If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions and they include hitting the gym or losing weight, check out continuing trends in fitness and diet … because being healthy and staying fit never go out of style.
The American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal recently predicted popular exercise regimens for 2018; topping the list were high-intensity interval training, group training and wearable technology.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is known for its short bursts of extreme exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery. It’s not new – it ranked No. 1 in 2014 – but it has evolved thanks to innovations in wearable technology.
Jared Meacham, fitness services director for Sky Fitness and Wellbeing in Tulsa, says heart-rate monitors can make exercise more efficient and effective. The center recently introduced SkyPulse, a heart-rate monitoring system utilizing the MYZONE chest strap monitor, an exercise tracker with 99.4 percent EKG accuracy that can be used in and out of the gym and connects with smartphones and other wearable devices.
“Heart-rate monitoring is so foundational to exercise physiology that we would be … negligent in the fitness industry if we didn’t apply this technology,” Meacham says. “The heart rate is the most fundamental measure of exercise, so we see the monitor as a necessity to efficient and intelligent training.”
Based on an individual’s heart rate, the heart-rate data is displayed in five color-coded zones, with gray being the least intense and red being the most intense. In addition, each zone has a point system to support friendly competition and group challenges.
During exercise, this wearable technology shows people their levels of workout intensity.
“What we often see is that people are staying at a high intensity and not achieving the varying levels,” Meacham says. “Staying in a high intensity holding pattern puts huge amounts of stress on the body. You may burn an extra 100 calories, but a lower percentage of body fat is burned per minute in these upward intervals. We also know that staying in these upward zones for a long period of time can trigger the hunger response, which can be difficult for people who struggle with emotional connections with food or struggle with making the right food choices.”
In the future, Meacham says we may see more moderate-intensity interval training as people learn more about fitness zones through wearable technology.
According to the Health and Fitness Journal survey, group training has been around for years and appeared as a potential worldwide trend, but it wasn’t until 2017 that it made the top 20.
Angela Jones, director of health and wellness initiatives for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, has seen considerable growth in group exercise classes and small-group sessions, as well as individual personal training.
“In particular, members are asking for HIIT classes that challenge them from their regular routine,” she says. “We have also seen our older adult members requesting and participating in classes such as ‘Golden HIIT,’ which demonstrates … that they can do so much more than they ever thought possible.”
Kendra Holmes-Morris, group fitness coordinator at St. John Siegfried Health Club in Tulsa, says that facility’s most popular classes are spin, Zumba, yoga flow, cardio circuit and high-intensity interval training. A new class called Rogue is a blend of strength, core and cardio training that aims to fuel an “after-burn effect” for up to six hours.
“Rogue has taken fitness to a new level for our members,” Holmes-Morris says. “And for those age 65 and older, St. John offers classes that help you maintain independence as you age, such as yoga flow and body balance, which focus on stability, core strength and balance.”
CrossFit, another high-intensity program, continues to gain momentum and has moved from the fringes to mainstream, despite controversy over potential harmful health effects.
Brian Dowler, fitness manager for the Health Zone at Saint Francis in Tulsa, says, “We are fortunate to have a coach that emphasizes proper form and technique. He won’t allow people to move forward until they master form and technique.”
The Health Zone also offers small-group training called ZoneFit.
“It is unlimited training that we offer 37 times [a] week that will meet your schedule and fitness needs,” Dowler says. “Small-group training is affordable and gives the participant accountability as well as camaraderie.”
Making New Year’s resolutions is easy. Keeping them is the hard part.
“It’s important to remember that the new year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping behavior changes,” Jones says. “It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive lifestyle changes. Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on Jan. 1, can help you reach whatever it is you strive for.”
Connie Davis Bendel, a registered dietitian at Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa, says if you’re not ready to overhaul your diet, then try the 80/20 approach.
“Trying to eat too healthy can set you up for failure,” she says. “Instead, strive for healthy food choices 80 percent of the time, which gives you some leeway for the remaining 20 percent. You can enjoy all foods on a healthy eating plan, but pay attention to how much and how often you select higher-calorie, higher-fat items.”
She recommends adding one produce item into each meal and snack and eliminating liquid calories – meaning no soda, juice, sweetened iced tea and fancy coffee drinks.
“Eliminating these sweetened beverages is often one of the most effective steps to losing weight,” Bendel says. “Women should keep added sugar to less than 25 grams per day and men less than 35 grams per day.”
Gaining popularity is the plant-based diet, which Bendel says brings more vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats into our bodies.
“In one particular study, those following a 70 percent plant-based diet had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as lowered risk for inflammatory diseases and Type 2 diabetes,” says Bendel, adding that you don’t have to cut out meat. “A simple shift toward a more plant-based diet can offer significant health benefits.”