Understanding the Top Fitness Trends of 2017

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Chicago Daily Herald


2017 might be winding down, but there's still plenty of time to try some of the year's biggest (and most interesting) fitness trends. From wearable technology to increased participation in group exercise classes to a rise in using the great outdoors as a backdrop for your fitness routine, one thing is for sure - there's no one size fits all approach to health and exercise.

Industry leaders like The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have been tracking worldwide fitness trends for over a decade. ACSM's "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017," identified the top 20 trends across multiple areas of the industry including community health, commercial, corporate, and clinical (including medical fitness) spaces.

While many of the trends from 2016 carried over to 2017, two newcomers made the list: group exercise programs and Exercise is Medicine, a global initiative that encourages physicians to refer their patients to exercise professionals and to incorporate physical activity into patients' treatment plans.

Whether you're looking to wearable tech to track your progress or help motivate you to achieve your fitness goals or you're interested in experimenting with the latest workout crazes, there's a trend out there to match your needs. Check out five of the top 20 fitness trends below and see how you can incorporate them into your health and wellness routine.

1 Wearable technology

ACSM ranked wearable technology as the No. 1 trend in 2017. Devices that track fitness and activity such as Fitbit and the Apple Watch are certainly largely accountable for wearable tech commanding the top spot, but trackers aren't the only technology driving this trend. The use of smart fabrics and interactive textiles are on the rise as well, with this slice of the sector bringing in nearly $3 billion in sales this year. Invest in a fitness tracker to monitor step count, exercise, and sleep habits. Trackers like Fitbit also let users input their daily water intake and what they had for meals and snacks to monitor the nutrition side of the fitness equation as well.

2 Body weight training

Using your own body weight as a training tool took the No. 2 spot on ACSM's survey. Developing this type of workout routine is relatively easy and very inexpensive since you'll need little to no equipment. A body weight workout can even be done in the comfort of your own home, no gym membership required. Think planks, push-ups, burpees, squats, and crunches. "A plank is probably the best overall because you're working your entire body in this position," said Faith Anne Wade, owner of Pure Barre Kildeer-Deer Park.

3 Group exercise

Sweating together, whether during a spin, Zumba, or step class, has been has been popular for decades, but 2017 is the first time this trend broke into the top 20 on ACSM's survey, coming in at No. 6. "It's great to have other people doing it with you to encourage you and keep you motivated," said Wade. "It takes the guesswork out of what you should do to get a good workout because the instructors put you through it." Your local gym is likely to offer cycling, step, and other cardio classes, but exercise enthusiasts are also turning to boutique studios to meet their fitness needs. Consider signing up for ballet-inspired classes with The Barre Code or Pure Barre studios that are popping up across the suburbs - Wade is opening another Pure Barre studio in Vernon Hills next fall - or spice up your spin routine by trying a class at SoulCycle. For a heart-rate monitored high-intensity workout, pop over to your nearest Organgetheory location. With over 30 studios in Illinois and more set to open soon, it won't be hard to find a class near you!

4 Yoga

There's more than one way to practice downward dogs and swan dives, which is why yoga continues to be a popular fitness activity. With classes designed for rank beginners to advanced courses for longtime students, yoga can be modified to meet just about anyone's fitness level. "Besides the physical aspect, which is only a small portion of what yoga is, it helps you become more balanced in your mind and your body," said Katie O'Shaughnessy, yoga teacher and owner of Katie O. Yoga & Health Coaching. "It gives you better body awareness. Knowing what's going on in your body and knowing if there's a change from day to day makes you a little more aware of any potential issues down the road regarding your health." Many studios offer hot yoga, Hatha yoga, or Vinyasa yoga, but some places offer interesting variations like aerial yoga or stand up paddle board yoga. Aerial yoga blends traditional yoga poses and aerial acrobatics that students perform while suspended by a silk hammock. Try your hand at stand up paddle board yoga for possibly the most challenging (and fun) experience of all and one that's great for strengthening your stabilizer muscles. "It really helps with balance and overall body strength. When you go from the SUP board to the mat you feel so much more balanced there because you've been cultivating those deep muscles," said O'Shaughnessy, who teaches SUP yoga on Bangs Lake in Wauconda in the summer.

5 Outdoor activities

Using the great outdoors as a way to sweat and be fit is making a comeback. Hiking, kayaking, and biking, are all ways to get fit outside. You don't have to live in the mountains or near the ocean to take advantage of exercising in the open air. Bike or run in your neighborhood instead of using the stationary bike or treadmill. Your local forest preserve is also a great place to start exercising outdoors. For those who enjoy hiking, plan a trip to Starved Rock State Park to enjoy 13 miles of well-marked trails. Whether you're an avid yogi or devoted cyclist, what's important is that you move your body on a consistent basis. There's an unlimited amount of fun and challenging ways to sweat - you just need to find the one that's right for you.

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October 2, 2017


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