These are the Top Fitness Trends of 2018

2018 is going to be a transformative year for the fitness industry. With every year that passes the chasm that once separated mainstream fitness products and services from the allied health, holistic lifestyle, sport and athletic training, physical therapy and health and fitness technology communities becomes smaller and smaller as they merge to form a synergistic unit with the mainstream fitness industry. There are still major gaps in the connectivity of the many aspects that relate to the mainstream fitness space, but they are quickly closing and 2018 is going to see a number of massive steps forward in the trends within fitness industry.

The most significant change you’re going to see in 2018 is going to be “intelligence.” Not just information or the access to it as in years before, but the application of it. Training is going to get a whole lot smarter in 2018. This is how…

Moderate Intensity Interval Training (MIIT)

We’ve all done High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, and that’s incredible but what we’re going to see in 2018 is a level of insight and intelligence enter the training space that up until this time has simply been all about more intensity. MIIT is going to become the norm as wearable technologies allow trainers to monitor heart rate responses in real time. All out effort and endless circuits of heart pumping exercise are going to morph into thoughtful, technique driven programming that provides participants with an appropriate, rewarding and results-driven workout that has none of the negatives that are often associated with HIIT.

In the United States people are stressed, we don’t sleep well and we tend to eat badly and with irregularity, our bodies are tired, they’re stiff and they don’t move well. Hell, even fit people have disordered eating and movement efficiency issues they’re unaware of in many cases. All of this adds up to a body that is in need of recovery, restoration and healthful daily practices. Sure, HIIT burns a ton of calories, it really makes you sweat and you leave feeling accomplished – all good things. But it also places great stress on an already stressed body, taxes an already taxed nervous system, promotes a catabolic state in those who aren’t eating and sleeping well and can trigger a hunger response in those who aren’t engaged in high quality nutrition practices. HIIT is an incredible training tool, but in 2018, trainers are going to begin pulling it back a bit and embedding more quality where quantity once reigned supreme. We’re still going to see the same engaging, fun workouts taking place, but the emphasis will be on exercise specificity, technical training and heart rate zone matching. The downside to this is most fitness professionals aren’t going to understand that they’re training with MIIT instead of HIIT so don’t be surprised if your new, smarter interval training still comes with the HIIT label. Don’t worry, the entire fitness industry will overlook this shift in focus as well so let’s not dwell on it. After all, who cares?! Just enjoy it!

Blue Zones are Going Mainstream

This one isn’t just about Blue Zones, it’s about a natural and intelligent concept of what health is and how to adopt healthful practices. I’ve been studying and developing Blue Zone inspired health programming for years, but it’s going to go mainstream in 2018. Every Instagram trainer and fitness coach is going to discover Blue Zones in 2018 and develop some kind of holistic training system to help people achieve longevity and vitality in their chosen lifestyle. Again, very cool – all good things. The Blue Zones are specific areas in the world where an unusual number of people live to be over 100 years of age and still maintain vitality and health. There are technically 5 Blue Zones on the globe and collectively they exhibit 9 key characteristics that allow the people in these areas of live long, healthful lives. I love this trend and you’re going to be seeing a lot of it in 2018!

Here are some resources to help you get out in front of this trend:

Large Scale Heart Rate Zone Training

One of my coworkers using MyZone to track heart rate during a workout.

Heart Rate (HR) zone training has been around for what seems like forever. It is nothing new, in fact, the entire science of exercise physiology is built on a couple key factors and one of those is the heart’s response to exercise. The cool thing is that now the technology to track the heart rate of many people all at once is now available on a large scale. For example, any of the facilities I work at have over 400 people engaged in heart rate zone training on any given day, often in groups ranging from 3-40 people, all training with their trainers using heart rate zones to guide exercise intensity and to dictate rest intervals. Sure, this technology has been around for a few years now with companies like MyZone and Fit Metrix coming out with their own versions of the system, but in 2018 it’ll explode into the mainstream fitness mentality and you’ll see heart rate zone training in every gym, fitness studio, online app and health club across the country. This is a really exciting trend because, as mentioned previously, it means our trainers and our fitness businesses are getting smarter.

Unfortunately, just because these businesses buy into the idea of heart rate zone training systems, they’re still going to lack the professional development and company-wide systematization, to leverage it optimally. It’ll still be a few more years before mainstream fitness businesses are able to use this technology to its maximal benefit so for now most will buy it, announce it, roll it out and then watch it’s adoption plateau simply because most health clubs and fitness businesses don’t have the expertise in their fitness and operational management positions to adequately drive an intelligent training system through their ranks and into the collective mentality of their members. Maybe that’ll happen in 2019! Either way, it has hit the mainstream and is going to explode in 2018.

