If you’ve wanted to cook healthier meals, lose weight, or get some self-help advice, chances are you’ve looked to a brand or a person to help guide you on your journey. And there's a very strong chance that person is on our annual list of the most influential people in health and fitness.
This year’s list makes one thing clear: Body positivity is finally mainstream. You’ll also notice plenty of household names, another indication that wellness is increasingly becoming part of our everyday lives.
We compiled this list based on a strict set of criteria—check out our methodology at the bottom of this article. And while we may not agree with everyone’s approach, we can’t deny their impact on the way we think about health.
JP Sears is a hard nut to crack. He’s an emotional healing coach who pokes fun at the more woo-woo side of wellness. He catapulted to Internet fame in May with his spot-on satire in the viral video If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans
. The three-minute clip has tons of memorable one-liners, including, “Broccoli, that’s what my food eats. That’s my food’s food, and I don’t appreciate you eating that.”
Actress and yoga guru Adriene Mishler is the creator of Yoga With Adriene, a YouTube channel (and lifestyle) loved by yoga newbies and experts alike. Mishler's channel has nearly 2 million followers, and it’s easy to see why: Her sequences are easy to follow and smooth, making them perfect for yogis of all levels. She kicked off 2017 with “Revolution,” 31 days of yoga videos that challenge her viewers to practice daily. We can’t wait to see what Mishler has planned for the rest of the year.
A CrossFit legend and four-time winner of the “Fittest Man on Earth” title, Froning is the guy to see for training tips. His web series, What is Rich Doing?
, offers CrossFit plans at every level to those who want a workout just like Froning’s. Whether his huge Instagram
following comes from fitness advice, baby pics, or the many shirtless shots is unclear; suffice it to say, we’re all interested.
Fit Bottomed Girls publishes content for real women (and men!) interested in deprivation free health. Co-founded by Walters and Erin Whitehead (though now operated by Walters and Seymour), Fit Bottomed Girls grew from a blog to a brand—with offshoots for food and moms, a book (The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet),
and a sizable social community
Feel-Good Social Media Maven
Even in today’s world of Instagram empires, Sophie Gray’s stands out. Maybe it’s her unfailing positivity or her commitment to advocating for self-love over any diet or fitness regimen. Either way, 2016 was a killer year for her. Gray's business, Way of Gray
, launched a Self Love Challenge
that asked thousands of women to take small, daily steps toward self-acceptance, and we were on board.
Jennifer Cohen is all about finding workouts you can do anywhere. The fitness expert’s most recent book, Strong Is the New Skinny
, goes beyond training the body to encourage readers to get stronger physically, mentally, and nutritionally. Cohen’s no-nonsense approach to getting healthy has won her many fans, and she’s a frequent guest on shows like Good Morning America
and Dr. Oz
. Her favorite piece of advice? “The only time greatness comes before hustle is in the dictionary.” We can’t argue with that.
Sohee Lee wants to be your online personal trainer. But that’s not all there is to know about her. The creator of the eat. lift. thrive.
movement is an amateur powerlifter and certified strength and conditioning specialist who also happens to have a degree in human biology from Stanford. (The woman knows what she’s talking about when it comes to fitness.) She’s also super inspiring—Lee overcame an eight-year eating disorder after she discovered weightlifting.
Adam Rosante is proof that living a balanced, healthy lifestyle can be fun and
affordable. His pay-what-you-can fitness classes, The People's Bootcamp
, were sold out all year, and at the end of 2016, he released a new book of delicious, nutrient-packed smoothie recipes, Super Smoothie Revolution,
for free. Why? This upbeat personal trainer genuinely wants to help people, not just A-list celebs and athletes.
Last year, His Holiness the Dalai Lama co-authored a book with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time. The Book of Joy
is about how to find happiness and peace in a changing, tumultuous world, and its success proves just how many people are listening when the Dalai Lama talks about mental and spiritual health.
Real Love Relationship Advisor
With almost two million fans on Facebook, Tony Gaskins knows how to inspire the masses. The former drug dealer-turned-motivational speaker has had multiple nationwide tours, launched his own life-coach business, and written more than 20 books. His most recent, The Dream Chaser: If You Don't Build Your Dream, Someone Will Hire You to Help Build Theirs, hit shelves in late 2016. Through his work, Gaskins hopes to provide guidance in relationships, business, and self-development.
Embracing her stretch marks
and sharing them with her millions of Snapchat followers, Chrissy Teigen was one of body positivity's greatest champions in 2016. She's absolutely fearless when it comes to taking down internet trolls; meanwhile, her soft side shines through when she talks about her baby girl and the fertility struggles she endured to have her. In February 2016, Teigen's first cookbook, Cravings
, debuted, and while it isn’t filled with the world’s healthiest recipes, it’s clear she has a healthy relationship with food... and with John Legend.
