Each year, we see the rise of at least one new, seemingly-crazy health fad. 2007 brought the four-hour work week. In 2009, we learned that we should probably all be running barefoot, or at least invest in some spectacularly ugly shoes. In 2013, according to Google, we couldn’t stop searching for the Paleo Diet. Perhaps 2017 will be remembered as the year biohacking went mainstream.
Of course, it can feel impossible to determine the precise moment when a particular health or fitness movement took hold—these things just kind of happen. But maybe there’s more to it than that. We reached out to coaches, editors, trend forecasters, and some of the brightest minds in the fitness industry to tell us what they think will be trending in 2018.
We’ll See the Limits of Short, Fast Workouts
I think that we will start to see the trend for high intensity, CrossFit-style training flatline or at least slow down. While it continues to be both a popular and effective way to train, many of the people who've been using it exclusively are starting to see missing holes that short, fast workouts don't fill. They're also starting to realize that throwing yourself as hard as you can against a wall isn't always required to get what you want, and it starts to hurt after a while.
The Hardcore Recreationist Will Be Marketing Gold
I think we are in for a cycle similar to the original running fitness boom of the 1970s. More people are going to become performance vs. participation oriented. Some of the big shoe/apparel/equipment companies will start to feature sub-elite and hardcore recreational people a bit more in their marketing and branding as brand ambassadors. There is going to be some pushback and we will start to hear about how too much technology was making us slower. And we will hear more about targeted and strategic use of monitoring and other technology vs. blanket application.
–Michael J. Joyner, M.D, physiologist and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic
The “Niche-ification” of Exercise Will Continue
I think the quantified-self is just about to have run its course, and we are primed for an “everybody to the other side of the boat” moment, when folks start ditching the devices and instead train by feel. I think we'll continue to see a proliferation of niches: sub-elite runners, CrossFit, Spartan racers, power-lifters, yoga-fanatics, etc., etc. I think this is largely powered by the internet and social media. Instead of being the only person in your community serious about CrossFit or going Sub-3 for the marathon, you can be connected with the entire country, and in some cases, entire world.
There Will Be Pushback Against Individualized Exercise Advice
One of the big themes in recent years has been the promise of exercise advice tailored to each unique individual. This idea has been fueled by the rise of wearable technology and the advance of genetic testing. But at conferences this fall, I’ve started to hear a lot of pushback on whether we’re really able to distinguish individual variation from random fluctuations. In 2018, research that claims to identify “responders” and “non-responders” to a given intervention is going to have to work harder to justify these claims.
The Anti-Sugar Movement Will Change How We Eat
I predict that in 2018, people will become increasingly aware of the negative health effects of sugar, and will actually make fundamental changes to their eating habits.
Recovery Metrics Will Be All the Rage
There will eventually be the introduction of both big and small devices that are used when not exercising to measure physical recovery and adaptation to the recent workouts—and to enhance both outcomes. For example, I expect to soon see an office chair that helps the user gently stretch muscles to aid recovery. But eventually such a chair will measure physiological metrics such as heart rate, breathing rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen saturation levels, and several others. This is mostly available as of 2017 for one’s bed. At first, the chairs will be rather basic (and expensive) but they will set the stage for what’s to come.
Inner Health Will Rival Outer Strength
The health and fitness world will continue to move to incorporate people’s inner experience with their outer results. That is, physical improvements will be accompanied by support of individuals’ inner development. Everything we've already seen in the focus on mindfulness to acceptance, gratitude, and joy will become seen as critical to people's health and well-being.
We’ll Have More Personalized (and Gender-Specific) Training
With the increasing interest in DNA, body types, women vs. men, and the undercurrent of health insurance situation in the U.S., I think you will see a rise in more personalized and tailored fitness plans—e.g. matching of exercise and food to the individual to maximize their outcomes. There is also a bigger public awareness of women being different from men and that their training and nutrition should be different. I think you will continue to hear and see more women discussing their periods and how to modify their training.
We’ll Develop a More Holistic Understanding of Health
If 2017 felt like the expansion of the wellness category—with interesting offshoots from the beauty, nutrition, fitness, and luxury spaces—then I think 2018 will be the year that mainstream growth and adoption start to take place. There’s already been a shift away from traditional physical measures of health (namely fitness and diet) towards a more holistic approach that also views aspects like sleep, mental acuity, and emotional well-being as equally important. I only see that continuing. In some ways, it’s an antidote to the uncertain times we’re living in.
Digital Burnout Will Continue. . . Also: Fecal Transplants
It’s possible that 2018 will see a trend of rebellion against the quantified self, with people becoming overwhelmed with their digital exhaust and responding by being more selective about their use of tracking technology. Some may even revert to simple tools like a stopwatch or a counter. The rebirth of jump rope, instigated by CrossFit, and the upswing in flip phone sales are two examples of this trend already taking hold.
In polar contrast, individualized “omes," including data on one’s genome, proteome, and microbiome will show great strides with companies like Helix, Soma Logic, and I-Carbon X becoming more established names in the world of bioinformatics, with marketing towards improved performance leading the diffusion of these innovative technologies. Given the continued push and pull between nurture vs. nature, expect a possible upswing in fecal transplants as people look for viable albeit disgusting ways to improve their health and fitness.
–Dr. Allen Lim, Elite cycling coach and sports physiologist
More Masters Athletes Will Prove Age Is Just a Number
My prediction is that we’ll see aging athletes shatter the concept that performance slows after age 40. This will be felt from the recreational runner to elite athletes, extending from mothers reconnecting to their sport after the baby years to retirees who now have time to train.
Power-Based Training Will Be More Relevant for Runners
I expect to see rapid growth in the popularity of power-based run training in 2018. Using power to monitor and control intensity during running makes sense for all the same reasons it does on the bike. As a direct measurement of work rate, power gives runners a reliable indication of how hard they are working in all circumstances and is not affected by the external influences, such as topography, and internal influences, such as hydration status, that affect the most widely used intensity metrics, pace, and heart rate. Runners are notoriously slow to adopt new technology, so I've been surprised by the degree of penetration that run power monitors have achieved in this market in the short time they've existed. All signs point to further growth in 2018.
Exercise Will Become Increasingly Obsolete
Tech is going to fully take over. The biohacking movement in health and fitness is going to accelerate and intensify, thanks in part to places like the new Bulletproof Labs. People are going to seek the biggest return with the least amount of effort. There will be even more wearables to help us track every movement and heartbeat. More gadgets like the Oura Ring will appear, measuring our sleep. We’ll stop running on a treadmill or, god forbid, on roads or trails, in lieu of short intense workouts on machines like Vasper. We’ll spend a lot of time in pods. The outdoors will become a strange novelty.