For years, restrictive diets, Instagram influencers, and misinformed trainers have conflated fitness with losing weight and achieving a certain “look.” But more recently, the conversation around fitness started to change, as more people focused on the well-being and mental health benefits of exercise instead of aesthetic goals. The pandemic propelled this shift even more because quarantine and grieving in isolation forced many to see exercise as a form of practicing self-care.
“People are becoming much more aware of fitness being about wellness and not necessarily weight loss. People are taking a holistic approach to health care by evaluating their lifestyle, and fitness is part of that,” says Pete McCall, host of the All About Fitness Podcast and author of Ageless Intensity: High-Intensity Workouts to Slow the Aging Process.
According to Mindbody’s 2022 wellness trends report, which surveyed more than 16,000 Americans, exercise became an outlet for relieving stress and anxiety for many in 2021. The survey showed that 43% of respondents exercise to feel better mentally, and 37% of Americans incorporated a fitness routine to help support their mental well-being.
So if you want to make 2022 the year to transform your health and fitness, the following workout trends can help you find a deeper purpose for making movement a priority in your life. Whether you want to build up some confidence, combat stress and anxiety with good ol’ endorphins, or simply make more time for yourself in the new year, these fitness trends can help you get there.
Hybrid Virtual & In-Person Training
If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that you can essentially work out wherever you are — in or outside of the home. Hybrid training, in which you do a mix of both virtual and in-person workouts, will continue to soar in 2022, especially in light of the recent COVID-19 variants.
In fact, Equinox members who use the Equinox+ app and visit the gym are already working out an additional six times per month than those using the gym alone, says Keith Irace, vice president of group fitness at Equinox.
Studios like CityRow, CorePower Yoga, and Barry’s also offer both on-demand and digital live classes, and FlexIt, a virtual personal training app, connects people to trainers at big-box gyms and fitness franchises, like New York Sports Club, 24-Hour Fitness, Blink Fitness, Physique 57, solidcore, and Gold’s Gym, for one-on-one sessions.
But one aspect of virtual fitness that’s lacking — even for apps and devices with community platforms — is human interaction, and that’s exactly why people are still shuttling into gyms and fitness studios. Connecting with others, whether it’s your trainer or people in your class, during your workouts can help boost your sense of mental and emotional well-being.
According to a 2017 study in the Journal of Osteopathic Medicine, medical students who engaged in group fitness classes reported feeling less stressed and having improved quality of life, including their mental, physical, and emotional health. In addition, a 2018 study in The Lancet Psychiatry found that participating in team sports, including cycling, and aerobic and gym activities, is associated with lower mental health burden.
“I’ve found that we as people crave human interaction and whenever it is safe to do so, we will seek it out. While I did transition specific aspects of my training online, I’ve continued to train clients in person outdoors and while masked,” says Gideon Akande, an iFit trainer. At the same time, Akande says his clients value having the personal training experience at home with apps, like iFit, that stream workouts to your smartphone, a compatible workout device, or your TV.
Morit Summers, author of Big & Bold: Strength Training for the Plus-Size Woman and owner of Form Fitness Brooklyn, a body-positive personal training studio, shifted her business to virtual training during the height of the pandemic. But now that people are returning to the gym, she has resumed her in-person one-on-one sessions. “I do think there’s still hopefully lots of people that really love in-person anything. We thrive off of other people’s energy,” Summers says. “I don’t think personal training and in-person fitness is ever going away, even though the virtual fitness world will definitely continue to grow.”
Working with a trainer or joining a group fitness class in person helps people stay accountable, especially for those who find it challenging to adhere to a workout routine at home.
Going to the gym also gives you more access to fitness equipment and space, which not everyone may have, Irace says.
Whether your 2022 sights are set on running a half-marathon, lifting heavier weights, or just moving more, working with a personal trainer or coach can help you get there. Sure, there’s a time and place for following cookie-cutter workouts, but sometimes real change comes from having personal feedback around your specific exercise needs and lifestyle.
While some might have seen personal training as a splurge in the past, more people are considering virtual personal training or online fitness coaching now because they see it as a way to prioritize their self-care and health, especially if they’ve canceled or put a pause on their gym and group fitness memberships.
“I really think personalized fitness is going to be important and doing workouts that are sustainable. People are smart enough to understand that there are no quick fixes and that they need to find something that they really enjoy doing. They also want to know the reason behind the exercises that they’re doing and how it’s going to help them get to their goals,” says Sal Nakhlawi, a certified functional strength coach and founder of StrongHer Girls, an online health coaching program that provides customized training and nutrition plans, lifestyle guidance, and community.