The Fitness-Is-Fun Cultivator
Everyone interested in physical fitness should feel welcome—that’s why Kamb started Nerd Fitness
, a “community of underdogs, misfits, and mutants that can’t wait to help.” On a mission to promote fitness through comics and superheroes, Kamb offers intensive fitness plans, classes, and retreats, as well as free resources to help his “Rebellion” achieve their goals. It’s like the X-Men Academy, but for realsies.
A self-described “certifiably cynical realist,” Freedhoff discusses evidence-based nutrition and weight management on his blog, Weighty Matters
. The author of The Diet Fix
and founder of Bariatric Medicine Institute
has dedicated his career to obesity treatment and management, and toward abolishing the cycle of failure-oriented fad dieting.
After an injury sidelined his professional football career, Howes set his sights on business. His self-help podcast (which also happens to be a book by the same name), The School of Greatness
, shares inspirational stories from top athletes, distinguished entrepreneurs, and talented celebs. Always interested in sharing the greatness, Howes also teaches business-growing webinars and runs a mentorship program, the School of Greatness Academy
Former Addict-Turned-Fitness Fanatic
After nearly losing his life to drug and alcohol abuse, Michael Morelli decided to get in shape. In fewer than six months, he earned five fitness certifications. He put his knowledge to good use and created HIIT MAX
, a weight-loss method that combines high-intensity workouts with a healthy diet. Beyond that, he’s also developed a line of supplements and a seven-day detox program. Morelli has even more planned for 2017, including the release of a new book, The Sweet Potato Diet
The Raw Food Proselytizer
If you’ve even been curious as to what a raw diet entails, you need to follow Kristina. The FullyRaw vegan has tons of knowledge; she’s been eating this way for almost nine years and is a triple major in kinesiology, specializing in health science, raw foods, and fasting. Her book The Fully Raw Diet
hit shelves in 2016, as did her ebook, 14-Day Body Reset
. Carrillo-Bucaram also launched her own natural skin care line and is the mastermind behind FullyRaw
juice—a subscription service that delivers fresh creations to your door.
Tony Robbins has been a leader in the self-help world for decades, and this past year he proved he still has plenty of career and life wisdom to dole out. When he’s not giving motivational speeches or promoting his audio books, Tony can be found on Instagram
, encouraging users to be kind and live their best life. His Netflix documentary, I Am Not Your Guru
, came out in March 2016, and his newest book, Unshakeable
, hits shelves February 28.
Instagram’s Most Famous Backside
More than just a “belfie” aficionado, Selter has transformed what started as Instagram
fame (she now has more than 10 million fans) into a business that includes fitness plans and workout motivation, as well as food and lifestyle tips. A virtual-community advocate, Selter encourages followers to use #Seltering and #JenSelterChallenge to stay connected.
If you just looked at the homepage of John Romaniello’s company, Roman Fitness Systems
, you'd probably think he’s a stereotypical lifting bro. After all, the page asks users to pick between programs that “make people hot” and “get people huge.” It also reminds you to “choose wisely.” But that’s just Romaniello’s signature bluntness (after all, aren’t those two pretty common reasons people want to work out?) When you look beneath the surface, you quickly realize Romaniello is one of the smartest fitness experts of our time, and his style and intellect has struck a chord with thousands of devoted followers.
It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since Michael Pollan published The Omnivore’s Dilemma
. That book, along with Fast Food Nation
and Food Politics
, is credited with changing the way Americans think about their food—where it comes from and how it’s made. Now Pollan is researching a new book on another topic Americans know too little about: the psychedelic properties of plants. He’s already given us a sneak peak with a story
in The New Yorker
about ongoing medical trials where cancer patients take psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) to help with their anxiety.
Todd Durkin is a coach and personal trainer, but there are tons of coaches and personal trainers. Durkin is different, and not just because he works with some of the world's most elite athletes. He's different because he's constantly expanding his practice and his business, growing not only the services he provides (he gets NFL players to try yoga, which, c'mon), but the way he provides them. He has gyms, training programs, speeches, a charity, educational events, and, most recently, a stint on NBC's short-lived reality series, Strong
In the world of personal coaching, there aren't many bigger guns (literally) than Eric Cressey. Though he's an accomplished powerlifter in his own right, Cressey specializes in making athletes better, healthier, and stronger. His high-performance training facility, Cressey Sports Performance, has become a small empire, and he's been able to use YouTube and Facebook to dole out advice and recommendations to people who can't make their way to his gym. All said, Cressey's a coach to thousands of people, and he's making them all stronger and more careful athletes.
Australian Amanda Bisk is a former pole vaulter who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. Her illness forced her to give up the sport for good in 2012. While recovering, she discovered the benefits of yoga and bodyweight training, which she combined to create her 12-week training guide. She’s used her influence to create a robust online fitness community, which includes just over half a million Instagram followers.
