The Balance Between Fitness and Wellness

Until recently, fitness and wellness didn’t seem to go together. Fitness enthusiasts would load up on refined carbs, go for exercise in dangerous and pollution-filled cities, and do their training no matter what their bodies were telling them. But people have begun to realize that fitness and wellness are not as separable as once thought. In fact, the two are intertwined, with one helping the other, and vice versa.

As we approach 2019, it’s time to take stock of some of the fitness trends that have dominated the past year that have to do with wellness. We see a more “holistic” approach to fitness, one that accepts that you can only be as fit as you are well. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening.

Cardio Makes A Big Comeback

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When it comes to self-improvement, smart people look for shortcuts wherever they can. Over the years, we’ve seen more and more people make the case that weight training is just as valid a way of building fitness and wellness. Gurus proclaim the benefits of gaining additional muscle mass as we get older, proving in their minds that it’s muscular exertion, not cardio, that produces real benefits.

But this year we learned that this was not the case. It turns out, according to one of the largest Harvard health studies ever, that resistance training does not slow the aging process, nor positively affect metabolism as we age. Cardio, on the other hand, does, going against decades of “bro science” suggesting the opposite. Cardio is not pro-aging as many people imagine, with some forms of cardio, like HIIT, reversing mitochondrial decline associated with aging.

HIIT Training Is The New Norm

Our biology works in surprisingly counterintuitive ways. You’d think that the longer you exercised, the greater the metabolic benefit. But it turns out that this isn’t necessarily true. What seems to matter more is the intensity of the exercise: short, high-intensity training appears to force cells to adapt far more effectively than more extended bouts.

What’s great about HIIT training is that people have found ways to incorporate resistance training, upending traditional bodybuilding routines. There are all kinds of training methods out there that incorporate HIIT, including F45, a 45-minute training regime that involves both kinaesthetics and resistance elements.

Whey Protein Is Out

Whey is a byproduct of the cheese industry: a protein-rich dairy food that helps build muscle. The problem with whey, though, is that it is an animal product. Not only is whey production terrible for the environment, but the specific properties of animal protein mean that it could also be detrimental to long-term health. By putting the body in a constant state of growth, animal protein may lead to an increased incidence of certain types of cancer, particularly bowel and prostate.

Fitness fanatics still want to build muscle, though, so what are their options?

Innovative companies have started selling pea protein isolate powder, a plant-derived version of whey protein. Pea protein still provides high-quality protein, but without any of the unhealthy baggage that comes with the animal equivalents. It provides the resources for building muscles, but because the protein comes from plants, it doesn’t put the body into an unhealthy metabolic state. It’s a kind of win-win for people who want to be fit but also want a long and healthy life.

Workouts Are Getting Much Shorter

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Long gone are the days when people spent two hours in the gym, working their muscles from every angle. Surprisingly, though, the days of spending an hour in the gym may also be on the way out too.

Modern science seems to show – at least for untrained individuals – that short bouts of exercise are as effective as longer ones. The majority of people are not super-athletes, in need of multiple hours of training to provoke progress. They can force all the adaptation they need in much shorter sessions, perhaps as little as 30 to 45 minutes, four times a week. HIIT, circuits, and supersets all help to reduce the time spent in the gym, opening up the rest of the day to other activities.

The Gym-Office Hybrid

You might think that the idea of going to work straight after a morning workout might sound like a bit of a strange idea, but it’s something that a few innovative gyms have floated. Gyms noticed that some people had developed a habit of doing their workout and then going to the gym cafe to fire off emails from their laptops. Now gyms have realized that this is a potential money-making opportunity and are marketing spaces at the gym that function as hybrid offices. These spaces offer plug sockets, wifi, and comfortable seating.

Fitness On Demand

Travel is the enemy of the fitness routine. It’s also the enemy of fitness and wellness in general, thanks to the salty, fatty, sugary food, the endless sitting down, and the lack of opportunities for physical activity. But thanks to initiatives by companies like ROAM Fitness and Flyfit Global, that may be about to change. These companies are investing in what they call “on-demand” fitness facilities, a term they borrowed from the entertainment industry.

On-demand fitness, in their minds, means fitness facilities in places you wouldn’t ordinarily fit them, like behind airport security. Customers, they say, can book a slot in one of their gym facilities, and get a workout before getting on the plane. Most visitors only need 30 minutes or so, making it easy to incorporate into travel plans.

Apps For Clean Eating

As the debate over “clean eating” rages on, a number of tech-savvy companies are looking at ways of making the job of eating well easier. It’s hard enough eating right at the best of times, let alone when you have a series of fitness and wellness goals. App developers, like Healthspan, want to make the process a little more comfortable with the use of intelligent software that can alert people about things like when to eat, drink and take supplements. The app will also make recommendations on what to eat, depending on a person’s goals.

-Jack

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