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The Top Fitness Trends You Need to Know for 2021

The top trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

What are the top fitness trends for 2021? Many of us (almost all of us) have a New Year’s resolution that involves health, fitness, exercise, and getting or staying in shape. Our correspondent (and kick-boxing instructor) Julie Chang Murphy has curated a list of the top fitness trends you need to know for 2021 to make keeping your New Year’s resolutions about exercise and fitness easier and more fun than ever. No excuses this year, dear reader — there’s something out there for all of us.

what are the top fitness trends for 2021?

It’s that time of year again. Ready to reevaluate your exercise regime and re-commit to another year of reaching those fitness goals? No? Me neither.

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But one thing that does help is getting a glimpse of what the top fitness trends of the new year will be. Perhaps there is something novel or something you never considered that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. (Full disclosure, as we delve into the world of personal fitness: our CEO is a board member of Peloton).

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After all, getting fit and healthy is often not a linear process. What works for that impossibly-toned celebrity trainer on Instagram might not work for everyone’s lifestyle. It’s more interesting when there is room for discovery and experimentation.

the fitness trends to know for 2021

In that spirit, here are 7 of the most important fitness trends of 2021 to get you started. Pick and choose what inspires you!

1. virtual workouts

Whether you’re one of those who love the convenience or hate sweating in your living room next to your beautiful new throw pillows, virtual workouts are here to stay. The ongoing pandemic has forced people to figure out how to exercise differently. And for the most part, according to our friends at Fortune, an overwhelming majority (90%) of Americans describe their at-home fitness routines as effective.

The top trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

The top trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

The increased competition in the virtual workout realm has encouraged players to introduce live and on-demand fitness sessions. Popular platforms like Peloton, Obe Fitness, or Nike Training Club even create a community, where members have favorite live instructors and can be part of groups to hold one another accountable, just like a boutique fitness studio. The one downside: now there really are no excuses to skip your workout.

2. focus on body and mind training

Here’s a news flash: people are stressed out. 7 in 10 Americans report being stressed about the economy, a figure on par with the Great Recession of 2008. Similarly, 7 in 10 parents report managing distance learning as a significant stressor in their lives. By now, we know that exercise releases endorphins. But 2021 will see an increased focus on combining physical and mental fitness.

top fitness trends of 2021

the top fitness trends of 2021

Look for exercise regimes that incorporate progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation and techniques to strengthen body-mind connections.

Wearables that help track biofeedback (like sensor bands and blood pressure monitors) may also become part of the home gym. Teaching people to gain control over involuntary bodily functions such as blood flow, blood pressure, and heart rate. This technique can also be used to help alleviate chronic stress, aches, pain, and anxiety.

3. year-round outdoor fitness

Ever since the spring lockdowns (and with continued rolling lockdowns throughout the country this fall), being able to stay outside and exercise there all year is a top priority. Popular items that have been in short supply or on backorder? Above-ground pools. Bicycles. Patio heaters.

As the weather gets colder, people will still want to get the benefits of fresh air, and will outfit themselves for year-round outdoor exercise as part of their overall wellness and fitness plan.

The top new trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

For example, The Washington Post predicts a rise in the humble snowshoe. Which makes sense when you think about it. Snowshoeing has a lower barrier to entry than downhill skiing or snowboarding – it’s far less costly. And snowshoeing in a local park or forest is a lot less risky than checking into a ski resort for several days in this COVID-19 era. Furthermore, sporting goods retailers report record demand for snow-related gear and proper winter activewear.

With popular fitness boutiques like SoulCycle, OrangeTheory, and 305 Fitness still offering outdoor classes, there’s no reason to stop now. Our workout ensembles will just look a little different.

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4. free weight training

Although the sale of fitness equipment like treadmills, stationary bicycles, rowers and ellipticals have skyrocketed, not everyone has the room or deep pockets to commit to one. The shortage of dumbbells and kettlebells early on the pandemic has been well documented in the media. And now that the supply has mostly caught up with the demand, we see free weight training continuing to rise in popularity during 2021.

keeping New Year resolution exercise

The top new trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

It’s a no-brainer. Free weights don’t take up much space. They’re an effective way to increase the burn of a virtual workout, keeping things challenging. Many of them are now “smart,” so you don’t have to do nearly as much tinkering and remembering what weight to use. And most importantly, they make you feel strong.

5. virtual coaching

Many people benefit from expert guidance and advice due to past injuries, age, or a lapse in  self-discipline. Without a limitation in location and time, people have access to a wide variety of trainers that wouldn’t usually be available.

keeping New Year resolution exercise

The top new trends in fitness and exercise to know for 2021.

Virtual personal training is much more than just making sure a client’s form is correct. Depending on your needs, they can help craft nutrition plans and personalize training programs. In 2021, fitness studios and independent trainers will stay relevant by offering these services online. I don’t know about you, but a personal cheerleader in my corner during these times sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

6. exergames

Video games are not all created equal. Some require you to sit on the couch and jump up every now and then in a panic but others, are actually designed for movement. It is worth noting that they are considered a moderate intensity exercise so if you’re looking to just get moving, using the family Nintendo, Xbox, or PlayStation could be a fun way to get that heart rate up.

Exergames have come a long way since those foot pads of the ’80’s. Check out games like Dance Dance Revolution, Zumba Fitness World Party, Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and EA Sports Active for an immersive way to level up.

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7. shorter workouts

One of the top trends from 2020 is still going strong this year: shorter HIIT workouts. Interval training of 5 minutes to 20 minutes abound on fitness publications and apps. Think high knees, jump squats, burpees and mountain climbers. Now that so many people are homebound, these shorter workouts are perfect to do throughout the day- like recess for the body and mind.

the top fitness trends for 2021

Keeping our New Year’s resolutions about fitness and exercise can only be easier and more fun with these new personal fitness options and trends. What’s on your fitness list to try in 2021? 

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Crediting her training as a cultural anthropologist at Wellesley College, Julie has immersed herself in various industries in the last 15 years including fashion design, event planning, and fitness. Julie lives in New York where she loves trying every ramen and dumpling restaurant with her husband and three children. She finds joy in bold prints, biographies of fierce women, kickboxing. And spending way too long finding the perfect polish color to express her mood.

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