The sisters have taken the UK clean-eating scene by storm over the past few years. Their style is simple: They use fresh, well-sourced ingredients to create meals that make you feel energized and healthy. The dynamic duo launched their own TV series, Eating Well With Hemsley + Hemsley, in 2016, and also have their own line of products (aprons, spiralizer) and a London cafe.
A Paleo advocate long before it was trendy, Mark Sisson practices what he preaches tenfold, overseeing the growth of Primal Kitchen restaurants (coming to California, Oregon and Indiana), The Primal Blueprint book series, and the Primal Health Coach program. The former elite marathoner and triathlete also blogs regularly on Mark’s Daily Apple, covering everything from recipes and workouts to supplements and general health.
The British diver walked away with a bronze at the London Olympics, but he managed to steal the show (and our hearts). He was back at it again in Rio, winning another bronze in men’s synchronized diving. But he’s not just an Olympic athlete; he’s also a lifestyle guru. In December he released Tom’s Daily Plan—part cookbook, part fitness plan, part self-help guide.
We don't know how you would have missed it, but in case you did: The Final Five dominated the Rio Olympics. On top of breaking the record for the number of medals won by a U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team
, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman became instant role models for kids all around the country because of their strength, talent, and poise. Not bad things to be known for, if you ask us.
We’re pretty sure Joe Cross is the reason juicing went mainstream. Even though his documentary, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
, was released seven years ago, it continues to inspire millions of people around the world to start their own juicing journey
. Meanwhile, his latest film, The Kids Menu
, tackles the issue of childhood obesity. Cross's most recent book, Juice It to Lose It
, helps juicing newbies, while the newly launched juicing certification program
recruits anyone passionate about wellness who wants to help inspire others.
As CNN’s chief medical correspondent during an election year when health care was one of the central campaign issues, Sanjay Gupta, M.D., had a busy 2016. He spent days detailing the dire consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act and explaining why he’s now in favor of medical marijuana
. He’s still a practicing neurosurgeon, plus he somehow found time to meditate with the Dalai Lama
. Does this doc sleep?
Bret Contreras wants to make your butt look better. The author and trainer says he developed an obsession with glutes after growing up with none to speak of. Now “The Glute Guy” develops programs and writes books to help others attain perfect posteriors. His hip-thrusting workout
has undoubtedly transformed the lives—and butts—of hundreds. Contreras also holds a PhD in sports science and fills his Instagram
with information about new studies, so you know those butt-sculpting workouts are science-backed.
If you’ve ever googled a Paleo recipe, one of Michelle Tam’s creations is sure to pop up. The Queen of Paleo wrote a NYT best-selling cookbook and recently launched a podcast that goes behind the scenes of her blog, Nom Nom Paleo, to dive into delicious recipes, food trends, and Michelle’s culinary (and non-culinary) adventures.
The well-known food writer dropped a bombshell at the end of 2015: He was leaving his position as a columnist for The New York Times
to work at Purple Carrot, a vegan meal kit company (à la Plated or Blue Apron). In May, Bittman announced he was already parting ways with the company. Six months later he was back in the spotlight again with How to Bake Everything
, the latest book in his How to Cook Everything franchise.
In 2016, author and podcast host Gretchen Rubin continued to give followers straightforward, actionable advice for living their happiest and healthiest lives through her podcast, the Happier 2016 calendar, and her app, Better. In October Rubin spoke at the S.H.E. Summit; she also regularly interacts with readers on social media and at live speaking events.
“America’s Health Coach” Joel Fuhrman is all about eating right and getting enough exercise. In addition to authoring a number of weight-loss books, he’s a frequent guest on health shows and even produces his own: His program, Eat to Live With Dr. Fuhrman, premiered on PBS this past June. Fuhrman’s mantra is “salad is the main dish,” and with all his credentials, maybe it’s time to take his advice.
The Nearly Undefeated Olympian
Many people would argue that Kerri Walsh Jennings is one of the greatest American athletes of all time—she's the most decorated beach volleyball player ever, for one thing, and she's only lost one Olympic match in her 15-year career. But her influence goes way beyond that: Walsh-Jennings boycotted an AVP beach volleyball event last fall after the company tried to change the rules of the game without discussing it with the players. She was advocating for the rights of athletes, and the overwhelming support she received proves that people want her to succeed.
If Zumba showed us that working out can actually be fun, then The Fitness Marshall proves breaking a sweat can be sexy (and even a little silly). In the past year, Caleb Marshall has gone from a virtual unknown to a well-known YouTube personality with his dance workouts to today’s top pop songs. Marshall’s personality is infectious and the comments he makes about his choreo keep his subscribers (all 770,000 of them) coming back for more.
On top of dancing lead roles in several American Ballet Theatre productions, Misty Copeland spent 2016 cultivating her position as a national role model and advocate for racial diversity and body diversity. She had some help from the release of her Barbie doll
and the three-part interview she did with Barack Obama
, but really, it was all her.
