Seven Fitness Trends To Know In 2018
AI trainers and shred-friendly ready meals. How the fitness industry is upping its game this year
Healthy food delivery by Spring Green. Photograph courtesy of Spring Green
From ultra-exclusivity to Michelin-grade nutrition, DNA testing to AI trainers, fitness is shaping up in a serious way in 2018. Raising the bar is part and parcel of the iron-pumping industry, which Euromonitor forecasts will swell by 17 per cent to $815bn (£606bn) by 2021, up from $686bn (£510bn) in 2016. Those impressive gains can be explained by growing health-consciousness and the fact that diet and exercise have become integral to our lifestyle. So, now is the time to get cracking on those New Year’s resolutions.
You don’t have to upgrade to wearable tech or attend the latest fitness class to reach your goal. You can always just do some press-ups or go for a run, but financial commitment can be a powerful motivator. The industry is flexing to accommodate a discerning clientele who value an experience over an ordeal, who appreciate aesthetics beyond merely desiring well-developed mirror muscles – and who are willing to pay for the privilege of fast-tracked results. Here are the best of the class of 2018.
01. Club class
E by Equinox Lounge. Photograph courtesy of Equinox
Equinox was one of the leaders of the fitness-as-lifestyle movement. When Mr Harvey Spevak became CEO in 1999 (he’s now executive chairman), he removed the locations from all his gym listings to distinguish them from mere sweatboxes. Now the cultish body temple group is taking it to the next level with its ultra-elite E by Equinox concept. (The first opened in New York in 2015 and is concealed behind an unmarked, retina-scanner-unlocked door.) The £350-a-month super-health club opened in December and is spread over three floors of a marble-columned former bank in St James’s in London. It boasts amenities such as executive locker-room attendants to hang your suit and launder your dirty kit, air-purifying O2 vaporisers in the cardio zone and a cryotherapy spa. Suck air through a Bane mask while running on a treadmill to assess how well you metabolise carbohydrates and fat as part of the Tier X personal training (the gym’s most advanced programme), or do some “sweatworking” (like networking, but over a post-exercise protein shake rather than a three-martini lunch) in the gentlemanly, leather-chaired lounge.
02. Sweat equity
HigherDOSE at 11 Howard, New York. Photograph by Ms Keziban Barry, courtesy of HigherDOSE
Hitherto, a sauna was a finisher that you tagged on to the end of your workout, perhaps supersetted with the steam room. Unless you were feeling particularly indulgent, or fragile, in which case you’d skip the workout part while kidding yourself that you were being at least vaguely virtuous. (You still went to the gym, right?) The good news is that sweating while sitting is a legitimate wellness practice that’s as hot – and beneficial – as any fitness class. But any old sauna will not suffice. If it’s not infra-red, such as those at dedicated studios such as HigherDOSE in New York and HotBox in Los Angeles, then it’s infra dig. Unlike a traditional Finnish sauna, light waves heat you from the inside rather than raising the temperature of the air, which makes it more comfortable to sit in for longer. Which is handy, as a host of recent research has linked saunas to improved recovery from injury and exercise, cardiovascular and circulatory functions, plus reduced cholesterol, blood pressure and depression symptoms. SAD? Don’t be.
03. Current mood
Photograph courtesy of Exerceo
Doubtless you’ve seen those devices that claim to deliver a six-pack while you recline on the sofa watching the home shopping channels that advertise them. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) works on a similar principle, but with one key difference: you actually do some exercise, while wearing a wired-up bodysuit akin to Tony Stark’s Iron Man onesie. By recruiting more muscle fibres to perform a push-up or squat, you can amp up the wattage of your workout to supposedly receive the equivalent benefit of an hour or more in just 20 minutes. Previously used for rehabilitation, Mr Tom Holland used EMS to power up for Spider-Man: Homecoming, while Mr Usain Bolt was also an early adopter. Critics question whether it can translate into athletic performance, but plugged-in locations such as CORE: Club in New York are already offering sessions for $145 (£108), while Exerceo – which has two studios of XBody EMS equipment in London – offers training bundles for just £25 each time.