Over the past year, we’ve seen many trainers expanding their personal-training businesses digitally, offering one-on-one training and customized workout plans, as well as smaller group fitness classes that follow a specific program geared toward honing a certain goal or skill. Training apps like True Coach and Talent Hack have allowed them to do that.
And the numbers show it: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for personal trainers and fitness instructors is projected to grow 39% from 2020 to 2030 — a rate that’s much faster than the average of any other occupation. While the pandemic affected personal trainers’ job prospects, most have been able to adapt and earn more by offering online services, according to a 2021 survey from the Personal Trainer Development Center.
Even digital fitness brands like Kemtai, Peloton, Mirror, Tonal, and Tempo are realizing the demand for more personalized fitness by developing at-home technology that corrects your form, offers feedback, and designs workouts made for your goals.
Shorter, Stackable Workouts
Many of us still mostly work from home and because of that, there’s a greater appreciation for 10-, 15-, 20-, and 30-minute workouts you can easily squeeze in during your lunch break or between Zoom meetings. Apps, including Equinox+, Peloton, Apple Fitness+, obe fitness, and Nike Training Club, have libraries of express workouts that allow you to incorporate more movement into your day.
“Something that I continue to lean into is telling my community to commit to less so you can show up more. My quickie category of five- and 10-minute arms, abs, and butt workouts allows my clients to be able to commit to that. They find that moving for just five minutes can really turn their day around, and it has the mental health component,” says Megan Roup, founder of The Sculpt Society, a dance cardio and sculpting workout app.
Dedicating just five or 10 minutes to moving can give you a mental reset during your day by taking your mind off of stressful, all-consuming tasks. Shorter workouts also help reduce the hassle of making room in your schedule for larger blocks of time to work out.
In addition, shorter workouts give you the freedom to mix up your routine and get a well-rounded workout. Irace says that 40% of Equinox members “class stack”: for example, doing a 15-minute run before a 30-minute strength class.
“My instinct is that many will lean into shorter workouts when they are squeezing something in at home and dedicate themselves to somewhat longer gym visits when they work out in a club or studio,” Irace says. “But clubs would be smart to have classes or workouts of varying durations to allow members to choose what works for them on any given day. More options will be key for 2022.”
During the beginning of the pandemic, many people bought whatever strength-training equipment they could get their hands on. Kettlebells, especially, became an Instagram fitness craze, causing shortages around the country. Fast forward a year and a half later, kettlebells remain the ruler of the weight room — or your home gym — and for good reason.
Kettlebells are some of the most versatile fitness tools because they can be used for both building strength and conditioning. Kettlebell swings, for instance, strengthen your hips, glutes, and core, while challenging your cardiovascular endurance. Plus, kettlebells can be used to mimic everyday functional movements. For example, doing a kettlebell deadlift simulates lifting groceries off the floor.
Fhitting Room, a HIIT-based kettlebell training studio in New York, also recently launched an advanced kettlebells class, where people hone in on their skills and technique while building strength.
“We have a community within our community who are ready to spend less time on basics and focus on perfecting their technique and mastering more advanced kettlebell skills,” says Kari Saitowitz, founder and CEO of Fhitting Room. “Due to their ballistic nature, unique shape, and versatility, kettlebells are perfect for progressive programming.”
Generally, more people are gravitating toward using strength-training equipment, Nakhlawi says. “I definitely see more strength equipment. Not just kettlebells but also adjustable dumbbells, barbells, and an entire squat rack, even in small apartments.”
Why? Besides building muscle and improving strength, lifting weights also boasts some major mental health benefits. According to a 2018 meta-analysis in JAMA Psychiatry, resistance training is associated with reduced depressive symptoms in adults, regardless of health status.
And amid an ongoing pandemic, we could all use workouts that promote a positive mindset and put us in an uplifting mood. If swinging kettlebells or doing barbell deadlifts is going to help us get there, so be it.
The “New” Pilates
According to ClassPass’ 2021 comeback fitness and beauty trends report, Pilates ranked fourth in the most-booked in-person classes. In fact, two-thirds of ClassPass members said that access to Pilates equipment is one of the reasons they’re returning to studios. And thanks to vaccinations, more people are becoming more comfortable working out with others again.
Today, Pilates classes aren’t just taught with the traditional reformer. Studios, such as SLT, Lagree Fitness, solidcore, are offering classes with the megaformer, a machine inspired by the Pilates reformer that includes cables, bars, and handles. ClassPass users attended more than a million megaformer classes in 2019.
At The Fit In Bedford Stuyvesant, a Pilates, barre, and strength training studio aimed at making wellness accessible to underserved communities in Brooklyn, there is a Pilates Reformed fundamentals class, which offers an intro to using the Pilates reformer, tower, and chair. There’s also a Pilates chair fundamentals class, where people can learn how to use this challenging piece of equipment.