If you’ve got questions about eating Paleo, Robb Wolf is the man to ask. Wolf uses his serious science know-how (he's a former research biochemist and review editor for the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism) to help people understand the benefits and reasoning behind following the eating plan in his podcast, speaker series, and best-selling book, The Paleo Solution. His newest book, Wired to Eat, comes out this March.
Despite the controversies surrounding The Biggest Loser
in 2016, Dolvett Quince continues to be one of the most in-demand fitness specialists and influential figures in the health and body transformation space. When he's not training contestants on the hit show, he's working on partnerships with brands like Dr. Scholl's
, and Brookstone
Kimberly Snyder’s personal health mantra is something we can all relate to (or at least hope to): Life is about progress, not perfection. In her most recent book, Radical Beauty
, written with Deepak Chopra, M.D., Snyder shares practical tips to help you “progress” to your highest potential of beauty and health through sleep, natural living, and foods. She influences some of Hollywood’s biggest names (Drew Barrymore, Kerry Washington, and Reese Witherspoon) via her blog
and podcast, but newest and most important client is likely the baby she had this past year.
The Ballerina to the Stars
If you’ve taken a ballet-inspired fitness class in the last few years, you likely have Mary Helen Bowers to thank. Bowers, who danced with the New York City Ballet for a decade, pirouetted onto the fitness scene after training Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan. Today, she regularly teaches classes at her Ballet Beautiful studios in New York and posts two new workouts per month via an online streaming service.
For years Kelly Starrett, a renowned CrossFit coach and physical therapist, has preached the importance of functional fitness. He even created a movement and mobility course for CrossFit trainers, so they can craft WODs that focus on getting fit for life—not just to reaching a new PR. This past year, Starrett published Deskbound
, a scathing critique of how much we sit and an action plan for how we can change that.
Never one to shy away from controversial topics, science writer Gary Taubes addressed America’s guilty pleasure head-on in 2016, ending the year with his newest book, The Case Against Sugar. He also wrote a popular editorial for the LA Times entitled “Why Do We Get Fat?,” gave several lectures, and continued to serve on the board of the nonprofit he co-founded, Nutritional Science Initiative.
Five years after making a big splash with Grain Brain
, a book that claims low-carb diets decrease your risk for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, David Perlmutter, M.D., is back with The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan
. The book and television special offer recipes and advice from the popular neurologist to ease into a gluten-free lifestyle. And like his first book, this “life plan” is plenty controversial among neurologists and other mainstream medical authorities
. Many are quick to point out that research doesn’t show a gluten-free diet can prevent brain disorders.
An OG Real Housewife and a trained chef, Bethenny Frankel continues to dominate with her line of SkinnyGirl products, which includes everything from margaritas to power bars to shapewear to blenders, cookbooks, and more. Frankel also blogs about food, home organization, and happiness on her website
, and continues to tell it like it is on the RHONY.
The Health-Obsessed Quarterback
Tom Brady might be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play football, but that's not why he's on this list. He's on this list because his commitment to health and healthy eating borders on insanity in a really impressive way. His cookbook, TB12 Nutrition Manual, aimed to share his healthy diet with a wider range of people, and judging by its crazy popularity, it did exactly that.
The Model Who Packs a Punch
If you don't know who Gigi Hadid is by now, you might be living under a rock. In one year, she went from little-known daughter of a Real Housewife to full-blown top supermodel status. But don't write Hadid off as just a pretty face. Aside from walking in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and hosting the American Music Awards this year, the girl kicks ass regularly in the boxing ring at Gotham G-Box
, was named a Reebok brand ambassador
and face of its #PerfectNever campaign, and opened up about her anxiety and social media bullying.
Tim Ferriss is truly a master of many trades, and preaching about health has always been one of them. In 2016 alone he dedicated episodes of The Tim Ferris Show
, his No. 1 ranked podcast, to meditation, one-minute workouts, dramatic diet plans, and the changing food industry (plus so, so, so much more). With each episode, Ferriss guides millions of people to live better, healthier lives, and that's still impressive even after all these years. In his newest book, Tools of Titans
, he's sifted through hundreds of hours of expert interviews to presenst the most helpful daily tips and habits.
The Unapologetically Strong Athlete
Despite spending 2016 cementing her reputation as one of the best athletes of all time, Serena Williams is constantly assaulted with critiques of her body and her femininity. But she doesn't take the criticism sitting down—Williams endlessly defends her strength and her aggression, and in doing that, she's correcting our society's unhealthy relationship with female athletes in a really essential way.
The Leader Life Coaches Turn To
Known as the guru who coaches other life coaches, Martha Beck has spent much of the past two decades at the pinnacle of the self-help world. With more than a half-dozen books under her belt, she took a turn this year, publishing her first fictional tale, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening
. In true Beck fashion, it’s a fable—there has to be some life advice in there somewhere!