04. Check your profile
Image courtesy of FitnessGenes
Personal training is becoming more personal still, thanks to DNA-sequencing service FitnessGenes. You supply a sample of saliva in a sealed pot and, from that, it devises a diet plan ostensibly based on your unique genetic make-up, identifying whether you’re predisposed to high carb or high fat, lactose or gluten. Such nutrigenomic tests are compelling in theory, and the advice they offer is often sound, even if much of it would be applicable to most people. Some studies suggest that you’re more likely to adhere to the recommendations because they are “tailored” for you. A meta-analysis of research found that solid scientific backing is “currently lacking”. Brave New World, then, or a little too novel? It remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure. This is going to be a growth industry this year.
05. Making waves
Metabolic London. Photograph by Hannah Elizabeth, Metabolic London
Compared to the bike and treadmill, the rowing machine is neglected by most gym-goers, class instructors and studio owners. But a sea change is taking place, with a fleet of new rowing-centric studios. CITYROW in New York features wooden WaterRower machines that, as well as looking swish, provide dynamic resistance, thanks to the H2O sloshing around their transparent tanks. On UK shores, the Meta-Row class at the pleasingly monochrome Metabolic London consists of four rounds that alternate between lifting and the good old ergometer. It won’t take you four rounds to appreciate that rowing incorporates up to 85 per cent of your muscles as well as your lungs – both upper and lower body, anaerobic and aerobic systems. In other words, it hits parts that the bike and treadmill don’t. One study found that high-intensity intervals on the rower were as demanding as mixed martial arts training. And presumably left subjects gasping for air like they’d just been released from a chokehold.
06. Beach-ready meals
The Ultimate Spring Green Pea Burger with Green Mayo. Photograph courtesy of Spring Green
Whether 80 per cent of the battle or not, the real struggle is diet, not exercise. But if abs are made in the kitchen, you can get someone else to do it. MunchFit is one of the providers that is elevating fitness food beyond the standard depressing fare, and taking out all the effort. (It’s also catering the lounge at E by Equinox St James’s as well as Barry’s Bootcamp and boxing gym BXR.) Meal delivery services are becoming increasingly popular, appealing to the time-poor, cooking-averse and the health-conscious. London’s Spring Green was founded on these principles, and offers packages of dairy-free, wheat-free and low-sugar meals with a plant-based focus, to help promote a healthier lifestyle. Whether you want to lose lard or beef up, letting someone else do the heavy lifting of macro-calculating is an appetising prospect. You’re also delivering yourself from the temptation to just order a pizza. Besides, why endure plain chicken breast with boiled rice and steamed broccoli when you can enjoy chef-prepared tikka chicken breast with mango, coconut and almond brown rice and raita?
07. Upgrade your PT
Photograph courtesy of TechnoGym
Robots will apparently steal all of our jobs eventually, but it’s your personal trainer who should be sweating in the short term. Artificial intelligence could also make one-size-fits-all fitness apps redundant, instead recruiting Skynet-style tech to create bespoke programmes. In another lunge towards the singularity, the German maker of the hugely popular Freeletics Gym app (14 million users and rep-counting) has already been trialling a machine-learning “digital coach” that adjusts your routine based on your progress and feedback. Meanwhile Technogym, the Italian manufacturer of upwardly mobile workout equipment that can connect to your Apple Watch, is in the process of integrating its Mywellness cloud platform with IBM’s Watson AI to build a “human-like” virtual trainer that can manage data from your treadmill and mobile, evaluate your results and interact with you in a not at all creepy way. (Technogym suggests this will benefit analogue personal trainers by allowing them to keep tabs on clients when they’re travelling.) Alexa, do you even lift?