Fitness trends – are they worth the fuss?

fitness trendsBy Paul Clifford

You’d be excused if you felt a little confused reading the lists of the top fitness trends of 2015.  The American College of Sports Science has released a report naming what they think these trends will be.  But are these lists much use?  Not in my book.

Firstly, if I told you that Pilates not only did not make the top 20 list but was considered a fad would that change your mind about whether you will do it in 2015?  If you’ve decided you are not into Pilates you probably weren’t looking at a list to come to that conclusion.  Those who are into Pilates know its value and are unlikely to be swayed by someone saying it’s a fad.  The fact of the matter is Pilates does not meet the definition of a fad anyway.  The definition of a fad is something that is “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived”.  With Pilates originating in the 1930s it can only be classed as a highly enduring exercise system.  Pilates is hugely popular in Australia and more so in America.  It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.   Interestingly core training made the list at number 15 which is central to what Pilates is all about.

The number one spot in this list was taken by body weight training.  I’m not sure how this is a trend given people have been doing push ups, sit ups, burpees and other exercises using their own body weight as part of gym exercise programs, gym classes, home exercise programs and boot camps for as long as these have been in existence.  It is possible that trainers are utilising body weight training more in their programs and it is fair to say that it has been under-utilised over the years.

Some gyms may be concerned that if they promote body weight training too much that people will see that they can develop their own program outside of a gym, and that gyms will become obsolete.  However, the good gyms needn’t be concerned.  Two factors drive people toward gyms.  Firstly that is where you find a lot of instructors and people are always going to be in need of a trainer or instructor to a) lead them in the exercises and b) motivate them to keep doing those exercises.  Secondly, many people want to train with other people and develop some kind of connection with them.  A significant factor gyms have going for them is that a lot of people go there.  So people can go and do exercise there and find the connections they seek.  So in my view the development and promotion of body weight training is unlikely to create a downward trend in gym memberships in favour of home exercise regimes.

I found it interesting that bootcamp appeared at number 20.  I believe there is still a great deal of interest in bootcamp although there doesn’t seem to be as much hype about it right now as there was 2-3 years ago.  However, I think something like bootcamp is a bit like songs from the previous century.  Every month or so these days a song, long considered dormant, gets the attention of a singer, DJ or music director, and with a new spin on it, the song becomes hugely popular again.  One of the reasons I think bootcamp will remain popular is that people love the idea of ‘smashing it out’.  The difficulty many have with Pilates is that it requires a series of controlled movements that don’t have one desperately screaming for time out whilst bent over in exhaustion.  Just because it’s not killing doesn’t mean it’s not good for you.  However, many of us do love the feeling that comes from being pushed to our limits and only feel we’ve had a good workout if we feel intense pain throughout.

What was mentioned at the very end of the article by the Sydney Morning Herald that referred to the American College of Sports Science’s list was that “addressing nutrition, mental and physical wellbeing” is likely to remain a strong trend.   The term ‘wellbeing’ continues to be used everywhere we go these days.  People remain hugely interested in holistic health.  We are prepared to spend our money on it and to make choices that promote it.  The beauty of exercises like Yoga is that they combine physical and mental health in one.  Yoga was listed as number seven in the trends list but once again you probably didn’t need to see that to decide whether it’s for you.  With its combination of movement, stretching and meditation, yoga remains an ideal choice for those who are seeking an arguably less intense exercise regime, greater flexibility and the opportunity to learn skills to de-stress and calm the mind for improved mental wellbeing.

It is not surprising to see training for older Australians make the list as well as corporate programs.  Programs like yoga and Pilates suit older Australians who want a program that keeps them active and strong to protect them from injury.  Corporates remain hugely preoccupied with wellbeing and wellness of workers and continue to invest large sums of money on programs that promote healthier eating, improved lifestyle choices and mental wellbeing.

Whilst looking at lists of fitness trends might be somewhat interesting, you are unlikely to find too many surprises on these lists as we move into 2015.  The important thing is for you to think about what your goals are and to choose the exercise programs that will help you reach those goals.  Your goals could be strength, flexibility, aerobic fitness or it could be simply improving your overall health or recovery from injury.  Rather than worrying about what exercise program is sexy to do or is ‘all the rage’, it’s far better to think about what you need for yourself and choose accordingly.  A big part of that choice of course should be “What will I enjoy”?  Whilst there might be very serious reasons why you need to take up a particular exercise program, part of the reason why we sustain exercise is because we do something that we enjoy.  Life’s too short to take it too seriously.


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