Now that we are in the fourth quarter of 2016, we can look back and assess some of the year’s health and fitness trends. Which ones have real staying power? There are always many predictions for what will be the go-to diets, workouts and lifestyle changes. Here are five trends that were predicted to change our lives for the better, and a verdict of whether to keep them — or let them go.
1. Wearable fitness trackers. FitBit, Garmin, Apple, Polar, TomTom, the list goes on and on. We can track our steps, heart rate, sleep, calories burned, distances traveled and routes taken. All on a small device the size of a watch. (And they tell time, too!) But do trackers really make us healthier? Yes, so long as you rely on them sensibly. Unfortunately, some people use their fitness tracker as permission to eat more because they have walked more or burned more calories than usual. But that can slowly derail your health goals, especially if one of those goals is to lose or maintain weight. The true benefit of the fitness tracker is the ability to assess, over a period of time, your activity level and sleep habits. Once you know where you are, you can decide where you want to go. Just wearing the tracker won’t make you fit; you must use the information to craft your fitness plan and goals. Verdict: Keep it!
2. Shorter, more basic workouts. Body weight exercises and high-intensity interval-training (HIIT) are the hot workout trends for 2016. Bodyweight training, sometimes called calisthenics, makes use of your own body weight to create resistance (e.g., pushups, sit-ups, squats, planks and pull-ups). It requires no expensive equipment, can be done even in a small space, and is very effective when programmed smartly. HIIT is a training technique in which you give all-out, 100 percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods. HIIT keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat than many other exercise regimes. Together, body weight exercises and HIIT can be a very effective use of time in reaching your fitness goals. Verdict: Keep it!
3. Extreme, unbalanced diets. Paleo, Atkins, 5:2 diet, and detox juice cleanses, just to name a few. They may work for some, for a limited amount of time, but they all have one thing in common: They are not a balanced way to eat over the course of a lifetime. You may lose weight, you may feel healthy, but those effects probably won’t last. In fact, there’s no magic bullet diet (no, not even Bulletproof coffee) that works best for everyone. Instead, experts agree that we need to choose and then personalize an “eating plan.” (I prefer that term over “diet,” which starts with the word “die”.) An eating plan must suit our individual lifestyles, tastes, cultures and health needs. To work, it must be user-friendly and easy to follow. The restrictions in most of the extreme diets make them unbalanced in nutrition and difficult to maintain. Verdict: Let them go.
4. Mindful eating. At the other end of the spectrum from extreme diets is mindful eating, which requires that we tune into what we’re eating, savor our food and enjoy the experience. Said another way, mindful eating is paying attention to what you are eating when you are eating — not snacking in the car, grazing while watching TV or quickly scarfing down lunch while still working at your computer. Some people start mindful eating by saying a short prayer or blessing, but a moment spent simply looking at your food is sufficient. When eating mindfully, you also pay attention to how you feel so that you can recognize when you are getting full and stop eating. It is simple, yet very effective. When eating mindfully, there is no need to diet, count calories or weigh food. This can be used effectively in conjunction with, or without, a food diary. Verdict: Keep it!
5. Work-life balance. This is not a new trend, but a continuing one. What is it, really, and how are we doing with it? According to The Work Foundation, “Work-life balance is about people having a measure of control over when, where and how they work. It is achieved when an individual’s right to a fulfilled life inside and outside paid work is accepted and respected as the norm, to the mutual benefit of the individual, business and society.” Individually, many of us are achieving this. And some companies and firms get it as well. I like to call it “Work-Life Integration” because that better describes the way it works: We integrate all our priorities into our lives. This integration of personal and professional life requires focus, commitment and energy. Sometimes it also takes courage to pave your own way, especially in the face of people who don’t get it. Once your priorities are clear, you can then integrate them into your life. Verdict: Keep (working toward) it!