from. Take Orangetheory Fitness, for example, which is based on the principle of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), the aim of which is to rev your metabolism to such an extent that you continue to burn calories long after your workout has finished.
In an Orangetheory Fitness class you perform a variety of exercises while wearing an individual heart rate monitor, the results of which are displayed on a studio screen alongside those of your classmates – the idea being that you can watch as your heart rate builds to 84 per cent of your total maximum heart rate (the Orange Zone). However it’s no quickie class, as it lasts for 60 minutes.
Meanwhile F45 is a HIIT hybrid class, being a mix of circuits and HIIT-style workouts (the F stands for functional training, while 45 is the number of minutes the class lasts). F45 workouts aim to make you sweat and get your heart pumping, and with more than 4,000 exercises to choose from the classes are so varied, they say you’ll never do the same workout twice.
On the down low
If HIIT doesn’t sound like your cup of tea you’ll be glad to hear that low-impact workouts – or low-impact intensity training (LIIT) – are starting to pop up at a growing number of gyms and fitness centres. LIIT is about slow movements and good form, making it more suitable than HIIT for beginners, people recovering from an injury, older people and those who are overweight or have a medical condition. Don’t expect to get it done in 15 minutes though – most LIIT sessions last 45 minutes to an hour.
To learn more about key exercises to keep you body healthy
Strength training is a workout staple, but bodyweight training ditches the weights, as it’s a version of strength training that uses your own bodyweight as resistance.
You can join a bodyweight training class where you’ll do sets of exercises including squats, lunges, press-ups, burpees, planks, jumps and bear crawls (crawling without letting your knees touch the floor), or – because you don’t need lots of space or any equipment – you can follow your own bodyweight training programme at home.
The exercises that comprise a bodyweight training session have, of course, been around almost forever. However according to the ACSM, bodyweight training as a defined trend has only become popular in gyms around the world during the past few years.
Lifting weights under water is a recent trend in strength training too, promising to improve muscle strength (including your core). It can also give your cardiovascular system a good workout, thanks to the fact that you’ll be working against the combined resistance of the weights and the water. You can start out using light weights and only being partially submerged in the pool, but eventually you could progress to lifting heavier weights while completely under water. And because it’s a low-impact workout and therefore easier than some other workouts on your joints, it could also be useful if you’re recovering from an injury.
Yoga, yoga and more yoga
Another fitness mainstay that shows no sign of fizzling out is yoga, thanks arguably to the fact that the industry has spawned a huge variety of innovative yoga classes to suit all fitness needs (think hot yoga, power yoga, anti-gravity yoga, yogalates and many, many more). And you don’t have to do yoga in a class either, as there are many yoga videos, DVDs and online yoga workouts to choose from.
Immersive yoga is one example of a new yoga trend to look out for. It aims to help reduce the stresses and strains of our modern busy lifestyles, and involves doing yoga in front of a high-definition screen playing natural scenes such as green forests, serene sunsets or crashing waves, along with accompanying natural sounds or calming music. Another type of immersive yoga class uses coloured light therapy rather than scenes of nature – you can choose classes based on a specific colour, depending on the therapeutic effect you’re aiming for.
Group indoor equipment classes
It started with spinning, the high-intensity indoor workout using stationary exercise bikes that first became popular back in 2010. And now the same principle has been extended to indoor rowing, treadmills and even climbing machines.
Indoor rowing classes started out as a niche activity but they’re becoming more mainstream, with many gyms and fitness studios offering classes to keep up with the increasing demand. According to British Rowing, an indoor rowing class works 85 per cent of muscles and provides a low-impact, high-intensity workout, with its Go Row Indoor classes designed to appeal to people who are looking for new forms of group exercise.
If you’re the type of person who finds running or jogging on a treadmill the absolute definition of boring, maybe a treadmill class would change your mind. Group classes that incorporate some treadmill work have been gaining in popularity for a while, but more recently treadmill-centric workouts have started to break through, promising a combination of speed work, hill intervals and motivating playlists, all in a competitive team environment, to help boost your running technique. And because the class takes place indoors, you never have to worry about the weather.
The VersaClimber is an exercise machine that aims to mimic the natural motion and feel of climbing, offering a low-impact total-body workout. Many gyms and health clubs have one or two of them, but one gym in London is now offering a group dedicated VersaClimber session. Sweat by BXR claims to be Europe’s first climb-focused group-training concept, with three classes to suit all levels, from beginners to professional athletes.
More trends to look out for
There are far too many more up-and-coming fitness trends to mention here, but here are a few to whet your appetite:
Anyone who’s done Pilates for any length of time will be familiar with the foam roller and how it can really help amplify a stretch. Today foam rolling – also known as self-myofacial release – has gone more mainstream, with fitness fans and athletes alike using them in their warm-up and cool-down routines. Foam rollers come in a variety of densities and sizes, and are used to release muscle tightness and knots. You just roll a specific muscle or muscle group over them, using your bodyweight to apply pressure. A note of warning: if you do foam rolling properly, you can feel a bit sore the next day.
Aerial yoga – where you use a soft hammock suspended from the ceiling to support your body weight – has taken off over the last few years, but expect to see more circus-inspired aerial classes at your local gym any time soon too. These include using ceiling-hung silks (where you use two lengths of silk to manoeuvre yourself into a variety of positions) hoops, slings and straps to perform impressive gymnastic feats. It’s hard work, but perfect for thrill seekers.
Combining working out with speed dating, Date-ercise is a class based on circuits, where each zone is also a mini date. Founded by British national wrestling champion Keith NcNiven, Date-ercise claims to help you burn up to 700 calories as well as meet 12 potential love interests in each session. So far, however, classes have only popped up in London.
If you take fitness really seriously, you may be interested in cold therapy as a means of boosting your performance as well as speeding up recovery times. Already popular with sports professionals, athletes and even celebrities, whole-body cryotherapy is now available to the masses. So if you like the idea of standing in a chamber in way-below-freezing temperatures (up to -90C) for a couple of minutes, this could be for you. Benefits are said to include improving muscle recovery, weight loss (as it may boost your metabolic rate), anti-ageing and even pain relief – though there’s little scientific evidence to back the claims.
Christine Morgan has been a freelance health and wellbeing journalist for almost 20 years, having written for numerous publications including the Daily Mirror, S Magazine, Top Sante, Healthy, Woman & Home, Zest, Allergy, Healthy Times and Pregnancy & Birth; she has also edited several titles such as Women’ Health, Shine’s Real Health & Beauty and All About Health.