If you’re not a raw foodie, David “Avocado” Wolfe might convince you to start taking a big bite out of that head of broccoli. Wolfe’s magnetic energy and appreciation for organic foods, outdoor adventures, and the environment are basically why he wants to make every day "the best day ever.
" But while his teachings inspire his more than 10 million Facebook fans
, he's caught some heat from science advocates
who scrutinize his preachings. One thing we can all agree on? David has delicious and healthy smoothie recipes. He is the spokesperson for NutriBullet, after all, so it makes sense.
The Battle-Prepping Trainer
If you combined CrossFit with the Spartan race, you’d get Training for Warriors (TFW), a seriously intense strength and conditioning program with a killer community of motivated followers. Martin Rooney created the program nearly 30 years ago while training MMA fighters. Now it has expanded to 250 locations in 30 countries. This year he published The Book of 5 Things
, a follow-up to his best seller, Rooney’s Rules
The Plant-Passionate Survivor
Wellness activist, plant eater, and green juice drinker Kris Carr
is in her 14th year of living with a rare, incurable stage-4 cancer. Scratch that: She’s not just living, she’s thriving in a world where the odds were against her. Now she’s an inspiration to not only cancer patients but to anyone who wants to live a happy and healthy life. Carr has revolutionized the way we think about cancer both with her documentary, Crazy, Sexy Cancer,
and her ongoing Crazy, Sexy
Rich Roll is really, really fit. He's literally famous for it. His books, podcast
, and blog all focus on how he fuels his ultra-marathoner body with a plant-based diet, and his advice and inspiration reach millions. Roll spent the past year focusing on growing and engaging his community, and that paid off—more people than ever are learning from and improving because of him, and that's incredible.
In the past few years, The Rock has proven he’s so much more than a wrestler with a signature eyebrow raise. In 2016, Johnson launched Project Rock, an apparel and accessories line from Under Armour; had a leading role in Disney’s latest animated film, Moana; and shared plenty of motivating selfies from the gym with his 77 million followers on Instagram. Oh yeah, and he was named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, begging the question: Does Johnson ever sleep?
2016 was a big year for celebrity trainer and fitness pro Anna Kaiser. After creating an on-demand platform and app to bring her dance-inspired interval method, AKT, to the masses, she partnered with Target to create her own apparel and accessories line, C9 Champion Limited Edition by Anna Kaiser. Inspired by her own changing body during her pregnancy, Kaiser made sure items were available in sizes ranging from XS to 4X.
Josh Axe made a name for himself by promoting natural medicine—the use of food or things found in nature to cure ailments. He’s amassed an impressive following (6 million readers flock to his site every month for recipes, advice, and access to supplements), and he just published Eat Dirt
, a book that gets into the nitty-gritty of so-called “leaky gut.” It’s worth noting that even though he’s branded himself “Dr. Axe,” he’s not an M.D. Axe's schooling is in natural medicine, chiropractic, and nutrition. And he has gotten himself in hot water by publishing information—like the claim that whole grains and peanut butter lower your metabolism—that’s not backed by science.
Hollywood’s Women’s Health Champion
Lena Dunham is unflinchingly open about her personal life, so we know a lot about the health struggles she went through this year. You could argue that veers into TMI territory, but since she spoke at length about endometriosis
(which is chronically, dangerously underdiagnosed), we're thankful she's bringing it some attention. Plus, her newsletter, Lenny Letter
, and podcast, Women of the Hour
, remain two of the only places we see an open discussion about women's health happening in a mainstream way. That's major.
The Highly Caffeinated High-Fat Exec
You may not be familiar with his name, but chances are you know about Dave Asprey's invention: Bulletproof coffee. The concoction, which mixes a cup of joe with two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and two tablespoons of coconut oil, put Asprey on the map. It’s purported to have major health benefits, such as boosting metabolism, upping alertness, and increasing stamina. And though the scientific community has had lukewarm feelings about Asprey, that hasn’t stopped him from achieving big wins. In 2016 his podcast, Bulletproof Radio, continued to top the iTunes charts, and he expanded the Bulletproof Training Institute—a program that trains people to become successful coaches—internationally. Up next: Head Strong, a two-week plain to boost your brainpower.
Though we could argue forever about whether or not Dr. Oz is a good
influence, there's no question that he has
influence. With an Emmy-winning TV show
, a wellness magazine
, several books, and a massive social following, everything Dr. Oz says reaches millions of people. Whether he's endorsing veganism or Donald Trump's health, people are listening, and that makes him endlessly relevant to the health world.
The bodybuilder-turned-actor turned-politician added another title to his résumé this year: host. Arnold Schwarzenegger replaced our current Commander in Chief as host of The Apprentice. Schwarzenegger also made headlines by selling apparel with his new catchphrase: “Come with me if you want to lift.” He says he wants to inspire a new generation of people to be healthy and claims the movement starts with a t-shirt, but we have yet to hear about next steps.
