If you’ve vowed to lose some weight or improve your fitness this year, you’re in good company.
January is a time many people sign up for exercise classes or gym memberships.
And according to a recent survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will be a popular choice for those wanting to improve their fitness this year.
“HIIT typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery, and typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform, although it is not uncommon for these programs to be much longer in duration,” Walter Thompson, PhD, president of the American College of Sports Medicine, told Healthline.
“Despite the warnings by some fitness professionals of potentially increased injury rates using HIIT, this form of exercise has been popular in gyms all over the world,” he added.
Health officials have recommended adults partake in either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week, such as brisk walking or playing tennis, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as jogging or swimming laps.
An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity is also possible.
The Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018 surveyed 4,000 fitness professionals to forecast fitness trends for the year.
Motivation and minimums
Coming in behind HIIT, group training is also expected to be a popular choice for the year.
Thompson says group training can be particularly helpful for those who need some support in achieving their fitness goals. But not everyone requires this.
“Some people need that kind of motivation, others can simply decide to go for a walk or a daily jog. I’ve been going on a morning walk/jog since 1978 and never have joined a gym. My motivation is intrinsic, I know it’s good for me. While others need extrinsic motivation. That motivation is provided by others like a trainer or coach,” he said.
Dr. David Smith is an associate professor of sports medicine at the University of Kansas. He says when commencing a fitness program, it’s best to start with something simple that is easy to stick with.
“Anything is better than nothing. At least starting with a walking program, doing some gentle stretching and simple strength exercises are a great way to start. Usually, people find that once they get moving they start feeling better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Hopefully that motivates them to keep going and perhaps add to their basic fitness program,” Smith told Healthline.
He says it’s important to be realistic and to not be limited to just one form of exercise.
“I counsel my patients to try and initiate something they know they can stick with for at least a year and try to avoid using the scale as a measure of health and fitness. Also, if they ‘diversify’ their program to include a number of different types of exercises and/or alternating exercise, they are less likely to get burned out or get injured,” he said
Does tech help?
According to the survey, wearable technology such as heart rate monitors, fitness trackers, and smart watches are predicted to be popular in 2018.
But experts warn that those just starting on a fitness journey may be overwhelmed by too much technology, or may find themselves using something that is unreliable.
“This technology varies tremendously from simple accelerometers to wearable garments with multiple features. The low-end data is highly unreliable in quantifying calories and heart rate, and generally results in a large proportion of users disengaging within six months,” Fabio Comana, an instructor at the National Academy of Sports Medicine, told Healthline.
“The more advanced devices offer all sorts of bells and whistles, which is great for the advanced end user, but perhaps overwhelming for the average user,” he added.
Comana argues that devices that track steps may actually prove counterproductive in that if a person reaches their daily goal early in the day, they may slack off for the rest of the day. Similarly, step counters are not helpful in developing a sustainable behavior.
“People should walk because they see value or enjoyment in walking and not because they are driven by a goal to reach 10,000 steps,” he said.
How to stick with it
Although many people start the year with good intentions towards exercise, most have failed to stick with their goals after three months.
Smith says it is crucial for an individual to determine their goals and what motivates them to continue. It’s often not necessary to spend much to achieve these goals.
“A lot of money is spent on fitness center memberships, home exercise equipment, and wearable technology, which then go unused,” he said.
Setting reasonable short- and long-term goals, keeping a fitness log, and utilizing an accountability partner like a spouse, friend, or personal trainer are ways Smith says will help achieve fitness goals.
Most importantly, Thompson says, attaining physical fitness requires patience and commitment.
“Physical fitness takes time and patience. It is not a drug that gives immediate relief from a medical condition. Exercise is medicine, and, when taken in the proper doses, can help prevent an array of medical conditions. But you have to be committed to it. There is no better way to start the new year than a commitment to personal health and wellness which includes a regular diet of exercise,” he said.