Each January for the last few years, I’ve written about the biggest health, fitness and nutrition trends expected during the coming year.
These have been based on analyses of the data available and reports from the American College of Sports Medicine. Inevitably, the trends that actually occur are odder and provoke more head-scratching than I had dared to imagine. So this year I’m playing it safe and just making stuff up – I’ll probably be more accurate this way.
WARNING: I do try to keep up with health and fitness news and issues from reliable sources on a very regular basis, so there may be a low-to-high element of truth in some or all of these predictions.
One of my pet peeves is the misuse of “cheeky” by fitness
buffs, trainers and online fitness influencers. No, you did not
have a “cheeky workout” if you got up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday and specifically
drove to a beach so you could swim and run, stopping only to adjust your selfie
stick and tag your Insta, then push it out on three other social platforms. A
cheeky workout would be if you told your sister you’d look after her toddler,
but then you put a little vodka in his fruit cup so that you could go out
mountain biking for a couple hours, but you never mention it, ever. Until years
later when you host a huge family Christmas dinner for 16 people, cooking
everything from scratch, including the pavlova and brandy custard, and your sister
says, “Would it kill you to make some whipped cream?” Yes, right there, that’s
when you tell her. Now that would have been a cheeky workout.
In 2020, we’ll explore the real meaning of cheeky exercise.
It’s when you sneak out seven boxes of leftover conference brochures at your
workplace and use them to fill up a boxing bag that you pound away at in a
place no-one will ever look – the server room. It’s doing a medicine ball (bonus
points for slam ball) workout with watermelons, right there in the fresh food
aisle of the supermarket half an hour before they close for the night. It’s
dressing up to convince your parents that you’re taking the kids to church,
when really you’re all packing body armour under your good shirts because
you’re actually hitting the BMX track before the teens and stoners get out of
Hell, if this doesn’t happen, I’ll push it myself.
Never underestimate the power of food industry groups.
Remember how the World Health Organization declared bacon and other processed
meats a Class 1 carcinogen back in 2015? No, probably not, but you will
remember that in the years after this, the wonders of bacon were lauded in
books, TV shows and movies, and millions of internet memes. So expect a meaty
fightback after a couple strong years for the vegan movement and the rise of
meat-free alternatives. It’s going to require a novel approach that hones in on
catchwords, health-based rhetoric, and the denial and stupidity of its target
market. My prediction is ‘meat-based plants’ – meat products with the shape and
texture of vegetables and other plants. Think bacon sprouts, chickenpeas and
portatoes (pork-based spuds). Then there’s brown beans (basically small beef
meatballs), lambslaw, and hale (green ham in the shape of kale), which will go
well with eggplant (made with real eggs!). Think it makes no sense? Some people
said that about Paleo eating, too. Plus it’s already happening – in June 2019,
American fast-food sandwich chain Arby’s hit back at vegans by creating the creating
the first-ever meat carrot – the Marrot™.
alliance – beauty and nutrition supplements
Imagine if the supplement industry and the beauty industry
came together for a very noisy and messy one-night stand that somehow lingered
into a booty call that then developed into some sort of Arrangement? The result
would be collagen protein and associated products (Collagen ‘Coffee’ anyone?)
marketed with all the wind of these two behemoths combined, like a tornado that
lifts up your money in a whirlwind of hype and funky-coloured packaging, and
takes it away, never to be seen again.
A trickle will turn into a stream of similar mongrel abominations
washing into the market. Expect to see topical creatine-shea butter blends that
you rub into your biceps and abdominal muscles, or branch chain amino acids
(BCAAs) that come in a serum with aloe vera, formaldehyde and coal tar so that
you can rub it straight into your scalp for “better bioavailability”.
Pre-workout mixes have been a hit with the same generation
that needed pre-drink drinks and ecstasy before going out to socialise. While
there should be concerns about the oversupply of stimulants (some of which get
drug-tested athletes into big trouble) and undersupply of actual intrinsic
motivation to exercise, the driver for the market will simply be the desire to
get a better bang for their buck without actually smoking ice before training.
Enter “pre-workout” coaches. If consumers want a real slap
in the face before they exercise, then the market will provide.
