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The 2019 fitness forecast

Many health trends come and go, but every December Equinox Health Advisory Board members share their thoughts on which ones will stick. Last year, the experts predicted big health business mergers, progress in Alzheimer’s research, and normalization of stem cells. Below, their forecast for the health and fitness innovations of 2019.

Exercise will emerge as a potent disease-fighter.

“The hot topic of the Berlin Fascial Research Congress this November was making connections between exercise, movement, and immune function. The cells that produce our fascia are also the cells that protect us from outside invaders, so expect to see more articles on the relationship between exercise and immunity. I don’t know if it will be in 2019, but very soon we will likely be prescribing certain forms of exercise to boost particular kinds of immunity, even from cancer and heart disease.” —Tom Myers, director of Anatomy Trains

Peptides will be the new buzzword for regeneration.

“Peptides are amino acid sequences that are produced in the body to signal cell functions. The skincare industry has taken advantage of topical peptides to improve skin appearance and health. The evolution is that peptides have been discovered to speed healing and recovery in injured muscles, ligaments and tendons, decrease inflammation in connective tissue, and even improve digestive gas and bloating. Keep an eye on peptides like BPC157 and TB4 as they become more commonly used. Right now, they must be prescribed by a physician and some are regulated by The World Anti-Doping Agency, but at some point they will likely be readily available for over-the-counter use.”—Jeffrey Morrison, M.D., founder of The Morrison Center

Starting strength will gain traction.

“The idea of deadlifting has been a popular form of resistance training for a long time for many good reasons. This increases ‘starting strength,’ the ability to produce force from a dead position where an individual must overcome resting inertia, which is achieved primarily through concentric muscle contraction. There will be more and more traction with various forms of deadlifts or ‘dead shifts.’ This very important form of training will gain a broader understanding and appeal for performance benefits as well as functional ones.” —Michol Dalcourt, founder and CEO of the Institute of Motion

People will master the fundamentals.

“What is your regular activity level? How hard is it? It's not the activity that breaks us down, but the activity for which we’re unprepared. If we think about preparation, then we can see why staying in the game requires learning from the past and ensuring that our fundamental movement buckets—squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull, and carry—must all be on point. Whatever is our low-hanging fruit, that should be our goal in 2019. Building up our weakest link will have the greatest impact on us.”—Craig Liebenson, DC, a chiropractor and director of L.A. Sports & Spine

Healthspan will replace lifespan.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, the population in their 50s is slated to increase by a whopping 73 percent by 2020, with those who are 65 and over increasing by 57 percent by 2037. The American College of Sports Medicine’s 2019 Worldwide Fitness Survey highlighted fitness programming customized for the 50-plus crowd. People are living and working longer and want to stay mentally and physically fit to enjoy life. Aging is no longer the issue—robust longevity is. The new goal is to enhance healthspan, the number of years of independent and vigorous life. Wellness occurs when you match healthspan with lifespan.”—Pamela Peeke, MD, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland

Having grip strength will be more important than getting ripped.

“No more show of muscle. People will be more concerned about grip strength and their ability to carry and pull things rather than bicep size.”—Jacques Moritz, MD, OBGYN and associate clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell Medicine

Workout gear will have built-in resistance.

“Quickly arising in the fitness community are lower-compression garments with built-in resistance. During exercise, these garments are said to restrict movement, forcing your muscles to work harder and in turn, give you a more efficient workout. Current studies being done by startups such as Blueprint Phoenix, Physiclo, and Agogie will surely ensue interesting findings. Hopefully we can anticipate a perfected product, or perhaps a variety with their own sub-niches, sometime in the new year.”—Brett A. Dolezal, Ph.D., associate director of the Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles and faculty member at the David Geffen School of Medicine

We’ll finally understand the long-term implications of sleep.

“In the past year, two large long-term observational clinical studies focusing on cardiovascular health showed that sleep patterns in mid-life were associated with the development of dementia over the ensuing decades. Everyone knows that they need more, and better, sleep. But I think that in 2019, the understanding that how you sleep now may influence how you think and live in 10, 20, or 30 years will become mainstream. I can’t predict, though, whether people will choose to do anything with that understanding.” —Jeffrey Iliff, Ph.D., associate professor and vice chair in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland

People will use exercise as a means toward mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Fitness is just the side effect of re-learning how to move your body, how to balance your body, how to correct movement patterns, how to build new ones, and most importantly how to actively express your body, mind, and spirit. At the end of workouts, you should feel psychologically and emotionally fatigued as you have had to safely work through pain, pay attention to breathing, stabilize yourself through movement transitions under load, and re-learn proper mechanics. Yet, you’ll also feel more satisfied and humble that you were engaged with healing and optimizing your body, mind, and spirit—not simply staying in shape.” —Justin Mager, MD, an internist, exercise physiologist, and health strategist

Photo: Bersa / Art Partner Licensing