We’ve come a long way since the exercise revolution of the 1980s, when high-powered aerobics workouts were solely responsible for supporting the leg warmer industry in the US. Or the hardcore bodybuilding industry, popularised partly by the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger through the ’90s, that spawned the rise of performance enhancers. Through the years, several fitness trends flared up as quickly as they fizzled out. While some stayed their course, others took on different variations on a classic theme.
Just like with every other aspect of our culture, our approach to fitness evolved too. In 2017, fitness became even more accessible to a wider audience.
A big reason for this is the staggering rise of budget fitness chains across the country that is constantly pushing costs down to the affordable end and luring customers with no annual contracts, an embrace of the latest technology and 24-hour access. Largely, this is a positive trend.
Coupled with this is the new wave of consciousness that puts more emphasis on mental health as a measure of overall well being. Undoubtedly, we are living in a very rich time for health and fitness, not only in terms of knowledge and a wide array of choices it presents but also self-awareness about what works for us.
Now more than half-way through 2017, we look at some of this year’s major trends and examine what they mean for your larger mental and physical fitness.
Atmosphere inside gyms is changing for the better
The new wave of fitness consciousness is partly spurred by a change in the general environment in gyms that have made getting in shape a little more conducive. Due to stiff competition, gyms across the country have now realised that offering consumers good quality equipment and the latest technology is no longer a luxury at a competitive price point.
Exercise science specialist and fitness expert Deckline Leitao agrees: “Though the cost might be less, most fitness franchises know that providing good quality equipment to the clients is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity to stay in the business. This is a far cry from the days when gyms could do with basic equipment.”
More importantly, the average knowledge base of gym trainers is also improving because consumers too are scouring the Internet to do their own research on the exercises they are being taught. So, now, there’s more of a dialogue between the trainer and the customer. There’s also growing awareness in this industry that mental health is just as important as physical health. You can expect personal trainers and gyms to factor this in when they dish out advice.
Workout is always better if done together
In recent years, group fitness classes evolved significantly, moving away from the usual legs, glutes and core training to more customised workouts like intense step aerobics, HIIT, cardio kick-boxing, etc. There are largely two reasons for this shift to boot camps: First, is due to the difficulty in finding decent personal trainers at a reasonable price point. Second, is not feeling motivated enough to exercise alone.
What greatly helps consumers is that some of these boot camps are devised by credible fitness experts in the industry delivered through big fitness chains who pay attention to the syllabus.
“The greatest advantage of boot camps is that you work out in a group and over time build a sense of belonging to the trainer, class, club and group. This helps people push themselves not just to train harder but also to look forward to making it to the class,” says Leitao.
One of the fitness industry’s leading experts Kaizzad Capadia, who also runs his own establishment K-11 Fitness Management, says there will always be a demand for group fitness camps simply because there are many who need a group environment to stoke their competitiveness and always end up exerting more in a group than when training alone. “The GroupX activities that truly make sense are Intense Step-Aerobics, Spinning (Indoor Group Cycling), Combat Cardio Classes that borrow kicks and punches from martial arts.”
Capadia, however, cautioned that resistance-based weight training workouts are best learnt and performed on a one-on-one basis with a certified personal trainer.
A push towards a more positive body image
The biggest behavioural change is the gradual shift towards a positive body image perception among people. In the past few years, partly due to outspoken, body-positive movements across the world, people have started to challenge what society deems ‘acceptable’ as fit.
There is also an increasing dialogue about unrealistic beauty standards peddled by fashion and health magazines and the underlying realisation that getting fit doesn’t mean rippling six-pack abs. The net result is a rise of a new generation of people who are also more emotionally sound. Fitness is undergoing a transformation where some mindful fitness trainers are now focusing more on helping people change the way they feel about how they look rather than transforming their appearance.
Leitao says this movement towards a positive self-image is a very important step in the evolution towards having a holistic approach to fitness, especially in India which started off in the olden days with healthier and natural icons and overtime got inspired by unrealistic physiques and figures. “Probably the cultural fitness clock has turned full circle and people have realised that the natural and realistic way is the real deal,” he adds.
People are making fitness gadgets work for them than the other way round
When wearable gadgets were first launched, people would follow them blindly and go with whatever fitness goals they would throw up to an average user.
Now, things are changing.
Instead, people are now tweaking these wearable gadgets to fit their personal needs and achievements. It’s safe to say that we are now out of the initial gimmicky stage. Some of the statistics that wearable gadgets analyse from our activity now seem to make more sense as we are now embracing them as legitimate tools that can usher in significant changes in our lifestyle.
But don’t rely too heavily on wearable fitness gadgets, says Leitao. He says at the end of the day it’s the application of the gadget and not the gadget itself that will help you achieve your goals. “Don’t be the person who ends up buying and talking about all the latest fitness gadgets and finally ends up storing them.”
Capadia adds that though fitness trackers can motivate, one shouldn’t become too reliant on them. “They should work for us, not enslave us,” he said.
Fitness industry has finally embraced online
Only last century did the Internet came into being and video-calling applications like Skype have been around since early 2003. But the strange bit is that only now has the fitness industry embraced the advantages of reaching out to consumers online, through booking personal trainers. Online coaching classes haven’t yet taken off in India as it has US in the past decade. But the welcome change now is that it’s easier to book a personal trainer than ever before. There is a host of websites that offer this service from an hourly to monthly basis. Which means consumers now have more choices and are able to book someone who is best suited to their requirements. There are also several online consultation platforms that connect bodybuilders, fitness experts, physiotherapists, yoga teachers, weight-loss experts with people who don’t mind going that extra mile for sound advice and are willing to pay for it.
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