Thirteen for ‘13

Photo by David Plakke

Photo by David Plakke

Let’s peek into the crystal balls of a few health experts out there and see what trends in health will draw our attention in the year to come. Although some trends are new and others tried and true, their popularity shows no sign of fading in 2013.

Based on results from an extensive worldwide survey this year, fitness fads that may be on the way out include stability balls, Pilates and spinning, according to Walter Thompson of the American College of Sports Medicine. Obamacare, approved by the supreme court in June, means healthcare costs will go down. Consumers, providers and insurance companies are all looking for new ways to interface with the new reality.

Our first trend for 2013 is wellness coaching. The personal coach encourages, guides and supports clients in goal-oriented elements of behavioral change and disease prevention, whether one on one or one on two or three to keep costs down. Now fitness trainers are educating themselves in accredited programs and going after official certifications as the experts they are. Although the survey said this has dipped slightly in the past year, fitness training should remain strong and job opportunities for these professionals should continue to expand.

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High on the list is the high-energy workout Zumba, described as really hard work but a lot of fun by friends who’ve tried it. I hope to try it soon, as soon as I can summon up the energy! Other dance workouts, from belly to Bollywood, remain popular as an enjoyable way to stay fit.

No one can call yoga a fad. This ancient and perennially popular practice has many forms and variations. It seems every small town has several studios. More and more of us are jumping on the yoga bandwagon for its mind-body benefits.

A rising trend is the appeal of outdoor activities, a growing area of interest for fitness enthusiasts who want to get out of the gym and hit the trail, slope or waterway. Great as a fun thing to do with family or friends as well, this category includes camping, hiking, mountaineering, boating and team sports.

Back into that gym, several types of physical fitness training are worth mentioning as they stay popular, according to that survey. Emerging in popularity is body weight training, where, like it sounds, our own body weight is used rather than external equipment. This form of resistance training includes classic, ancient exercises like sit-ups and pull-ups. Meanwhile we still want our weights, as many of us continue to love traditional strength training, lifting free weights or using weight machines. Core training emphasizes supporting the spine by strengthening and conditioning the abdomen and trunk, with balls, boards and rollers as aids. Growing in popularity is circuit training, groups of six to ten exercises in a specific sequence. Although it has decreased slightly in popularity in the last couple years, boot camps — high intensity military-style callisthenic workouts -— should stay strong.

Senior fitness is key. Programs designed for older adults are expected to increase as baby boomers age and that population segment grows. Many retired people have the time and money to focus on fitness, and as Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith and Denise Austin get older they are still making videos to inspire seniors.

At the other end of the spectrum, as we segue into healthcare in general, is a renewed focus on ways to combat the “epidemic” of childhood obesity. Big cuts in school programs combined with processed fast foods and a more sedentary lifestyle due to technology all contribute to this problem. Exercise programs that are fun and motivating for kids are crucial for staving off an even bigger health care crisis as they all become adults.

As a smartphone app like Kayak lets us plan our own trip without the aid of a travel agent, technology is enabling us to be more hands-on when it comes to health choices, too. The Internet and a mushrooming wealth of apps from RunKeeper to iTriage let us be more directly involved in and have some extra control over our own healthcare. They measure our progress and motivate us to get fit or calculate cost estimates and show consumer ratings of healthcare providers for comparison.

Keeping workers healthy in proactive ways is a relatively new focus for employers able to provide health insurance benefits for their employees. Health education and incentive/reward plans are strategies they are using to decrease the need for curative health care as opposed to preventative, keeping costs down for both employers and insurers, who are working in tandem on this. For a variety of reasons, however, a majority of workers are non-compliant in controllable measures at improving health. The challenge remains. Workplace-based programs for quitting smoking and diet and exercise are only as successful as the workers are motivated, but a culture of encouraging self-healthcare can’t hurt.

Of 82 employers surveyed by The National Business Group on Health this year, 48 percent plan financial incentives in 2013 to attract workers to wellness programs, with $450 being the median amount, about $375 for dependents. Over one in five said they will fine non-participating employees.

On the nutrition front, coconut water is refreshing and tasty. Whether it lives up to all the other claims is a matter of debate. Touted as hydrating and low-fat, a good source of energy-giving carbs and electrolytes, it remains popular.

Fish-oil supplements with omega-3 — and sometimes omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids as well — are popular for brain and heart health. They are claimed to be good for skin health and for lowering blood pressure, too.

Last year’s flax seed is this year’s chia seed. Our focus on the bad boys and good guys of what we eat wax and wane continually. Leading consumer magazines like Eating Well and Cooking Light that focus on nutritious eating are offering a few trends with staying power.

Grains are getting plenty of attention in the media spotlight, but protein-rich quinoa remains strong as an ox. Sales have quadrupled in the last five years, and with a crunchy bite and versatility in soups, salads, pilafs and snacks it shows no sign of going away.

Even those of us without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are staying away from gluten in increasing numbers. Gluten is in flour and other wheat products and well as rye and barley. Many say they just feel better mentally and physically without it. Many bakeries and food manufacturers are stepping up to fill this demand with lots of foods based on alternative flours.

Cooking Light says we’ll fall in love with sour flavors in 2013, like kombucha and kimchi, and to look for sour beers from craft brewers. Eating Well predicts the emergence of adult Jell-O, cake pops and goat meat as hot items in 2013.

So whether new ways to get in shape, new legislation that affects our health care, or trendy foods in the spotlight, 2013 will be a new and interesting era for us, from body strength training, to fines at work for being unhealthy, to sour beer!

 

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