These 2021 Health Trends Will Boost Our Wellness This Year

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything about our daily lives. 2020 was a year of quarantining, practicing social distancing, wearing masks and navigating the major uncertainty that threw things into a state of chaos and confusion. It was also a year of physical, mental and emotional challenges that have traveled with us into 2021.

The pandemic upended many of the ways we approach fitness and overall wellness, doing everything from making gym-based workouts nearly impossible to sparking a renewed focus on the importance of mental health care. And these changes have led to some new health trends that we’re looking forward to diving into. As the pandemic continues, we’re adapting to new ways of life, particularly when it comes to improving or maintaining our overall health. That’s reflected in these major health trends that will continue to rise in 2021.

Protecting Our Mental and Emotional Health

There’s been a renewed focus on mental and emotional health in recent years — but it rightfully became a primary focus for many of us in 2020. Being in the house during quarantine, especially for those who live alone, has been tough — and that’s not to mention the other stressors that many of us have experienced, from losing loved ones to worrying about joblessness. The pandemic has caused its own different type of stress, and dealing with that anxiety will become an even more important focus as the health crisis endures.

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While a traditional way of getting help — visiting a therapist’s office — wasn’t so accessible, we’re continuing to find other ways to cope with mental health challenges. Apps like Calm and Headspace exist to help us learn stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness, breathing exercises and meditation routines that promote improved emotional intelligence. Other apps and sites like BetterHelp have given us online connections to skilled therapists and counselors so we can talk through our issues and get real solutions to start feeling better. These resources will remain important throughout 2021 and well into the future.

Micro-Tracking Our Fitness Levels

As people look to learn more about how exercise changes their bodies, micro-tracking various biometrics has become a vital part of giving us a deep look into our daily habits. Brands like Fitbit and Apple created fitness-tracking watches and other devices that collect data on daily steps taken, calories burned and other physiological attributes. MyFitnessPal and other apps help us track our food and nutrients with the touch of a button.

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This trend will continue to rise in 2021 as these apps and watches undergo updates to deliver even more data for consumers. For example, the new Fitbit Sense now tracks skin temperature, and the Apple Watch Series 6 has a blood oxygen sensor. It's more data than we even knew we needed, but, now that we can get it, we're definitely going to use it.

Ayurveda Becoming More Mainstream

Another rising trend in health and wellness is the growing adoption of principles from the holistic treatment modality called Ayurveda. This treatment originated in India, where it’s been used for thousands of years. Ayurveda promotes a healthy balance between the mind, body and spirit with a focus on getting to the root causes of wellness disruptions using natural treatments and health routines.

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People who regularly practice Ayurveda use herbs and natural compounds, yoga and lifestyle modifications to prevent illness and heal other ailments. With our focus shifting more toward natural and in-home treatments these days, Ayurveda will likely continue to rise in 2021 and beyond.

Exercising in the Open Air

While some of us may still feel uncomfortable about being around others in the gym, we’re learning not to feel afraid to exercise outside — while following proper social distancing guidelines, of course. Many of us have continued to walk, jog and even participate in outdoor fitness classes that are allowing us to get and stay fit while staying safe. Plus, outdoor workouts allow us to get out of the house and get some fresh air.

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A trends report from ClassPass stated that there was a 400% increase in the number of outdoor classes being offered by gym studios in 2020. It’s anticipated that outdoor classes will continue to be a big trend in 2021, as many of us are finding that we prefer the freedom, sights and sounds during workouts in the great outdoors.

A Digital/In-Person Hybrid Fitness Model

At the start of the 2020 pandemic, many gyms across America shut down. Home workouts became the norm. However, working out at home doesn't quite work for everyone. Much like schools are experimenting with in-person and virtual-learning hybrid programs for students, many of us are also testing the waters — or have fully embraced exercising at home — by combining in-person and digital or home-based workouts.

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ClassPass also predicts that digital workouts will continue to be popular simply based on their convenience. However, 92% of the professionals ClassPass surveyed are hoping to return to fitness studios and gyms in 2021 at some point. But just 40% are planning to return exclusively to in-studio workouts when they feel safe to do so, suggesting that a majority of those surveyed will continue to enjoy digital or home-based workouts even after returning to the gym.

The Rise of "Snackable" Workouts

"Snackable" workouts continue to be a big hit. People are exercising for shorter amounts of time throughout the day instead of focusing on one hour-long workout. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, doing several short workouts throughout the day and week is just as effective as doing one long workout — as long as those minutes add up to between 150 and 300 each week. A part of these bite-size workouts includes a focus on high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which consists of shorter workouts with short moments of intensity and brief moments of active rest to burn more fat.

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If you’re quite busy during the day, these bite-sized workouts are a trend that’ll be helpful during and after the pandemic. As long as you get in a few pockets of exercise a day, you can still burn the same number of calories and enjoy the wellness benefits that come with regular workouts.

Sleep Care as Self-Care

In recent years — and especially during this pandemic — you might’ve started hearing people say that "sleep-care is the new self-care." The mentality of "grinding while others sleep," meaning you’re still pushing yourself to get things done, even if it comes at a cost to your wellbeing, is quickly dying. Sleep is consistently, scientifically proven to be vital for increased productivity and focus during the day, which is even more important while many of us are still working from home.

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It’s not just the amount of sleep you get per night that matters, either. The quality of your sleep is also critical. Keeping your bedtime routine consistent — which can include adding sleep sounds, cutting off electronics an hour before you go to sleep and sticking to an actual bedtime — is key. Quality sleep time is going to continue to be important in 2021 as we push through this pandemic.

Getting the Entire Family Involved

Another important trend that’s popping up is that we’re starting to get our entire families involved in health and wellness efforts. Because we’re spending much more time together, it's become even more important to keep everyone active and healthy, and that’s especially true with many kids remaining at home for their schooling. Shana Verstegen, an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and TRX Master Trainer in Madison, Wisconsin, shared with the American Council on Exercise that she’s seen increasing numbers of families in parks playing old-fashioned games such as tag and flag football during the pandemic.

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In 2021, that opens the door for growth in fitness programming that the entire family can do together. Not only does this promote health and wellness, but it’ll also promote the importance of family time in some capacity. That can (and should!) continue even post-pandemic.

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