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The 2010s were a busy decade for health, fitness and wellness. Going to the gym is now for everyone, not just for those who want to get super hench; Ironman triathlons and ultramarathons have become more accessible, with photos of breastfeeding mothers at rest stops going viral; and everyone seems to know more than ever about nutrition, with many subscribing to one of the nutrition camps that have been popular over the past few years.
But with the new decade comes the potential of new trends. Will we have learned from our wellness mistakes of the 2010s, or will it be more of the same? Read on to find out what I think the main themes of the 2010s were and what I think will replace them in the ’20s!
From 1 million users in 2010 to 1 billion users in 2018, Instagram’s growth in the last decade has been exponential. It’s also seen rise to the term “influencer” which has become a bona fide job role for a select few, some of whom have abused this power, particularly in the fitness industry. Qualified Personal Trainers, sports scientists and other fitness professionals became indistinguishable from those with zero qualifications posting workouts and spreading facts, with a sprinkle of advertisements from brands ranging from innocuous to downright untrustworthy. Natural Cycles was one of the most worrying influencer campaigns of the 2010s with the most recent all from grace being the BBC’s ‘poison drink’ sting, plus an October 2019 report claiming that 96% of the general public don’t trust influencers. Social media use is still growing, though, so where do we go from here?
There’s a new type of influencer in town, and they’re extremely knowledgeable about their niche, and probably have Dr. in front of their names. If you’d have asked me about endometriosis a year ago, I’d have barely been able to tell you what it was; now I can reel off a list of facts with thanks to Dr. Anita Mitra’s Gynae Geek Instagram account. I also often recommend people follow Dr Jacob Harden, Dr Nadolsky, Dr Chatterjee and Dr Wolrich – some are GPs, some are experts in their field, but none make sweeping statements and they certainly don’t advertise products that could be harmful to your health.
Are you keto, vegan, or LCHF? I can guarantee that before 2010 you barely heard these terms mentioned, if at all. Much of the decade was dominated by whether your food was “clean” or not – although this term still doesn’t seem to have a clear definition, it was whether your food was from whole sources, without any added sugar, salt or fat, or being processed. Funny that things like maple syrup and coconut oil were recommended, being pure sugar and fat, respectively. Since then tribes have emerged, all with opposing beliefs to the others, but all claiming to be the healthiest way to eat. These diets may have helped people and they’re desperately wanting to help others in the same way, but the arguments between the tribes can be very confusing.
I can only see the trend of being resolutely part of a diet tribe getting even bigger, with nutrition spats on Twitter seemingly on the rise and big-budget films presenting biased information about nutrition, funded by those with vested interests in particular nutrition categories. I don’t claim to be a nutrition expert nor do I know the answer to what is the best diet for you, but I do think that diet tribes will succeed in alienating those who simply want to improve their and their childrens’ health, but don’t feel like they can do due to a knowledge or money barrier. Chef Jack Munroe is working hard to make a difference here, with her book Cooking on a Bootstrap featuring over 100 healthy recipes on a budget.
CrossFit has seen massive growth in the 2010s, along with ultramarathons, and Ironman races, with obstacle course racing being a big trend mid-decade. All different ways of training, but all share some common features: they involve training at high intensity or for long periods of time and have a strong community element. As someone who was very much into those two elements, I know that the burning in my lungs and the fast beat of my heart helped me escape my day-to-day and helped me forge connections with others where they were lacking in the rest of my life. I had some incredible experiences as part of high intensity fitness communities, but I became weary of not progressing as I expected so much of myself – in training, in work, and in my social life. I had to prioritise what was really important to me in life.
There will always be those who want to compete in sports like CrossFit and marathon running, of course, and if you have a big goal like that then you will have to follow a training plan plus commit a lot of time and energy to your sport, as well as dedicating the rest of your lifestyle to recovery and nourishment. However, there has been a realisation of late that actually, you don’t always need these massive goals, you don’t have to be competitive at anything and you don’t need to batter your body – you can get the benefits of fitness by just moving in a way you enjoy. Tally Rye’s new book release, Train Happy, is a nice read on this subject, and Dr Chatterjee’s Feel Better In 5 outlines some strategies to add in enjoyable movement to your day, but really this trend should be the easiest of all to follow. Stick to government guidelines to keep your body healthy, but choose exactly how you want to do it, whether that be running, strength training, dancing, or climbing.
