Fitness trends in 2017

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These are the fitness developments that will dominate this year.

1. Fitness trackers

The rise of fitness trackers continues for two reasons. One, tech giants such as Apple have identified health as a key growth area and are pouring billions into research, development and marketing of health-related tracking technologies. And two, wearables like activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices give people a better idea of their fitness performance and progress, helping with confidence, motivation and accountability. The big trends in fitness tracking in 2017 will result from the arrival of more accurate and advanced sensors, enabling expansion of tracking beyond step counting and heart rate tracking to things like better monitoring of sleep, oxygen usage, blood pressure, hydration levels and even sun exposure. Apps on smart phones and smart watches are also increasingly creating communities around their usage, a case in point being Apple watch’s Nike+ Training Club.

2. Connected gyms

You’ve seen Australia’s first connected gym in Fitness First’s Barangaroo club – and it’s the future. Exercise machines at Barangaroo connect with a Fitness First phone app to keep track of your workouts and give you a precise view of your training program and progress. Some exercise machines, such as the treadmills, even allow you to connect to other treadmills and have virtual races with fellow members. Highly connected gyms recognise you as soon as you walk in the door and the machines will even adjust to your requirements, remembering your last training session. Expect to see more of these connected gyms throughout Fitness First and in premium health club chains around the world.

3. Strength training for women

Women are finally making their way en masse into the weights areas. The realisation that resistance training helps with weight loss and getting a toned body means women are now joining the boys to push around dumbbells and barbells. A change in cultural attitudes in which fit and toned is now more desirable than thin and starved is also helping drive this, plus the myth that weight training will make women bulky is now well and truly busted.

4. Group classes

Unless you know exactly what you’re doing when you step out on the gym floor, group classes are a great way to get exercise guidance and motivation regardless of your fitness level. Working out with fellow members to music creates a fun, motivating atmosphere, which explains why the popularity of group classes is exploding. Encompassing everything from BodyPump to Barre, the variety of group exercise grows all the time.

5. Small group training

Small group training (such as Freestyle Group Training at Fitness First) fits in between group classes and personal training. It’s where a trainer provides a more personal service to a group of two to five people, who pay less than if they were getting one-on-one personal training. But it’s not just bang for your buck that drives the rise of small group training — people love to exercise socially with small groups of friends, making small group training perfect for the modern mindset.

6. High Intensity Interval Training

This has been around for a couple of years now, but high intensity interval training (HIIT) is such good value for people who are time-poor (who isn’t?) that it’s parked up near the top of just about every fitness trends list. With HIIT you perform short bursts of activity punctuated by short periods of recovery. HIIT workouts generally last 20-30 minutes and are proven to deliver the same benefits as longer, less intense workouts. In today’s fast-paced world, HIIT is almost the ideal way to get fit.

7. Continued shift to mindfulness

Mindfulness practices such as yoga and guided meditation classes will continue to become more popular in line with an increasing awareness that an individual’s mindset is key to achieving a healthy body. Around the world some gyms are even introducing mindfulness classes. Mindfulness is about being in the here and now. Practically, it’s about mental focus and being authentic, a way of feeling your body and mind moment by moment. The benefit is that it allows you take stock and then act.

8. Baby boomers get fit

The mainstream fitness industry really started with baby boomers back in the 80s (think Jane Fonda), and now they’re reaching retirement age. But boomers see ageing differently to previous generations, more as an affliction that exercise and a healthy lifestyle can deflect. And science is on their side, with study after study showing that exercise delays ageing and maintains mental and physical health. Most exciting of all, exercise immediately slows down age-related muscle wastage (sarcopenia) that starts to affect people in their 50s. It’s inevitable that baby boomers will become one of the main groups in gyms, and this will result in types of training better suited to them. In the US, circuit training is already making a comeback, partly because it’s ideal for those who lack the ability and strength for more high-intensity training.

9. Fitness is mental

Fitness is not just about losing weight or showing off muscle. In fact, the most underestimated impact of fitness is on your mental state. Fitness can generate heightened confidence, energy and drive well before you start seeing it changing your body, and in the bigger scheme of things they are much more important predictors of success in life than how firm your abs are. While the fitness industry continues to flog the physical rewards of going to the gym, Fitness First experiments that highlighted the mental benefits of fitness received a tremendous response from members, who could see those benefits for themselves. So, expect to see a greater recognition of the bigger picture rewards of being fit.

10. #Fitspo

Social media is where people talk about fitness. While there’s debate as to whether many of the #fitspo posts create unrealistic expectations, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are important platforms for health and fitness professionals communicating a healthy lifestyle to a mainstream audience. The change we’ll see in 2017 is that more trained professionals will be providing health and fitness advice on social media, realising that a social media presence will further their businesses. This will improve the general standard of fitness and nutrition advice.

Compiled from 2017 predictions by major fitness bodies and interviews with local fitness experts.

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