The end of the year is almost upon us! As we look forward to 2018, let’s take a pause to reflect on everything we learned this year. With technology changes, increased understanding of how our bodies work, and a wider focus on consuming better, healthier foods, it’s been quite a year for health and nutrition. Here’s a rundown of the top trends.
Technology was at the forefront of wellness in 2017. With everything from step counters to wellness apps to devices that help monitor your posture, technology is changing the way we view fitness and wellness. There are so many avenues for workout routines, health and wellness tracking and better awareness of our health as a whole.
The most obvious of these is wearable technology. With more options and better pricing, wearable technology like FitBits, Apple Watches and beyond are everywhere. These handy devices can provide important health indicators, such as steps walked, hours slept, and heart rate increases that may, indicate stress. Consumers are using wearable technology at increasing rates and they are helping users to gain more knowledge about their own health.
Wellness apps continue to be a strong trend in 2017. From calorie counters to daily challenge fitness apps to more robust diet and exercise programs, apps are a great way to make sure we get in our daily workouts and are being held accountable for what we consume. Most apps prompt users with gentle reminders to stick to their healthy routines. They often pair with wearable technology, creating a full picture of a user’s wellness. Popular apps include MyFitnessPal, ActiveX, PEAR Personal Coach, and DietBet.
Another big trend in fitness technology this year has been online subscriptions to workout videos, nutritional information and recipes, and more. These services are becoming increasingly popular and are often being chosen over a traditional gym. Many of these services offer customizations, give feedback on diet and exercise routines best for you, and offer the ability to work out from wherever, whenever. The freedom of access combined with the bent toward having more of a personal trainer and less of a typical workout video has definitely led to high adoption rates. Some of the popular services include Kenzai, iBodyFit, Daily Burn, and FitnessGlo.
With fitness trackers connecting with phones and a large portion of our workouts being tracked by apps, it is easier than ever to share our progress with the people we know. It is now quite popular to share completed workouts, and post photos of weight loss progress and healthy meals consumed through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. A recent study by Nature Communications found that exercise is contagious. The study looked at five years of data from over 1 million runners. Participants used an app and then shared their runs via a social media platform. Their friends would then be able to see how far they ran that day. Being able to see what their friends were doing did increase motivation. It led more users to go running more frequently, and often increased the distance they ran.
In addition, there has been an increase in social challenges through online communities based around certain trainers, apps, and fitness trackers. Facebook challenge groups have become a popular way to engage in a fitness challenge. These groups can keep participants motivated because there is a whole community of people doing the same. The challenges are often anywhere from 7 to 30 days, and require participants to maintain healthy eating or daily fitness–or some combination of the two. There is even an app now, inKin, that allows you to set up challenges with your friends and family.
Group workout classes have also become more popular due to the increased focus on social fitness. There are so many courses available at gyms, community centers, and private training facilities. These classes can be anything from HIIT to spinning to yoga. Taking these courses with a friend increases accountability and gets you to class more frequently.
Social fitness has really taken off in the workplace. Businesses are now incentivizing healthy and active lifestyles from their employees. Some workplaces are subsidizing everything from fitness trackers to gym memberships for their employees. Others are creating in-office challenges like who can walk the most steps per week or longer 30 day challenges based on activity levels. Workplaces are also increasing encouraging group participation in events like mud runs or paint bomb races. These fun social events encourage activity, get people working out in advance, and promote an overall healthy workplace.
Many people get extremely focused on the number on the scale, counting calories regularly and waiting for that number to drop. But a new trend in 2017 has been to focus on other aspects of healthy living, instead of focusing on losing weight. By focusing on goals like increasing water consumption or increasing fiber intake, people are making healthy lifestyle choices that are likely to help them lose weight as a side benefit. By making better choices, healthy routines become engrained and chances for weight loss are boosted.
Here are a few of the common ways to “trick” yourself into dieting. There are many studies that show that increased water consumption can aid weight loss. Research shows that drinking more water increases calories burned. A study done by Humboldt University in Berlin Germany showed that resting energy expenditure, known as thermogenesis, increases calories burned by 24-30% after drinking 16 ounces of water. Obviously, drinking water has a lot of other health benefits such as nicer skin, improved memory function, joint lubrication, healthy bowel function, and better digestion.