Pre-workout coaches will stand in the foyer of gyms or even visit your workplace at quitting time, where they will, after brief disclaimer has been signed, slap your cheeks, flick you ears, whack you on the back so hard that your lungs bounce off your ribs. They will finish by yelling a crude motivational phrase within licking distance of your face. (Let’s hope “C’MON! You’re training like a f*#!ing WOMAN” doesn’t make a return – a motivator that has disturbed me since I first heard it in a popular North Sydney gym many years ago). This was actually common practice when I competed in powerlifting, so I can attest that it does indeed work.
The price will be modest – in line with the per-dose cost of
many popular pre-workout drinks and mixes – but the effect will be more
pronounced and come with greater expectation. After all, it’s no big deal to
see a guy slurping a pre-workout drink and then spend 60% of his workout time
sitting on a bench fiddling with his phone. But if you see a man or woman PAY a
pre-workout coach to slap him around until the capillaries of their face flush
with blood, you expect them to rip shit up.
Well hello, there’s a new group exercise system in town.
It’s called Half Life, which is a double play on words. It’s designed for the
person who wants to be half fit, half strong and half flexible in half the time
with half the effort, and will be ultimately satisfied if their class
attendance and results are anywhere near half what they expected. There will be
frequent breaks in the music so that people can spend half the time talking. Half
Life also refers to how long devotees survive decay.
Half Life classes will take the bold (but not altogether
uncommon) approach of harking back to the exercise methods from simpler times,
conveniently ignoring decades of exercise science. Think vibration belts,
jumping up and down on concrete, and wearing three pullovers while you train
(communal pullovers will be provided at the Half Life centre).
A study, published in Computers
in Human Behavior (2016), found that people who texted during
a 20-minute workout spent almost 10 of those minutes in a low-intensity zone,
and only seven minutes in high intensity. Those who worked out
without a phone spent only 3 minutes in low intensity, and almost 13 minutes in
“Anything that distracts you from the task at hand,
whether it’s texting or switching songs or entering info into an app, is going
to take away from your performance and could potentially put you at risk for
injury,” says Michael Rebold, assistant professor of integrative exercise
science at Hiram College (USA), where he leads studies on exercise and mobile
This will not be the reason that even some popular gym
chains try the bold step of banning mobile phones from workout areas. No, the
driver for this will be confrontations between phone-users and non-phone users
that result in a phone being shoved so far down someone’s throat that they need
to reach over the prostate to order an Uber to get home. (Sorry, but I really
needed to use the texting rack to do squats).
Isn’t it amazing that as we’ve gained greater access to information
through more and more channels, the forces greater than us as individuals – world
leaders, governments, big brands, media organisations, and so on – are
increasingly audacious with the hogwash they try to blind us with. Which brings
me to vitamins, minerals and supplements, an industry that has a bad habit of
undermining its own credibility.
There are many vitamins and minerals that have peer-reviewed
research to support that they do or may have some benefits for a limited number
of specific issues. Yet when brands make claims for a supplement outside these
areas – fish oil will make your child smarter, vitamin C will help with bowel
cancer, vitamin D will give you stronger erections – the whole industry takes a
hit to the integrity. Do they learn? Often not – they just move on to the next
That thing is nootropics, a word that even sounds like
it’s a brand name made up to trick kids into eating fruit. Nootropics are
and other substances that may improve cognitive function, particularly
executive functions, memory, creativity, or motivation, in people who are not
actually ill. Expect common, old school vitamins and minerals that have been
studied for several decades to suddenly come with carefully worded nootropic
claims. “Zinc may make Excel spreadsheets easier to understand,” or “In some
studies, Magnesium Chelate led to improved understanding foreign accents,” and
“When taken as directed, these multivitamins may benefit people who forgot that
thing they were trying to remember yesterday, or the day before”.
This term was popularised through a 2019 ad campaign for
Lite ‘n’ Easy, a weight loss meal company. “Intermittent eating” is what many
of us (who, ironically, would never have a need to use Lite ‘n’ Easy products)
would commonly refer to as “meals”, or “not stuffing our face all the time”.
It’s a wild concept in a time of protein shakes, energy or snack bars and plans
based on eating five or six times a day or, conversely, periods of fasting
followed by binge eating like you were just rescued from a desert island.
Imagine that – eating when you’re hungry, probably about three times a day, in
a controlled manner with foods that regularly feature a fairly consistent
balance of macronutrients and fibre. It’s hard to believe it could catch on.