The Comedian Who Claps Back
Amy Schumer has done her time as a Hollywood It Girl, and she did it without ever fitting into a size 2. That'd make her a defacto body-positive advocate, even if she didn't spend half her time shooing away trolls on Instagram and generally defending her right to be normal, hot, and cool at any size she wants to be.
The Alternative Medicine Evangelist
Mercola’s alternative medicine philosophy has earned him an army of followers and skeptics. His homeopathic ideals and line of health supplements
may be controversia. Yet, as the doctor’s highly trafficked Instagram
page proves, Mercola’s theory that “proper nutrition, not medicine, is the key to good health” seems to resonate among his followers.
Though it's been a few years since Insanity was the
workout program to do, its creator, Shaun T Blokker (or just Shaun T if you're a friend), still preaches health and hard work above all else. Last year, his podcast, Trust & Believe
, really took off, as did his line of apparel. Plus, the online community he's created continues to be an essential resource for men and women trying to get healthy (and get abs).
Who's Iskra Lawrence, exactly? The body-positive advocate went from virtual unknown to that model who’s front and center in Aerie’s unretouched ads
. She has inspired millions of people (seriously, she has 3.2 million followers on Instagram
) with her message: “When you know that your value is not based on your jean size, not based on the scale, not based on how someone looks at you… Then you can't let anyone bring you down."
Though he's been on the fitness scene for close to 30 years, Tony Horton's empire hasn't stopped growing. What started as a personal training business evolved into his famous P90X workout. From there, Horton launched even more fitness programs
, and then some books
, motivational speeches, and a line of skin and hair care products
. Horton is endlessly relevant and a constant inspiration, and he's not going anywhere.
The Positive Spirit Junkie
The next time you’re feeling down, open up Gabrielle Bernstein’s latest book, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith.
The certified yoga instructor, motivational speaker, and meditation teacher preaches how to truly live life by achieving happiness, security, and clear direction. Named the "next-generation thought leader" by Oprah, Bernstein hosts frequent empowerment workshops, and her Spirit Junkie
daily affirmation app
reminds us all to stay positive.
Husband-and-wife duo Chris and Heidi Powell are best known as the co-hosts of ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss
. While the show was on hiatus in 2016, the Powells promoted their newest book, Extreme Transformation: Lifelong Weight Loss in 21 Days
, and unveiled the America’s Fittest Couple Challenge. Recently they’ve championed the importance of taking small steps
to lead a healthier life, but they’ve been criticized in the past for promoting unhealthy and unrealistic weight-loss practices.
Tracy Anderson might look unassuming, but don't let that fool you—she's one of the toughest trainers out there. Her Method is favored by Hollywood A-listers (Tracee Ellis Ross
and Olivia Wilde
are two recent recruits), but it's available to the rest of us too: Between physical studios, online videos, workout apparel, and a newsletter, if you want Anderson to work you into shape, you'll be able to find a way.
Ranked as one of the top trending fitness icons by Google in 2016, Anna Victoria made headline news for socially sharing her stomach rolls, not just once, but multiple times. This kind of honesty made Victoria a key player in the body-positivity movement that has inspired thousands of fitness and social media influencers to share their own non-posed, imperfect photos. That, on top of the success of her Fit Body Guides and hosting several meet-ups with her community of #fbggirls all over the U.S., lands her at 29 on our list.
The Reigning Queen of Controversy
Vani Hari, the activist behind and founder of Food Babe
, is no stranger to controversy, but she doesn’t let haters hold her back. While many believe she makes claims about food additives based on suspect science
, she’s still a force for change when it comes to common foods known for artificial ingredients. Ahem, your PSL from Starbucks
didn’t have artificial coloring in 2016 thanks to Hari's lobbying the year prior. She also continues to stream downloadable clean-eating guides
and meal plans for her readers.
The Brains Behind Whole30
If it weren't for Melissa Hartwig, the co-founder of Whole30
, we'd all still be stuffing our faces with brownies and potato chips. Designed to give us a 30-day break from processed crap, the Whole30 eliminates any foods that might be negatively impacting our health (good-bye, dairy, bread, desserts, and booze). It sounds tough, but it's actually totally doable because the approved recipes are out-of-this-world delicious
The Food Politics Professor
Marion Nestle might be the most unassuming force in the health world. She publishes books and research at basically the same frequency that everyone else publishes brunch photos on Instagram, and while she doesn't have a TV show or a branded diet plan, she does have a 2016 James Beard Award for her book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)
. She's quietly schooling the world on food politics and nutrition, and we need her.
The Organized Entrepreneur
While Chalene Johnson is best known for her fitness DVDs (she has the Guiness World Record for producing the most workout videos), she’s spent the last few years transitioning into more of a self-help guru. Her newest endeavor, the SmartLife Push Journal
, is a planner on steroids—and she says it's the secret to how she’s been able to manage her chaotic life.