“We’ve had to go as far as adding fundamental classes for a number of our class types because we had many new people join us over the last year and wanting to really hone in on their form and technique,” says Ife Obi, founder of The Fit In Bedford Stuyvesant.
The progression of using different types of Pilates equipment has been a great way for members to track their success. “Pilates was originally designed as a way for people to be able to measure their progress. There are moves like the teaser that can be done using different pieces of Pilates equipment to either provide support or a challenge,” Obi explains. “We are really seeing people paying more attention to their growth and celebrating when they can finally do that move they couldn’t before. Months ago, they may have needed the push-through bar on the Pilates tower to help them up into the position, but now they are able to do it on top of the reformer.”
There are plenty of options for people who prefer to work out at home, too. For example, Melissa Wood Tepperberg’s The MHW Method, which is a series of low-impact exercises that combine Pilates and yoga, has become popular.
As more people become interested in low-impact forms of training that incorporate breathing (read: less stress) and focus on improving posture from sitting all day and leading more sedentary lifestyles, Pilates classes are primed for a rebound in 2022.
With fewer commutes to the office and less time spent going out, we are moving less and people are looking for ways to fend off joint tightness and pain from sitting. Cue: mobility training.
“Because you’re sitting all day, you might feel your back or your hips tightening up. I’ve had a lot of clients come to me and say, ‘I really want to work on my mobility. I’m just sitting down all day and not really moving. How can we incorporate that?’” Nakhlawi says.
Mobility work (think: stretches) not only helps relieve tightness in your joints, but it also enhances your workouts because you’re able to move through exercises with a full range of motion. McCall recommends multi-planar lunges for improving hip mobility, for example, especially for those who sit for hours in front of a computer. Cat-cows and good mornings are great for the spine. Aim to do one to three mobility exercises as part of your warmup before a workout, or one to two mobility workouts a week.
“There is also a growing understanding of the importance of adding active recovery into workouts,” Irace says. “It can be a simple activity like foam rolling or more sophisticated approaches to joint mobility and strength, along with reduction of pain and injury prevention. If you love working out and understand the value of it, you want to do it forever.”
Pelvic Floor Training
In terms of building strength, few people make time to improve their pelvic floor — the group of muscles that runs from your pubic bone to your tailbone and from sit bone to sit bone. But paying more attention to these muscles is important because they control your bladder and bowel movements, and play a vital role in breathing and sexual function, says Renee Settle, a P.volve trainer, where they’ve created workouts specially designed for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. It’s also an integral part of core recovery for postpartum women.
“Some of the muscles of the pelvic floor are the coccygeus muscle, pubococcygeus muscle, deep transverse perineal muscle, and the levator ani muscle,” she says. “There are many more muscles that compile the pelvic floor, but beginning with these muscles, activation is important to help support the uterus, bladder, and intestines.”
You can train your pelvic floor with exercises, like glute bridges, marches, heel drags, and squats, that incorporate diaphragmatic breathing. Roup, who created a pre- and post-natal pelvic floor program on The Sculpt Society, includes diaphragmatic breathing exercises in her program to help you contract and relax your pelvic floor, which is essential in keeping it functional.
“The foundation to all exercises and how we move stems from our core and how it connects to your pelvic floor and breathing,” Roup says.
Settle says that incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your routine should be done on a personal basis, as some people need to focus more on strengthening the muscles while others should prioritize releasing the muscles.
Women who have pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth, for example, might need to focus more on strengthening the muscles and should aim to do pelvic floor exercises twice a week, she explains. On the other hand, some people have a hypertonic pelvic floor, which means that their muscles are too tight and need to be released. These people tend to have pain during sex, pelvic pain, and constipation.
“The best way to know what your body needs is to work with a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor to get a proper diagnosis and then you can incorporate strengthening or release as needed,” Settle says.
Outdoor Sports and Workouts
RunRepeat’s 2021 fitness trends report showed that 59.1% of active adults chose outdoor activities as their go-to way to stay fit. Whether it’s walking, hiking, mountain biking, or trail running, outdoor fitness will remain a popular fitness trend in 2022.
“Outdoor exercise, like biking and roller skating, are going to remain popular,” McCall says. “E-bikes, in particular, are great for older adults because they allow them to go farther distances with less effort.”
Last summer, some fitness studios and gyms also hosted outdoor fitness classes to allow those concerned about COVID transmission to work out in a group setting, and we foresee these classes making a comeback during the warmer months.
“The pandemic has forced many to consider where and how they can work out outdoors,” Irace says. “Whether you had to bundle up or stay cool, we got a bit more resilient when it came to being outside. Almost everyone can find a park, a boardwalk, or any available outdoor space to get it done.”