Special effects will help David Carradine posthumously
revive his role in the TV classic Kung Fu to promote insect protein. The
protein, made from commercially-raised crickets, will go by the
consumer-friendly brand name ‘Grasshopper’. The Kung Fu catchphrase,
“You have much to learn – Grasshopper” will be twisted to help educate and entice
a wider public acceptance of this alternate protein source. The immense uptake
of the product will suddenly stall when a panic wave floods social media with
outrage after claims that the crickets are killed with strong insecticides,
which are then ingested by consumers, causing untreatable
delayed neuropathy (pain or numbness to one or more parts of the body).
Licensed distributors will, of course, agree on a response to console the
public, assuring consumers that each cricket is humanely garrotted.
Exercise is Medicine®
Exercise is Medicine®(EIM) is, in fact, a global health initiative that focuses on encouraging doctors and other healthcare providers to include physical activity assessment and associated treatment recommendations as part of every patient visit. As the initiative becomes widespread, however, it will be hit by all the same issues as prescription medicines. Some people will overdose on exercise, even doing burpees during nap-time at the childcare centre where they work. Others will, against all warnings, mix their prescribed exercise with prescription painkillers and literally run through walls. Kids who actually need exercise will sell their exercise programs to other kids at school, while busy mothers will trick their kids’ doctor into prescribing more exercise, which the mum then squirrels away for herself so she can have a little “extra energy”.
Then there will be the deniers who will treat all exercise with suspicion, shunning any excess movement and flood social media with conspiracy theories. They will claim that exercise is all a ruse dreamed up by chiropractors, and sweat endangers entire ecosystems through an excess of salt, bacteria and overly-aggressive grunts of “C’mon!” This will be cause for great consternation to trainers, physical therapists and exercise physiologists, who will require a conference of Caligula-level extravagance at an exotic venue to discuss these matters.
Yoga always makes the list of upcoming fitness trends each
year, it’s just the style that changes. Hot yoga, naked yoga, yoga with
alpacas, hot naked yoga with alpacas – and that last one was enough to drive
many to drink (to forget?). So this year there is Gin Yoga. Yep, it turns out
that ‘mother’s ruin’ is yoga’s gain – you can’t make this stuff up. The idea is
that gin (yoga studios will probably prefer to use the more earthy term
“juniper juice”) is the perfect tonic to help loosen and lengthen the muscles
and therefore allows you to relax into each pose better. It also helps that it
has a disinhibition effect so class attendees don’t focus too much on how silly
they look or how much but sweat is showing. And don’t worry about that woman in
the corner who never got out of corpse pose – she’s just sleeping it off.
This is a form of massage that uses concentrated, rapid
pulses to penetrate deep into your muscle tissue. It is reported to help ease
pain, increase muscle range of motion and boost your performance. Like many
physical therapies, as more people jump on the percussion bandwagon, the more wide-open
it becomes to interpretation and alternative twists. Some of these will be very
loose and focus more on the ‘percussion’ element. Cowboy practitioners will whack
the length of clients’ spines like they’re a human xylophone. Others will use fiddlesticks
where the sun don’t shine. The ‘tambourine’ treatment on the gluteal area will
be either a hit or miss with customers, with a select clientele going so far as
to favour the ‘bongo drum’ or even the ‘gong’ treatment. You don’t even want to
know where they put that metal triangle.
Cannabidiol (CBD, a non-psychoactive component of cannabis) has been making big waves in the wellness and medical fields. However, in countries such as Australia, strict regulations on CBD mean that the only legal way to access it in a strength that has any therapeutic benefit at all is to go to a doctor, who then needs to make a special application to the government on your behalf. This will not stop about 10,000 products coming up for sale at a strength that has no real use (although I can’t vouch for the skincare claims of products with less than 0.02% CBD – but Healthline has a summary of study findings).
However, CBD will be the champion of the cause to
legalise marijuana. People will support it as a rebel action – kind of like
wearing a Che Guevara shirt on the way to the weekend seminar on how to
increase your property portfolio.
ARtisanal toilet paper
No annual list of health and fitness trends would be complete without a comeback or a return to the old ways – but rarely does it involve personal hygiene. So pucker up for the ‘tree-to-toilet experience’. When you think about cutting excess energy use and over-processing, you know it makes sense. And goodbye crack-wax, because this toilet paper is a 2-for-1 deal.