The Relatable Digital Darling
If you’re looking for some serious fitness inspiration on Instagram, look no further than Natalie Jill. This certified trainer posts daily videos of equipment-free exercise routines anyone can do. But she wasn’t always this healthy. For years Jill struggled to find helpful resources to get her physical and mental health in check after giving birth and getting divorced. In 2016, she released her a new book, Natalie Jill's 7-Day Jump Start: Unprocess Your Diet With Super Easy Recipes.
The Fit Former First Lady
In her last year in the White House, Michelle Obama set up her public health campaign, Let's Move!
, with all the tools it needed to succeed without her. She showed off her organic garden one more time, she tended to her beehives, and more than anything else, she made sure we all knew that as First Lady, she changed the national discussion about health and obesity.
Since starting Strala Yoga, Tara Stiles’s life has moved at lightning speed. And while her unique take on yoga is now taught by instructors around the world, she knew it was coming at a cost. In a vulnerable blog post
last August, she revealed she had a miscarriage three years earlier and later struggled with marital problems. The solution? Make more space for herself. That meant slashing her schedule and really focusing on the things that brought her joy. The best part of this story is that Stiles recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Even if you don’t know Joy Bauer by name, chances are you’ll recognize her. The registered dietitian has made hundreds of appearances on Today
as the show’s nutrition and health expert. Last year she released a new cookbook, From Junk Food to Joy Food
, based off a recurring segment where Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb challenge her to make healthier versions of their favorite comfort foods, from mint chocolate chip ice cream to buffalo wings.
Best known as a yoga teacher, Kathryn Budig wants to inspire others to find balance beyond the mat. And that’s exactly what she does in her newest book, Aim True
. The self-help paperback includes yoga sequences, recipes, homeopathic self-care remedies, and an introduction to meditation. It’s basically Wellness 101.
Ronda Rousey is all fierceness and strength, and she's been redefining what female athletes look (and act) like since she stomped onto the scene. Last year brought her return to the ring, and it doesn't even matter that she lost—the fact that she was there at all is proof she's still pushing MMA to be a sport with space for women.
Arianna Huffington spent years pouring her heart and soul into the Huffington Post, but 2016 was the year she stopped. Instead, she turned her focus toward the health and wellness universe: Her new project, Thrive Global, promises to make companies and workers' relationships to them healthier. Since it's Huffington behind the wheel, we trust they're going to do it.
Recently named one of Reebok's global fitness ambassadors, the Australian fitness pro has been in the game for years, inspiring her millions of fans through her F.I.T. programs and her honest social posts. But being this influential isn't always easy. "You can't please everyone, and sometimes I get upset," she says. "But then I remember why I'm doing this—to truly help people. So all the hate, bring it on, because it's worth it."
Bob Harper slipped in our ranks this year. The former Biggest Loser
trainer transitioned to host the hit reality show's 17th season, but was faced with a lot of controversy surrounding the show and his training methods. Nevertheless, he continues to push people to the next level with his 60-day Black Fire program
on Daily Burn
If you know Rachel Brathen better as Yoga Girl, you're one of 2 million. Brathen has (what she calls) the largest yoga Instagram
in the world, and she uses it to share wisdom, inspiration, and, most recently, prenatal yoga poses. On top of this, Brathen hosts yoga classes, retreats, and workshops, and publishes yoga books, so it's clear she's committed to the craft. And judging from the amount her community grew last year, Brathen's influence isn't waning.
The Celebrity Chef With a Cause
Between his cookbooks, TV shows, social presence, and new line of cookware products, Jamie Oliver is an active figure in millions of kitchens around the world. That means his commitment to sharing healthy recipes directly affects a lot of people. He's helping usher in a generation of healthy eaters, and for that, we should thank him.
Integrative Medicine Guru
It only took 40 years, but the rest of the world finally caught up with Andrew Weil, M.D. Since 1975 he’s preached the importance of integrative medicine—an approach that aims to heal mind, body, and spirit—and touted the significance of an anti-inflammatory diet. Both concepts have finally become popular among mainstream audiences. Weil is still regularly criticized for not favoring evidence-based medicine, but given his track record, it’s a safe bet that most of his claims will eventually be supported by research.
