Technology and personalization take the guesswork out of a workout
The assignment: Identify top fitness trends for 2016.
The reality: This is harder than it seems, because fitness has become so personalized that trends branch off in many directions.
That being written, probably the biggest ongoing trend is technology gadgets that virtually take the guesswork out of a workout. Several years ago we were introduced to pedometers, which blossomed into heart rate trackers popularized by FitBit, Polar and other companies. These tools measure your resting heart rate, identify your target heart rate, tell you if you reached it and how many calories you’ve burned during a workout. Wow. You thought your spin class, which had you gasping for air, got you to your target heart rate of 150? Wrong—you only got to 140, so there is no question you will have to push harder next class. Ah, the power of the truth. Below is a sampling of the growing fitness tech craze, which is getting more informative and personal.
1. The October 2015 issue of Shape magazine featured next-level technology, including a jump rope that sends your phone your fitness data, so after your workout you can analyze it and share it with friends. It also tracks data as you jump, and like a tireless master, will make you jump higher and faster. Whew!
2. The issue also highlights SmartMat YogaMat, a tech yoga mat that tracks your form. It connects with your phone via a free app to tell you when you’re out of balance. It can be used at home or in a class—and it’s even hot yoga friendly!
3. Another interesting find is the Spree SmartCap baseball hat that tracks your heart rate, calories burned and body temperature. It has a sensor that syncs with your phone for real-time feedback.
4. To go with that cool cap is the Athos shirt that is being touted as the first piece of apparel to measures your muscle activity, heart rate and breathing rate. Its real-time data tells you how hard specific muscles are firing and in what sequence, so you can fine-tune your form.
5. How have we lived without the Zepp Kit, which can monitor and improve your golf, tennis or baseball swing? It comes with a small sensor that mounts to the base of your club, racket or bat. The companion app shows 3-D views of your swing, areas for improvement and tips.
6. Apparently in the future we can tattoo ourselves to track our workouts. Tech Tats will combine all the functionality of a fitness tracker with the beauty of body art. According to Texas-based developer Chaotic Moon Studios, it works by embedding tiny computer chips into a slightly raised tattoo, which the company says would then be capable of monitoring everything from step counts to workout times. And because they’re on your skin, they could also track your blood sugar, heart rate, body temperature and metabolism. “This is going beyond what the fitness tracker is. This is something you can put on your body once a year that monitors everything [a clinic] would do in a physical, and sends that to your doctor. If there’s an issue, they could just call you,” Eric Schneider, creative technologist for Chaotic Moon, explained. He added that, “theoretically, the Tech Tats could go beyond health-related data and be used to pinpoint a person’s location, act as a virtual wallet and integrate with home and car automation systems.”
7. Work out by playing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, functional fitness is a continuing trend and is based on the idea that the workouts we do should mimic and support the activities of daily life, like bending down, picking things up, walking upstairs, pulling or pushing open doors, etc. In that vein, self-limiting exercises are an extension of this trend. These are movements that require “complete engagement,” according to Gray Cook, founder of Functional Movement Systems, a group that educates trainers on movement pattern screening and assessment. Movement-focused exercise is already popular in adventure races and mud runs, and in the obstacle courses on hit TV shows like “American Ninja Warrior.” On a novice level, exercise classes are prescribing more movements associated with children’s games: Bear crawls, tree climbing, carrying logs and rolling tires are all functional ways to build strength, stamina and mobility while making training feel less like work and more like play. Yes, let’s keep exercise fun and functional.
8. And for your diet, Men’s Fitness magazine notes newer fitness apps are so advanced it may not be long before they chew your food for you.
Fooducate revolutionizes grocery shopping by placing the power of a nutritionist in the palm of your hand. Simply snap a picture of the UPC code on the food you want to buy, and the app will provide you with nutritional information. Does this food contain gluten? Is it vegan friendly? Will it provide enough protein to be suitable for my diet? Fooducate does all the work for you.
Meal Snap is great for when you’re eating out at a restaurant where you can’t see bar codes. Like Instagram, but with calorie counts, you take a picture of your food and it will immediately estimate (with impressive accuracy) what you’re about to put into your body.
9. The American College of Sports Medicine notes fitness programs for older adults is also a 2016 fitness trend. Studies show after age 40, we begin to lose muscle mass and strength, so fitness programs that keep older adults healthy and active are crucial. We’re happy to see health and fitness professionals will continue to focus on creating age-appropriate and safe workout programs in 2016. The focus stems from two demographic trends: First, the baby boomer population bubble has surpassed the over-50 threshold, and second, we are living longer.
10. Social media groups like Meet Up are making exercise a social activity. Example groups include Nordic Waking in Valley Forge National park, Sistahs Moving and Grooving, Bollywood Fitness Fun and GirlTrek. These groups provide the opportunity to find others who have similar attributes (age, race, language, activity interests) that encourage making time for exercise.
These 10 trends are food for thought in getting your 2016 fitness resolution in gear. And they leave very little room for excuses!