Top Fitness Trends of 2012

By Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT

New Year, new you! For many of us, each year in January sparks a renewed interest in committing to improving our health and fitness, and 2012 is certainly no exception. However, before simply adopting the same methods and mentality you’ve followed in years past,which for many of us tend to be short-lived and produce minimal results, make this year all about revolutionizing your New Year’s resolutions and truly rethinking how you approach adopting a more healthy, active lifestyle for the long-run.

In a survey of more than 1,500 exercise physiologists, group fitness experts, personal trainers and other allied health professionals, The American Council on Exercise® (ACE®) crafted their list of top fitness trends, as it does each year, and the continuous theme throughout all of the identified trends for 2012 stems from the desire among individuals to truly improve their well-being by taking a more holistic approach to health and fitness.

In a time where much of the nation’s attention is focused on the obesity epidemic, it’s no surprise that whole-life training is at the forefront of this year’s ACE trends, as the adoption of a healthy, active lifestyle and long-term adherence and success derives from truly changing one’s behavior. This begins, first and foremost, with shifting our mentality about “fitness.” The reality is, as with many other areas of our lives, many of us are prone to the “all or nothing mentality.”Especially during this time of year when our health and fitness intentions are greatest, we often find ourselves setting goals with regards to both diet and exercise that are often unrealistic and unattainable, which inevitably sets us up for failure. The truth of the matter is when it comes to improving your health and fitness and achieving lasting results, there are no short cuts. Changing our behaviors and the way we think and feel about healthful nutrition and exercise is crucial, and many people have begun to seek the guidance of Lifestyle and Weight Management Coaches among other qualified professionals to help them adopt more healthful habits, allowing for lasting, long-term success.

The shift in mentality starts with understanding that making changes, no matter how small, can result in big improvements. From parking further away from the entrance to the mall, taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, to drinking more water and incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet, becoming more mindful about how you go throughout your day, and actively seeking out opportunities to make healthful choices can having lasting positive effects. Instead of thinking of “exercise” as something negative or challenging, look for fun ways to be more physically active- from playing a game of tag with your kids in the yard after work to heading out for a hike with man’s best friend on the weekend. Physical activity should be something you enjoy and look forward to, and if you can make quality time with you friends, family, and loved ones more active, the commonly cited excuse of “I don’t have time to exercise” will begin to fall by the wayside.

The idea of incorporating more movement into the day has not gone unnoticed by employers either, as ACE cites increased workplace wellness initiatives and programs as another growing trend of 2012. From business owners seeking out employee discounts for gym memberships to managers scheduling walking meetings and employees establishing workplace walking groups, the focus on employee well-being has begun to take center stage at many job sites, and the research that continues to emerge about the correlation exercise and increased productivity may be the reason. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can help improve employees’ mood, reduce stress and increase motivation, energy, alertness and overall focus, all of which results in increased productivity and job satisfaction, something which is a win-win for both employees and employers alike.

When we think about the workplace, and our home-lives, we often think about technology, which has been blamed time and time again for an increase in sedentary behavior among both children and adults. While many of us certainly do rely on our computers and smartphones for many of our daily tasks, the truth of the matter is technology can have many positive influences too in terms of getting people up and moving, and having fun while doing so! With the abundance of technology at our fingertips individuals have greater access to information than ever before, and because of this downloading a great workout video, buying apps to track the number of miles that you run, and using social media to share your fitness successes among friends and family is easier than ever! In fact, research has even shown the benefits that music and interactive video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Sports and Dancetown, can have in helping to make physical activity more convenient and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of age.

When we think about physical activity and movement, at the end of the day what it really boils down to is getting back to the root of what exercise is designed to do, which is to improve our activities of daily living, such a climbing up the stairs, carrying a child, putting away groceries and bending down to tie our shoes. Because of this, it’s no surprise that one of the trends this year is to get back to basics by focusing on functional training. Functional training is all about preparing your body for the movements we go about in our everyday activities, and because of that we’re continuing to see more programs focused on core activation and strength, spinal stability, balance, and further developing the five primary movement patterns (squat/bend-and-lift, lunge/single leg movements, push, pull and rotation) instead of just solely targeting muscle groups as many have done in the past. The benefit of taking a more functional approach to your training program is that you’ll enable your body to move more efficiently and perform more effectively, thereby reducing your risk of injury and improving your overall quality of life.

While many functional exercises, such as squats, lunges, planks and balance training exercises, can be done at home without equipment, for those who are looking for some fun, new ways to stay engaged, there are a number of popular workouts and equipment options that are becoming more prevalent in 2012. Boot-camp style workouts that incorporate an assortment of balance and core training options have become increasingly popular, as have TRX Suspension Training classes. With regards to equipment, products such as the Step360, ViPR and Sandbells allow exercisers great versatility in improving stability, mobility and overall strength.

Let yourself truly shine in 2012 by revitalizing your approach to health, fitness and nutrition. Make this year your best year yet, and transform your lifestyle with the integration of some of these helpful tips. Your body and mind will thank you!

Jessica Matthews, MS is an exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise® (ACE®), the nation’s trusted authority on fitness. Matthews, who is also an ACE-certified Personal Trainer, ACE-certified Group Fitness Instructor and an experienced registered yoga instructor, specializes in a number of areas, including basic wellness, women’s fitness and mind-body exercise.

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