Another trick is to increase fiber in your diet. Fiber helps you to feel full without consuming an increase in food. Fiber fills your stomach and tells your brain it’s time to stop eating. Studies have found that people whose only change to their diet is an increase in fiber lose as much weight as people eating a heart healthy diet. Soluble fibers are the best for weight loss, as they bind with water and form a gel that sits in your gut. This slows down the movement of food through your system, which results in a prolonged feeling of fullness. A few foods that contain soluble fiber are raspberries, avocados, pears, oatmeal and wheat barley. Other reasons to increase your fiber? Improved bowel health, lower cholesterol levels, and more stable blood sugar levels.
Another trick is to focus on getting enough sleep each and every night. Proper sleep is important for so many reasons–improved concentration and energy levels, reduced risk of heart disease, improved immune function, and reduced stress. Sleep also impacts weight. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, but ⅓ of Americans, according to the CDC, get less than that. Lack of sleep negatively impacts weight due to a plethora of factors including hormonal impacts, motivation to exercise, and appetite regulation. People who get proper sleep tend to eat less. Being well rested will positively impact your life, and can lead to weight loss.
In 2017, eating sustainably became a priority for many. It is a top of mind issue as we look for ways to take better care of the environment and ourselves. Sustainable eating is defined as diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations. These diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, and safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources Food production and consumption are responsible for 19-29% of the human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, 60% of the terrestrial biodiversity loss, and 70% of freshwater use, according to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition. These are significant environmental impacts.
So, how can you eat more sustainably? First, buy local. Why? It’s more nutritious. As soon as fruits and veggies are picked, they begin to lose nutrients. Produce that came from nearby will have more nutritional benefits. You are also eating more seasonally and supporting your local community. Next, eat less meat. The production of meat strains the ecosystem and uses more resources than plant based foods. Switching out meat as the main course a few times a week is healthy for your heart and body and helps the environment.
A huge step is to waste less food. In the United States, around 25% of the food we buy goes to waste, and the majority of that is fruits and veggies, dairy and meat. Better meal planning, more thoughtful review of what you have and what you need before you go to the store, and reduction of impulse buys can help you to waste less food. Another way to have a positive impact is by joining a CSA. CSAs, community supported agriculture, are organizations that pull together produce, dairy, and meat from local farms and sell them in a weekly box. These are also a great way to acquire healthy food items from within your region. Another way food is wasted is through the removal of produce that doesn’t meet certain standards ofbased on appearancecosmetic blemishes, otherwise known as “ugly” fruits or vegetables. This means produce that is too small, oddly shaped, off color, or has too many blemishes is thrown out. Culling happens at the farm or grocery store, and a lot of food is wasted by this process. Now, there are stores or organizations that are starting to sell this produce at reduced prices. The fruits and veggies are just as good as their pretty counterparts, but just less visually appealing. Buying these items will reduce food bills and help to reduce food waste as well.
The gut microbiome is something researchers are continuing to study and learn more about with each passing year. Microbiomes are microorganisms that live in a particular environment, and in our bodies these microbiomes make up communities of bacteria, along with fungi and viruses. While we don’t typically think “healthy” when we think of bacteria, in our gut, there are many healthy bacterias that aid a good number of processes. A healthy microbiome plays a variety of roles in the human body, including providing immune support, inhibiting the colonization of harmful pathogens, breaking down indigestible carbohydrates, synthesizing vitamins, moderating mood and cognition, and metabolizing nutrients.
The number one way to improve your gut microbiome is through probiotics. Probiotics are found most commonly in yogurt, kefir, and miso. You can now also get them in supplement form. Probiotics aid digestive health, urinary health, the immune system, and can actually aid weight loss. A 2006 study by Stanford University, found that obese people had different gut bacteria than normal-weighted people — a first indication that gut flora plays a role in overall weight.
Beyond consuming foods with probiotics or taking supplements, there are some other ways to keep your gut flora healthy. First, eat a high fiber diet. For probiotics to thrive, they need a constant supply of prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that are indigestible and act as food for and stimulate growth of probiotics. Make sure you limit sugar. High sugar intake can quickly impact the health of the microbiome. Also, watch the fat. High fat diets have the same negative impacts as high sugar diets on your gut health.
2017 has been a year of increased knowledge in many areas. There have been technological improvements to give us greater understanding of our own health, and have more agency over it. Finding workouts we like is easier, and socialization and challenges are making exercise more enjoyable. Our focus has been turned to not just losing weight, but living a healthy overall lifestyle that will benefit usin a multitude of ways. Eating local and sustainable foods, as well as paying attention to our gut health, also play into our healthy lifestyles. It’s been quite a year of growth and learning. 2018 will surely only bring more!