Start the new year right: Keep your fitness plan on track

Fitbit is one popular brand of fitness tracker. photo: Fitbit

If you’re thinking of starting off 2016 with a new workout or maybe just adding a little zip to your routine, here’s a tip directly from the American College of Sports Medicine’s 10th annual worldwide fitness trends forecast for 2016: Wear it. The survey polled more than 2,800 health and fitness professionals around the world who looked at 40 potential possible trends. Here are the top 10:

Fitness trackers, which measure steps taken along with user data to calculate distance walked, calories burned, floors climbed, and activity duration and intensity, is the number one trend in fitness this year. According to survey author Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., quoted in Shape magazine, “Tech devices are now central to our daily lives and have changed the way we plan and manage our workouts. Wearable devices also provide immediate feedback that can make the wearer more aware of their activity and can motivate the user to achieve their fitness goals.”

Tech experts say that the best fitness trackers are those that monitor your workouts and display information about your activity on your smart phone or the device itself. Fitbit has several models, and other popular wearable devoice makers include Garmin, Jawbone and of course, the Apple watch.

Fitness trackers beat out last year’s top trend, bodyweight training. Body-weight training uses minimal equipment, making it convenient, affordable and available to all. While you may think that this kind of workout is limited to push-ups and pull-ups, fitness experts point out that circuit training, involving a cardio workout such as jogging or jumping jacks combined with strength exercises that can include squats, lunges, holding planks, and yes, push-ups, is an extremely efficient way to work out.

Still popular for 2016 is High-intensity Interval Training (HIT), which involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. An entire HIT workout that incorporates both aerobic and strength training can take as little as 30 minutes.

Strength training, which can mean using weight machines, resistance tubing, free weights, or a mix of all three, remains popular. Health and fitness professionals say that weight training should be part of everyone’s workout because it helps to melt calories and builds lean muscle mass while protecting bone strength.

The ACSM survey also found that more fitness buffs are turning to educated, certified fitness professionals. If you’re thinking about going back to school, now is the time to get a degree in personal fitness therapy, exercise science, or exercise physiology; community colleges and universities are offering more and more programs accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Related to the rise in certified fitness professionals is another trend: personal training. Almost all gyms offer one-on-one, customized training, and there are qualified, personal trainers who will come to your home or meet you for an outdoor workout. This is an excellent way to breathe fresh life into a style fitness routine or to get ready for specific events such as running, skiing, or bike races.

Functional fitness, which involves workouts where the moves replicate actual physical activities from our daily lives, like bending down to pick up a bag of groceries or keeping your spine straight while sitting at a desk, remains a popular trend.

These exercises are particularly good for seniors, and developing fitness programs for older adults is trend number eight. The ever-increasing number of aging boomers has triggered the rise of fit and active older adults. Not only is functional fitness good for this demographic, but other safe workout programs that run the gamut from strength training to community center and gym exercise classes to team sports are a great way for seniors to stay healthy and create a social network of like-minded friends.

Exercise and weight loss is another trend for 2016. Physicians have long contended that the only healthy way to lose extra pounds and keep them off is a combination of restricting calories and being active.

Finally, yoga, while retaining its popularity has fallen slightly on the list to the number 10 spot. There are enough styles of yoga to accommodate anyone, from Bikram to ashtanga and vinyassa, and even power yoga, which incorporates strength training with traditional yoga moves to make a power class more of a total body workout rather than a Zen-like practice.

Whatever workout you select and however you monitor your fitness program whether it’s tracking steps or pumping iron, exercise is one of the most healthful ways to ring in the new year.

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