Pop culture is like a vanity mirror for history. Take a look at any trend today and odds are it’s merely a reflection of the past, particularly in fashion. The 1980s are seen in the return of denim jackets, for example.
The same, however, can be said about fitness. While in years past there was a surge in popularity with at-home fitness workouts thanks to P90X, Insanity and Tae Bo, the hottest fitness trends of 2018 are now gearing toward general fitness or “old school” workouts, just with trendier descriptions, explains Lori Paluti, adjunct faculty member for Community College of Allegheny County.
“I think a lot of things are coming back in a different form,” Paluti says. “CrossFit actually comes out of the 1970s when you did circuit weight training, where it was aerobic training followed by a minute or two of weight training.”
Paluti continues that some of the hottest trends today even came decades earlier, such as from the popularity of calisthenics that originated in the 1940s and 1950s.
“They just changed the name to boot camp,” she says. “I don’t think it’s anything new. It’s just like a disruptive form of technology. You don’t reinvent; you just create something different.”
Part of the reasoning for this boom is because it’s tried and true, is detailed in some of the major trends right now that stress fitness is not about fads, but about lifestyle changes.
One of the hottest trends for 2018 has been dubbed functional fitness, explains Erica Gadelmeyer, director of operations for the Allegheny YMCA with a focus in personal training and CrossFit. Functional fitness includes workouts that are designed to train your muscles to help with everyday activities.
Gadelmeyer also says the use of medicine balls and kettle balls are quite common, and classes at Allegheny YMCA will even go across the street to the park and use the playground equipment for various forms of exercises.
“We’re in an age where instant gratification is a thing, and when you can’t see it translate into other aspects of life or you don’t see it quickly, then you’re going to lose interest,” Gadelmeyer says.
Back to basics
From aerobics and boxing classes to spin, yoga and weight lifting, Laura Flaus says it’s the “old school” exercises that she views as one of the biggest trends at the PNC YMCA.
“It’s tried and true,” says the healthy living director for PNC YMCA. “It works and it’s always worked.”
Flaus explains that one of the major benefits as well is that these workouts include a social aspect, which is a major benefit for anyone with fitness goals. Rather than exercising alone at home, Flaus says group classes help build lasting friendships.
“They have somebody that can hold them accountable, and their friend is right next to them doing the same thing they’re doing and working just as hard as they are,” Flaus says. “They have that family that they’ve built up here at the facility.”
Strength in gains
The stereotype that strength areas of a gym are populated by muscle-bound men is quickly becoming a fallacy. In fact, Casey Williams, manager of Union Fitness, says in the past several months he has seen more women in the strength-training area than ever before.
“A lot of times women walk in a gym and say it’s not for them, and we recognize they may be intimidated, but in our strength area we have probably more women than men,” Williams says.
Williams says that’s not specific to Union Fitness, but rather a common trend occurring across the industry. While it’s difficult to pinpoint a distinct reason for this trend, he says social media has had an influence in that more women are seeing that strength training doesn’t mean getting “bulky,” but rather that it has several positive effects in terms of health, fitness and changes in body composition.
“I could remember in the 1980s where women were more into bodybuilding, and bodybuilding was very popular,” Paluti says. “Then it took a different turn where it was related to calisthenics or CrossFit where they’re doing barbell types of workouts.”
There’s also more education about what is needed to be able to change body composition, Williams says. In terms of running, while it is still a cornerstone of traditional fitness, Williams says the body eventually gets used to cardio, which means resistance goes down and body composition doesn’t change.
“If I get on a treadmill and I run an eight-minute mile pace every day, my body adapts to that,” Williams says. “What happens is my metabolism slows down to a point where my body will hold on to the amount of calories I need to run on that treadmill at that pace every day. You’re not going to see any body composition changes. In strength training, you can always add more weight.”
As technology continues to evolve and being constantly “connected” becomes the new norm, so too does the hectic pace of everyday life. Finding downtime is becoming more difficult, which is why high-intensity interval training, HIIT, has become one of the most popular trends for 2018.
HIIT describes a workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity followed by rest or a less-intense activity. These workouts are also much shorter than traditional activities, such as running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
“In today’s world, it’s really hard for people to find two hours a day to go to the gym,” Gadelmeyer says.
Many who want to lose a significant amount of weight have an immediate instinct to pursue aerobics and long-distance running. But even though it’s done in a shorter amount of time, HIIT workouts can have similar benefits.
“It’s not exactly the same as long-distance running so I wouldn’t recommend all those doing HIIT to go out and run a marathon now, but at the same time they’re still reaping very similar benefits and doing it in a fraction of a time,” Gadelmeyer says.
Just as HIIT workouts have taken off, so too have boutique specialty gyms. As Williams explains, gyms across the fitness industry are now tending to focus in on one specialty as opposed to having equipment from all walks of life. That could include gyms that specialize in yoga, Pilates, cycling and more.
Paluti says yoga is the most popular option in the Pittsburgh area, while CrossFit is becoming common among those who are in their 20s and 30s. No matter what type of gym one heads to or the workout they take on, each expert in the health and fitness industry stresses that newcomers should start slow and set realistic goals.
“Don’t hit the ground running so hard that you get discouraged because you’re not seeing the results you want to see instantly,” Flaus says, adding it could take up to six week to see any results no matter the workout. “Start off slow, start off steady and don’t try to force it too much.”