Early in the decade, it’d only be absolute top runners in your club who took things very seriously that had a TomTom or Garmin with GPS that could track their runs. If you were well into it, you might have had a huge, bright pink Polar watch with matching chest band to track your heart rate and calories during your BODYCOMBAT session (I had a “sportswatch” from Aldi that was supposed to track heartrate, but really only served as a stopwatch). Throughout the decade wearable technology became more accessible and sophisticated, and is much more about holistic wellness now than calories burned. Step tracking is still important of course – but not as important as it was mid-decade when you tried to beat everyone on your friends list in the Workweek Hustle – but knowing your resting heartrate and how well you’re sleeping have taken precedence.
It may have felt like wearable tech peaked in the 2010s but I feel like we haven’t seen everything yet. The wearable market is expected to grow 18% in the years up to 2023, the current market including wearables to track not only movement (even swimming – you can check out the best swimming watches of 2020 here) but also your recovery, giving you evidence-based advice on how you should train, rest and eat, as the fast-growing WHOOP strap does. Interesting developments that could lend themselves easily to fitness are a wearable that improves human reflexes and trains people on various tasks, being dveeloped by the University of Chicago, and a wearable headband showcased at CES 2020 which enables you to change TV channel or control a character in a game simply by focusing on it. Whether this is developed into a new type of fitness gadget or whether it makes us lazier remains to be seen.
International phenomena Barry’s, F45, and Orangetheory all became super popular this decade, with London-born brands FRAME, 1Rebel, Psycle and Blok all hot on their heels. These studios tend to be smaller spaces, focusing on a couple of different fitness concepts, and can be very expensive. Yes, you’re paying for a great exercise class, but you’re also paying for a luxury changing facilities, specialist toiletry products, central locations, and the feeling that you’re entering an exclusive club. Although the pricetag isn’t accessible, boutique studios has opened up fitness to those who prefer comfort over the spit-and-sawdust of a strength gym or being exposed to the elements with a run or outdoor bootcamp.
Whilst the boutique fitness market is still strong, life is only getting more demanding for all of us, and whilst we might love the luxe hair straighteners and cooled towels in our local studio it’s not always the most convenient to get there. Some providers have spotted this opportunity and begun to create boutique-styled, seemingly personalised fitness experiences for us at home. Peloton may have been under fire just before Christmas thanks to its controversial advert, dropping $942m in stock value over a single day, but this was following a 48% increase the month before and this drop still took them to much higher than they were before. They’re due to release further fitness equipment in 2020, further opening up opportunity for home training. Fiit are another subscription-based home service taught by almost-household names with a much smaller barrier to entry – most classes are equipment-free and the subscription is just £10-20 a month, with a completely free option too.
Whilst virtual reality fitness is still in its early stages, I can only see this following the same trajectory as wearable tech, becoming more affordable and more interesting as the decade wears on. As people become more aware of the benefits of nature, VR will be able to take even the deepest city-dweller for a trail run as easily as putting a headset on.
#StrongNotSkinny became the backlash to 2000s culture, when celebrity women were celebrated or ridiculed on the covers of weekly magazines for their weight fluctuations. During the 2010s we realised that picking up a dumbbell does not immediately make you bulky, just as going for one run doesn’t make you skinny or eating a burger makes you large. Though well-meaning, the phrase was troublesome, as it still attempted to shame a certain body type.
Though you might hear the phrase “burn the fat” in a commercial gym, many fitness providers are waking up to the fact that we don’t want to be told that our spin class will burn off the excesses of our weekend anymore. A 2020s trend that I so desperately want to see grow is that people train primarily for the non-aesthetic benefits, like heart function, bone health, and overall fitness and wellbeing. How your body looks might change, but it also might not, although it will definitely be healthier on the inside. You can be a part of this change by supporting fitness providers who use body neutral, health-related language, and praising yourself on how strong you’re becoming, as opposed to how many calories you’ve burned in a session.
What were your favourite fitness trends of the 2010s? Which of these make you roll your eyes? I’m going to end this with the absolute eye-roll pièce de résistance of the 2010s, the Squat Magic: “the original, revolutionary squat assistant that helps you squat with ease”. I can’t wait to see what revolutionary equipment, classes, diets and technology the 2020s brings us!
Welcome to That Squat Bot, established 2013! I'm Sarah, a fitness professional based in Manchester, UK.
I love feeling strong and lifting heavy, but I also love trying different types of movement and using my fitness to adventure outside of the gym. I'm also a massive Marvel nerd!Find out more about me here.
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