Day after day, Americans are bombarded with bad news about the country’s obesity rates and related negative side effects. Knee replacement surgeries among middle-aged adults increased 2.5-fold over the last decade, due in large part to rising obesity rates, according to recent government data. Obese teens seeking to lose weight still drink a lot of sugary soda and don’t exercise, a Temple University study found.
But according to the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) just-released fitness predictions for 2012, some of these negative trends could be turning around. In fact, a recent Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found improvement in U.S. obesity rates for the first time in more than three years. The report said that more Americans are now normal weight (36.6 percent) than overweight (35.8 percent).
And after ACE surveyed more than 1,500 personal trainers, exercise scientists, group fitness experts, and lifestyle and weight management coaches, the group found some positive attitude shifts among American dieters. For example, although many are still focused on quick weight loss tricks and gimmicks, there’s increasing interest in a long-term lifestyle changes for better health, says ACE exercise physiologist Jessica Matthews, MS.
“People are more focused on a complete picture of wellness, both emotional and physical,” Matthews says. “It’s not just about exercise; there’s really been a shift toward creating the best versions of themselves possible.”
Here’s how else ACE experts expect our approach to fitness and weight loss to change in the New Year.
- Wellness training: Thanks to the average gym rat’s newfound focus on wellness, ACE predicts an uptick in lifestyle coaching — advice not just on workout routines and techniques, but on healthy eating, stress relief, and more. And you might not have to travel farther than your gym for the extra support: ACE found that fitness facilities are hiring more nutritionists and physical therapists to serve the expanding needs of their members.
- Tech-fueled workouts: In 2011, personal logging devices such as FitBit, BodyMedia, and Nike Plus were the must-have fitness accessories to track workouts and share training successes with social networks. Whether you want to simply log calories with an app like Everyday Health’s My Calorie Counter or share your 5K training progress with your friends on Twitter, ACE predicts that technology-powered exercise will continue to be hot in 2012.
Personal training is also going high tech. ACE believes that more trainers will use technology to provide remote one-on-one or small group training, whether through uploading workout videos to YouTube or their personal sites, using software to view and track a client’s workout and nutritional information, or tweeting daily tips. Fitness facilities are getting savvier, too, creating more online, interactive fitness plans for their members.
- Small-group training: Are you a Zumba dance fanatic? Love your local gym’s intense-but-effective boot camp class? ACE says that small-group classes such as Zumba, boot camp, TRX suspension training, and interval training will continue to be popular workout trends in 2012. Matthews says these classes are further evidence of a long-term shift toward workouts that emphasize core, balance, and stability, as opposed to more traditional cardio and weight training.
- Weight loss support at work: You might not have a corporate gym, but ACE found that office wellness initiatives like team walking challenges or that Biggest Loser-style weight-loss competitions will be hot in 2012. A survey of 1,200 employers found that companies spent an average of $200 on wellness incentives per employee — anything from wellness competitions and prizes to gym memberships — in 2010, up 35 percent from $163 in 2009, and experts predict that number will continue to rise. ACE predicts that more business owners will provide discounts to outside fitness facilities and health clubs.
- Fighting fad diets: Although ACE has seen great progress in diet and fitness education, Matthews says the average dieter still believes the best way to lose weight is through a restrictive or fad diet. As part of ACE’s efforts to combat this approach, the organization is providing better tools for trainers to help clients set healthier goals and stay motivated without crash diets. ACE also introduced a lifestyle and weight management coaching certification to help dieters understand what it takes to achieve long-term weight loss results.