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Healthy New Year! Food and exercise tips for 2014

Healthy New Year! Food and exercise tips for 2014

What does 2014 have in store for our approach to health and well-being? Read on to discover some of the trends being predicted by exercise and nutrition experts.

Whether your Christmas has been recklessly indulgent or impressively restrained, there's no time like the start of a new year for spending some time thinking about your health and fitness. Of course any kind of fad needs to be treated with some degree of caution – whether that's in the domain of exercise, nutrition or fashion – but exploring new trends may just be the kick-start to your motivation that you need in order to make 2014 a happy and healthy year.

So what new trends have health and fitness experts been predicting for the New Year? Read on – you might just find something to inspire you!

Fitness and exercise

It's not an entirely new thing but a continuation of a trend born out of our busy, 24/7 lifestyles: Shorter and/or more intense workouts are increasingly replacing the 30-minutes-5-times-a-week standard. Since it seems to be possible to achieve the same benefits for strength, stamina and weight loss in less time following this approach, there's every reason to suppose that it will continue to increase in popularity. Consider these examples:

  • Fusion fitness: Rather than having separate sessions to focus on strength, balance and cardiovascular fitness, more and more gyms are now offering a fusion fitness approach. The form that this fusion takes varies – you might find yoga combined with weight lifting, spinning interspersed with Pilates, or even stretching and balance exercises taken from classical ballet combined with high impact aerobics.
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT): Again, this can take various forms. In some instances, it means simply spending less time exercising harder – look out for gyms offering short, maximum intensity exercise classes that you can easily fit into a lunch break. Other experts recommend a schedule of maximum exertion for just a few period interspersed with short periods of rest. One hot trend in this area is Tabata, a workout based on the HIIT framework that incorporates principles developed by Japanese scientists training professional athletes.

Another strong fitness trend for 2014 is a focus on strength and stability. It looks like our longstanding obsession with lengthy cardio training is finally coming to an end. Instead, we're being advised to focus on our muscle strength, particularly our core muscles. And there's no need to reach for those kettle bells, either – the weight of your own body is plenty to develop your strength. Look out for body weight training and core strength exercise classes at your local gym.

Fitness in 2014 is all about our unique requirements as individuals, whatever our age and fitness level. For example, functional fitness approaches focus on strength training exercises that make activities of daily life easier. At the other end of the age spectrum, more attention than ever before is being given to our children's health and fitness both at school and at home. Finally, Personal trainers are getting creative during these economically straitened times, offering small group sessions that make an individually-tailored fitness programme more affordable and enjoyable for everyone.

Diet and nutrition

One approach to diet and nutrition that was hot in 2013 and shows no signs of abating in popularity is the paleo (also “primal” or “caveman”) diet. Its focus on whole, unprocessed foods and intense suspicion of grains – particularly wheat – and dairy is set to dominate our approach to healthy eating and weight loss alike for another year. Consequently, more and more of us are turning to “ancient grains” such as quinoa and spelt as an alternative to wheat. We are losing our suspicion of fat, realising the health potentials of everything from avocado oil to good old-fashioned butter, and eschewing low-fat food products. If you haven't already experienced the health benefits of this way of eating, perhaps 2014 could be the year to give it a go...

The other big continuing trend in the area of food and nutrition is intermittent fasting. Eating very little for 2 days a week and normally the rest of the time appears to have surprising health benefits, including weight loss, improved energy levels and better sleep. And the fact that it is cheap and straightforward chimes with the continuing atmosphere of economic austerity.

Finally, and much harder to predict, 2014 is bound to see its fair share of food heroes and villains. In 2013, hot chocolate, butter, broccoli, garlic and nuts were all hailed as health food for various reasons. This year... who knows?

Out with the old, in with the new?

It looks like 2014 might be a year for building on the old, rather than replacing it with new ideas entirely, whether that's in the domain of fitness and exercise or diet and nutrition. This is a good sign, really – it indicates that our overall approach to health and wellbeing is becoming less based on passing, often outlandish fads and more on well thought-out, scientifically credible ideas backed up by empirical evidence.