Health and Fitness Trends to Watch in 2013

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The New Year is in full swing, and we’re gearing up for another 12 months of bringing readers the best fitness, health, and happiness content on the web. To get a leg up on what 2013 will bring, we reached out to 12 of the biggest health and fitness thought leaders to hear their thoughts on what’s up, what’s down, and what’s completely new this year (in no particular order). From disease detection to the death of energy drinks to kettlebells and mobile tech, read on to catch up on the news before it happens.

1. Breathing Big

Tony Gentilcore, Co-owner, Cressey Performance

One trend I feel is going to make its mark in 2013 — or at least take a bit more precedence — is fitness professionals taking more credence in assessing breathing patterns in their clients. While we're just scratching the tip of the iceberg in this regard, it's profound how much of an effect faulty breathing patterns — in this case people relying too much on their accessory breathing muscles like the upper traps, scalenes, levator, etc, and NOT on their diaphragm — has on everything from posture and many common dysfunctions we see in the general population (neck pain, shoulder pain, even lower back pain) to performance, in and outside of the gym.

Taking as little as five minutes to show clients how to properly "use" their diaphragm can go a long ways in helping them not only feel better but set themselves up for success, whether their goal is to lift a Mack truck or just look better naked.

2. Technology and Personal Wellness

Dr. Douglas Kalman, Nutrition Researcher, Greatist Expert

This year will see some changes: a greater use of apps to track personal health and fitness, especially innovation in mobile technology as related to hand-held or near-hand-held diagnostic equipment. More companies will invest in corporate wellness as a means to reduce insurance burden. Sarcopenia to be recognized as a medical condition, thus opening the door for muscle-maintenance or muscle-building drugs to be prescribed to the aging population “at risk.” Planet Fitness to get sued for reverse discrimination, and CrossFit to face its first big lawsuit when someone gets hurt from inadequate training and/or supervision.

3. Super Supplements

Kurtis Frank, Head Researcher, Examine.com

I expect to hear more about a few supplements in 2013. Spirulina, due to a small group of proteins called C-Phycocyanin. Spirulina was normally touted for its B12 content, but fell out of favor since it is merely pseudo-vitamin B12 and not actually useful for this purpose. [C-Phycoyanin] shows remarkable therapeutic benefits in disease or pre-clinical states where the immune system is acting against the body. Animal studies that have noted remarkable (almost absolute) reversal of symptoms suggest this is applied to arthritis, fatty liver, and Parkinson's with some evidence for help against diabetes, high cholesterol and lipids, and anti-cancer effects (colon and oral).

Berberine is another one. This molecule was independently isolated from a variety of plants which all appear to have traditional use against diabetes or for intestinal health, which seem to be due to this compound. Remarkably, there is a large body of evidence for this compound. Preliminary evidence suggests it can burn fat in overweight humans and in general it appears to be anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative, good for intestinal health and some questionable anti-cancer effects as well as lowering triglycerides and cholesterol. Berberine is expected to become more popular due to its relatively unknown status (compared to compounds like curcumin, resveratrol, or creatine) paired with its remarkable rehabilitative potential.

Finally, creatine. The benefits are well-known, but I predict creatine is going to become much more popular with the target demographic that used to fear it. Not athletes, but the weekend warrior or stay-at-home mother looking for a healthy compound to take. This might be the year creatine sheds its undeserved social stigma.

4. Making Healthy Normal

Dr. John Mandrola, Cardiologist, Greatist Expert

As a bike-racing cardiologist practicing in one of this nation’s most unhealthy states (Kentucky), I am often frustrated. When you compete, fitness shows up as a side effect. Healthy lifestyle choices are a must. It’s normal to not (over) eat cookies; it’s normal to exercise; it’s normal to schedule rest periods.

The challenge for health advocates, of course, comes with making all this healthy stuff normal for everyone — not just athletes. Call me naïve if you must, but I see 2013 as a year that things begin to turn. Look around. It’s not just the success of up-starts like Greatist. It’s also major health insurers, like Louisville’s own Humana, who have started programs that reward exercise with material goods. A small college whose alumni and students are beset with chronic disease drops its formal athletic programs, which benefit only a few students, and uses the money for wellness for all students. Wellness, as normal, is making a comeback. Mark my words; we are at the nadir.

5. The End of Energy Drinks

Dr. James L. Hardeman, Physician, Author, and Greatist Expert

This year will bring changes across the board: An influenza outbreak over the next three months will prompt record numbers of flu vaccines this coming fall for next season (but it’s still not too late to get vaccinated for this flu season). The popularity of energy drinks will begin to wane as they become viewed as what they are: calorie-laden, hyper-caffeinated sugar water with no redeeming nutritional value. The super-size drink ban will actually decrease the per capita soda consumption in New York City.

Gluten-free diets, which don’t really make sense for people without a diagnosis of celiac disease, will begin to fall out of favor. Sleep will become more valued as it is appreciated as a performance-enhancer and contributor to weight control. New nationwide protocols will further decrease the incidence of hospital-acquired infections.

6. Gymnastic Renaissance

Anthony Mychal, Author, Fitness Journalist

I think you’re going to see a lot more gymnastics-esque maneuvers intertwined in sports training. Things like rolls, cartwheels, and barefoot hops that focus on balanced landings. Even a bigger use of gymnastics rings and perhaps parallel bars.

Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting had their turn. Gymnastics is next. And rightfully so. If you look at how the Soviets trained athletes back in the 70s — when advanced sports training methods were essentially created and popularized — you see this type of stuff rather frequently.

So my money is on training that moves the body through space as a unit in a coordinated manner. This can be used to boost kinesthetic awareness, hike the heart rate, and add a little fun to training. The list goes on here, but I think you get the point.

7. Female-Friendly Strength

Jordan Syatt, Author, Trainer, and Greatist Expert

If I were to give my prediction, I'd say the top three trends in 2013 will be:

Diaphragmatic Breathing: It’s progressively become more of a mainstream term among health and fitness professionals, but it hasn't received much attention in the media or lay public. Granted, it's not sexy or very appealing, but the benefits are astounding and it's bound to pick up big time.

Female Strength Training; This one I'm very excited for. Over the past year I've watched literally thousands of women begin their individual journeys with strength training, and it has been absolutely incredible. Women are becoming stronger, fitter, and more confident — what could be better!? What's more, groups such as Girls Gone Strong and Fitocracy have made it easy to join a community and build relationships with other like-minded individuals, both men and women alike. Simply put, female strength training is going to be huge in 2013 and nothing could make me happier.

Glute Development: Largely due to the work of Bret Contreras, aka The Glute Guy, glute-specific training has proven to be extraordinarily beneficial and consequently become a staple in modern strength programming. Unfortunately, however, it hasn't caught on quite as much in mainstream fitness circles, but I believe that in 2013 we'll see a significant increase in glute-specific training which, let's be honest, is great news for everyone because, well, who doesn't like a great tuchus?

8. Early Disease Detection

Dr. Murdoc Khaleghi, Physician, Adviser to WellnessFX 

Better and cheaper diagnostics: Physicians are moving away from the stethoscope and towards more highly predictive and accessible testing for most major diseases. I also see increasing consumerization of health. To reduce costs, health-care is shifting away from employer-sponsored comprehensive plans and towards high-deductible catastrophic coverage. This means the basics still will be in the hands of the consumer who will need to make cost-conscious decisions.

A Focus on Prevention: As part of cost reduction and increased consumerization, as we become more educated about our health, we will better understand how certain basic activities (a healthful diet, increased activities, not smoking) makes a long-term impact on our health, productivity, and happiness. Such activities will be prompted by our employers, our friends and families, and ourselves.

9. Kettlebell Breakthroughs

Chris Beardsley, Biomechanics Researcher, Co-founder of Strength and Conditioning Research

More original research into kettlebells will be done in 2013. We'll see breakthroughs in our understanding of the biomechanics of kettlebell training, which will help us figure out how to use them better to make people stronger and more powerful. We'll see studies testing whether the standard interval routines are really much better than more conventional cardio.

We will also see more research regarding glute and hamstring training. We will learn a lot more about the nature of key posterior chain exercises such as the hip thrust, back extension, squat, and deadlift. This will help us understand how we can program them better for strength and size gains.

A hot topic at present is whether resistance training or aerobic exercise is better for fat loss. A related issue is whether short, sharp interval training is better than steady-state cardio for improving cardiovascular fitness and losing weight. More work will be done in these areas this year.

10. Healthcare Confusion

Carolyn Engelhard, Health Policy Analyst, Greatist Expert 

This year will be in many ways a continuation of “hurry up and wait” when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and health coverage expansions. This will frustrate some Americans who want access to group health insurance rates and the promised federal subsidies, but may also provide the momentum to small businesses and state governments to prepare for the massive changes and regulations that go into effect one year from now. Look for confusion, finger-pointing, and some posturing on the part of ObamaCare opponents, hoping to stall the implementation (for various reasons, ideological and economic), and incremental acceptance on the part of states and Americans. Politically, the debate will shift from repealing the Affordable Care Act to entitlement spending and how to control it. The President and the 113th Congress have about one year to make a difference, since after that mid-term election campaigning goes into full swing.

11. Insight Into Trauma

Mark Banschick, Psychiatrist, Greatist Expert

If you felt deeply hurt by a parent or an older sibling, you may understand what complex trauma is all about. In 2013 complex trauma will become a more standard way to understand adult relationships. Innovative new treatments like EMDR, DBT and Somatic Experiencing will gain traction.

Happiness is in the small things. In 2013 people will continue the trend to find great pleasure in their homes, relationships, health and children. You don't need to spend tons of money you don't have in order to be happy!

Psychological health and alternative medicine will continue their healthy marriage together in 2013. You will find more research supporting yoga, meditation, prayer, exercise and massage in overall well-being. The bride and groom should be happy for many years to come — and we all benefit.

12. Bye Bye, Bacon

Elizabeth Jarrard, Dietician, Greatist Expert

Hot sauce is on the rise. Sriracha is king — and who will oust him? Hot sauce equals low calories — and flavorful if you can take the heat! I expect a new show in town to appear this year in this category. Also expect continued celebration of vegetables by renowned chefs who show vegetables can be tasty, too! Falling trends? Bacon and cupcakes. Please, may 2013 be the end of them!

[Note: Some responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.]

What are your big predictions for health and fitness in 2013? Share in the comments below or sound off on Twitter @Greatist!

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About the Author
David Tao
I'm the chief research officer for Greatist.com and a greatist since 2011. Originally from Kentucky but now calling NYC home.

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