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Fitness Trends for 2013: Topping the list…

Every year, major organizations, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, conduct worldwide surveys of fitness trends to predict the upcoming year’s most significant fitness elements, not only ‘FYI’ but to aid consumers, industry professionals and retailers (of sports and exercise equipment). Just because a category of exercise or a fitness trend is considered to be ‘out of vogue’ for this year doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do it. The best indicators of whether you will be successful and adhere to a particular exercise program are how quickly you see results (and how impressive they are) and whether or not you enjoy the activity. So regardless of this year’s fitness trends, always stick with what works for you.

Top Fitness Trends: Back to Basics and Group Personal Training

What fitness trends are ‘out’ and what are ‘in’ for 2013? One of the biggest fitness trends for this year is ‘going back to the basics.’ Pilates and ‘Zumba’ classes, while once all the rage, are no longer considered to be ‘hot trends’ (do not appear on the ‘top 10  fitness trends list for 2013).

So, what are the ‘basics?’ Good, common sense high-intensity aerobic exercise combined with basic resistance training moves is effective, takes less time and is cheaper, particularly if you perform body-weight training exercises (making the fitness trends list for the first time at #3).

Fitness trends for 2013 that also made the top 10 list include small group personal training and programs that combine exercise with calorie-restricted diets. Small group training offers several benefits that make it worth considering. By training four individuals (if similar fitness levels) simultaneously, each participant pays 25 percent of what one person would pay, making it more appealing cost-wise. The trainer makes money without sacrificing on quality, and the participants obtain similar or even better results.

Other Fitness Trends: Out with the new and in with the old?

Once a staple of any strength training routine, classic body weight training exercises have made a huge comeback, forcing newer sensations, such as Zumba, to take a back seat. Why? Because they are effective and do not require expensive equipment, accessories or a significant learning curve. Exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges and even plyometric jumps benefit exercisers of all levels without busting the budget (think boot camp-style workouts).

While some old classics are making a comeback, newer fitness trends, such as TRX suspension training, are only getting hotter.

Nuts for Health: Including them in your diet

In a word…YES! Nuts contain a lot of fat, scaring off many calorie-conscience dieters. Nuts are high in calories. Why? Gram for gram, fat provides the most calories (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for carbohydrate and protein). However, the fat in nuts is mostly unsaturated (heart-healthy kind of fats). So, while they may be higher in calories,  nuts are also packed with a lot of really good nutrients, such as protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, manganese, selenium, potassium, niacin (vitamin B3), copper and vitamin E (among other nutrients). What are some of the benefits of including nuts in your diet?

  • Nuts are cholesterol-free  
  • Nuts are a fantastic source of dietary fiber and antioxidants
  • Those who consume one serving of nuts five times per week can reduce risk of heart disease by 50% and diabetes by 25%
  • Eating nuts as a snack (part of a snack) stabilizes blood sugar, staves off hunger and may aid in weight loss/ management, despite a higher calorie content

Because nuts are higher in fats, they can help keep you satisfied longer and tide you over when you are hungry (it takes longer for your body to breakdown fat). The recommendation: try eating a handful of unsalted nuts (15-20 each) daily … but make sure you substitute something out of your diet because a serving of nuts may provide up to 300 calories. 

All nuts are healthy in moderation, but walnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios are particularly nutritious choices and offer surprising health benefits. Here are a few ideas on how to include nuts into your diet:

  • Use chopped or crushed nuts as a crispy coating (along with whole-grain cereal and herbs) for fish or poultry
  • Toss coarsely chopped nuts into side dishes, such as brown rice, barley or quinoa
  • Chop and stir into oatmeal or cold cereal
  • Toast (on medium heat in a dry nonstick skillet) lightly for topping salads
  • Grind them in a food processor and use as a substitute for bread crumbs

 These are just a few suggestions – use your imagination!

Flaxseed Health Benefits

Question: What is it?
Answer: Linum usitatissimum, or plan old flax, is a blue-flowered crop that has been used as a food source since 3000 B.C. Flaxseed, a reddish-brown, chewy seed, is rich in protein, fat & dietary fiber. The quality of flaxseed protein is similar to that of a soybean & the quality of its fat is similar to that of canola oil.

Question: What’s so great about it?
Answer: Flaxseed is a rich source of several minerals and phytochemicals that have been shown to protect against the development of certain types of cancer & heart disease. The alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3 fat) in flaxseed is a type of essential fatty acid that promotes heart health, immunity and continues to be studied for its importance in the prevention of chronic inflammation.

Question: I’ve heard the term ‘lignans’ in reference to flax. What are those?
Answer: Flaxseed is an incredibly rich source of a group of compounds called lignans. Many plant foods contain lignans, but flaxseed provides a whopping 75 times more lignans than any other food!

“(Flaxseed) lignans are important because they may have powerful antioxidant properties that can help block the damaging effects of harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals. These molecules are thought to cause changes in the body that can lead to cancer.”

Lignans show promise for blocking the effects of estrogen, which helps to protect against breast cancer. Even when estrogen positive tumors grow, in the presence of lignans, their growth may slow or halt.

Question: Any other benefits?
Answer: Flaxseed is very high in fiber, 3 TBS of seeds provide 3 grams of fiber, or about 12% of the Recommended Daily Value. Fiber, among other functions, can help block the effects of harmful compounds in the body that, over time, can damage intestinal cells, leading to cancer. It also moves these compounds out of the body quicker.

Question: I’ve seen the seeds and the meal, what’s the best way to eat flax/incorporate into my diet?
Answer: It’s best to buy the seeds (Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand) and grind them yourself shortly before use. This releases the beneficial oils. Store the ground flaxseed in an airtight container in the fridge and sprinkle 1 TB or so in smoothies, on salads, in yogurt…even stir some in soup or spaghetti sauce (nobody will know)!