Movement Efficiency is King

Much of this is thanks to the years of work put out by fitness professionals like Paul Chek of the C.H.E.K. Institute, Gray Cook of Functional Movement Systems and the good people at Dragon Door, Ground Force Method and other organizations like these. As we get smarter, and as various sides of the industry merge, we realize that human movement must be optimized before long term strength and fitness are to take root in a sustainable way. Everything works better when the body is mobile, flexible, strong and balanced.

Yoga is here to stay, but the mainstream fitness experience is going to move into an area that is more accessible, less niche and more wide-open. Free movement “flow” training will become much more prevalent in 2018. You’ve already seen bear crawling and rolling all over the fitness-scape but most of what you’re seeing isn’t quite right. It’s exercise, but it’s not instructive, developmental and efficient. This approach falls into the old boot camp or HIIT mentality of go hard or go home. Well, guess what. There is a proper way to perform rolling patterns, crawling patterns and the like and in all reality it might take a person weeks or months to get them right. There’s value in that and there is intelligence in knowing how to develop these things properly. In 2018 your boot camp trainer who doesn’t understand these things is quickly going to be surpassed by the trainers that do. Hip hinges, squatting, twisting, pressing and pulling all improve when fundamental movement patterns are developed and the mainstream fitness industry is going to discover this in 2018. Over the past 15 or so years we’ve seen foam rolling come into the picture and the concepts surrounding the benefits of regular soft tissue release have been well established. Then we saw functional training come along where our workouts should help us perform better in our daily lives. Then it was all about lifting heavy things and being strong. After that came fitness performance with organizations like CrossFit where our workouts were now events that we could grade like any other race or competition. Recently the concepts surrounding mobility have come back onto the radar after falling out of favor in the 1960s in favor of big, built for show muscles. These trends are amazing to see because the common theme is – as an industry, we’re getting smarter.

Here’s a great example of what I’m writing about from the guys at Art of Functional Movement by coaches Pawel Widuto and Paul “Firepower” Gray.

As the medical, therapeutic, holistic, athletic and technological worlds come together over the mainstream fitness industry, the winner is the client, the fitness center member and the people engaging professional fitness services. It’s all improving and competition is ever increasing because fitness is no longer something someone you know does, it’s a major aspect of popular culture, so everyone is working out, following a meal planning structure or doing something in that realm that is positively benefiting their lives.

Loaded carries, quality kettlebell training, Indian clubs, bulovas, heavy hammers, mace training – all that awesome goodness is going to expand and explode into the mainstream fitness mentality in 2018 and I can’t wait! Much of this is still 2-3 years off, but it’s coming and you’ll see more of it in 2018 for certain.

Gut Health and Plant Based Diet

Again, nothing new, but it’s going mainstream. And big time! If you’ve been living a healthy, fit lifestyle you’re no stranger to the microbiome of the gut and how that plays into virtually every aspect of your life from your hormone levels, to brain function, to susceptibility to illness and disease right down to skin health. Plant based dieting isn’t new to the game either, but again, it’s all coming together into an intelligent, accessible, and actionable body of understanding that people can leverage to benefit their lives. Probiotics and the fibers that feed them (prebiotics) are going to be on TV, you’re going to see new products and ads all over the place shouting about how many billions of good bacteria their product has. It’s here and it’s here to stay.

To accompany probiotics we have prebiotics which are the fibers that feed probiotics and those fibers come primarily from plants. Enter plant based diet. Yea, it’s been floating around out there as veganism, vegetarianism or some other ism, but now it’s pop culture and that means mass adoption of the practice. With that new interest comes all the creativity and innovation that drives the free market which will only make eating a plant based diet and ensuring quality gut health is that much more accessible to the average person. Gone are the days of having to ferment your own foods to have a healthy gut microbiome. You can still do that just to be cooler than everyone else, but in 2018 you and everyone else are going to have a previously unheard of amount of information and access to the healthful aspects of caring for your gut and engaging in a sustainable plant based nutrition approach.

Sum it all up and the biggest trend of the fitness industry in 2018 is going to be “intelligence.” That’s really it. It’s not just about new innovations and upgraded offerings as it has been in years past, the fitness trends in 2018 are going to be about the acquisition and application of knowledge in the mainstream fitness space. Trainers are going to become more aware, businesses are going to refine their approaches to match scientific principles and the gym going public are going to participate at a level of understanding that has never been seen before.

It’s going to be awesome! Here’s to an amazing 2018!

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