Two things are for certain: Khloé Kardashian is on a fitness journey, and she isn’t one to shy away from controversy. We saw that first with the release of her book, Stronger Looks Better Naked
. Now she's taken things to the next level with her new show, Revenge Body
. The program is similar to other extreme weight-loss shows, except contestants want to get a “revenge body” to prove someone wrong. Kardashian argues the best person you can get revenge on is your former self, but after watching the trailer, we’re not sure we buy that explanation
Four years ago, Jessamyn Stanley started taking photos of her yoga practice to document her progress. At first she couldn’t help but look at her stomach. “But over time, I realized that I’m really strong to be able to hold these poses,” she told The Guardian
. “My belly is there, and I’m still strong.” And to Stanley’s surprise, her photos went viral. She never intended to change the face of yoga, but by putting herself out there, she did. Now Stanley has a book, Every Body Yoga
, due out in April, plus she recently modeled for Lane Bryant’s activewear campaign and she also made our list of 34 Under 34: The Rising Stars in Health
Alternative Medicine Advocate
Deepak Chopra has a lot of thoughts about meditation, spirituality, and alternative medicine, and he has a lot of ways of sharing those thoughts with the public. Books? Check. Apps? Check. Talk show appearances? Check. Musings on the universe via Facebook video? Check. For better or for worse, the forum doesn't really matter—people are listening to pretty much everything Chopra says, no matter how he says it.
The Most Authentic TV Trainer
The weight-loss expert and Biggest Loser trainer continued to slay on the hit show, landed in several glossy health and fitness magazines, and released her new book, Diet Right for Your Personality Type. But even people as seemingly perfect as Widerstrom have moments of self-doubt. She kept it real last year in a viral Instagram post that showed her belly rolls. "I wanted to post it and let people know where I was at, that I struggle too, and it’s OK to struggle. But we can also rise above it because we have each other," she says.
The Girls Toning It Up Online
These real-life besties are the creators behind Tone It Up, the über-popular fitness program with workout videos, a six-week meal plan, and an impressively engaged community of followers. Since launching TIU just over seven years ago, Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson have developed a multimillion dollar brand. And that brand is only growing, especially after recent collaborations with activewear brand Bandier and Perfect Fit Protein.
The Intervention-Loving Talk Show Host
Oprah's one-time protégé remains a force in his own right—Phil McGraw's talk show, Dr. Phil
, consistently tops ratings and pulls in several millions viewers every day. Though he's dabbled in diet plans and nutrition
, Dr. Phil's focus has always been rewriting how Americans think about mental health. And he does that on a truly massive scale.
The Internet's Pilates Princess
If you needed proof that social media sensations aren’t going anywhere, Cassey Ho
is it. The YouTube guru continues to expand her growing empire year after year. Her channel, Blogilates
, has grown to 3.5 million subscribers and counting. She partnered with 24 Hour Fitness locations to launch her workout method, POP Pilates, as an IRL workout. On top of all that, she launched a brand new workout program, PIIT28
, a Pilates version of intense interval training; her own line of trendy activewear, POPFLEX
; and still somehow has time to tease us (and her 1.3 million followers) with mouth-watering food photos on Instagram
. We don’t know how she does it.
The Weight Watchers Media Mogul
One of the many through lines in Oprah Winfrey’s career is her lifelong struggle with her weight. And when it comes to living healthy, she hasn’t always given the best advice. (There was that time she wheeled out a wagon with 67 pounds of animal fat, representing the weight she lost on an all-liquid diet, at the start of her 1988 season, for starters.) Now she’s living a much more balanced life. As the new face of Weight Watchers (with a 10 percent stake in the company), she assures us she loves bread. She eats it every day and still managed to lose 40 pounds on the program.
The Barrier-Breaking Model
In case you somehow missed it, 2016 was the year body positivity became mainstream. We learned to rethink what health and beauty look like, and plus-size model Ashley Graham was (and still is) at the forefront of that revolution. On top of maintaining an Instagram
full of gym selfies, killer model shots, occasional cellulite snaps
, and inspirational body-positive wisdom, Graham was honored with her own Barbie
(with thighs that touch, of course) and launched a swimwear line
. She also became the first plus-size model to be featured on the covers of Vogue
and Sports Illustrated
's swimsuit issue. We'd say she's making waves alright.
A Note About Our Methodology: This list is intended to highlight people who had the greatest impact and reach in health and wellness—they're not necessarily people we personally endorse.
The order is determined by a long list of criteria. We started with a list of nearly 300 individuals nominated by the Greatist staff and Greatist ambassador network. We then created a scoring system based on the following categories: followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube; studies published; professional degrees and certifications; number of Google News mentions; number of products created (including starring TV and film roles); brand partnerships; and an estimate of how much each person's career focuses on fitness and health.
This data was collected primarily throughout the month of December 2016. We tallied each individual’s score, then arranged the list from highest to lowest and used our qualitative judgment (a.k.a. the Greatist editorial staff had a good old-fashioned debate) to fill in the gaps. We purposefully exclude most healthcare executives, professional athletes, and spiritual leaders, unless we felt they strongly contributed to health, fitness, or mental health. If you think anyone is missing, please reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
Written by Evin Billington, Jeff Cattel, Rebecca Firsker, Madison Flager, Romena Ibrahim, Jess Novak, Caroline Olney, Molly Ritterbeck, and Jamie Webber. Additional research by Amy Eisinger, McKenzie Maxson, and Alyssa Raiola.