Pictured from left: Alexander Rothstein and Mindy Haar
With the new year upon us, health and fitness resolutions and trends are now a common topic of conversation. Last year’s fads may not persist, while other popular movements only continue to gain steam. To better understand what to expect for 2023, New York Tech nutrition expert Mindy Haar, Ph.D., RDN, clinical associate professor and chairperson of interdisciplinary health sciences, and exercise science expert Alexander Rothstein, instructor of interdisciplinary health sciences, answered questions about the rise and fall of health and fitness trends for the past, present, and future.
What exercise/nutrition trends have you recently seen gaining popularity?
Mindy Haar (MH): Increasingly, people are moving to a more plant-based diet that has not only personal nutrition benefits but a planetary impact as well. Some are replacing a few animal protein meals each week with plant-based protein, while others are totally giving up meat, poultry, and fish. The pandemic brought home the importance of optimal immune function. The concepts of “food is medicine” and “culinary medicine” are becoming more familiar to a greater number of people. Trends indicate an increased interest in what is in food, consuming whole foods, and “functional foods,” which are those that promote wellness and prevent disease—going beyond just satisfying our basic nutrition requirements.
Alexander Rothstein (AR): A major fitness trend is virtual training. Gyms, trainers, schools, and many major corporations began offering group fitness and virtual individualized personal training sessions to help motivate and, in some cases, educate people about exercise. I expect this to continue trending in the new year. Even if individuals are not partaking in many online classes offered by their organization, they often report that feeling like they have the opportunity to take classes is beneficial. Virtual one-on-one personal training has opened a huge market for personal trainers to offer their services and expertise around the world from the comfort of their homes. Many of these individuals have already made this training method a part of their business model, and I expect it will stay trending.
What upcoming trends do you predict will “make a splash” in 2023?
MH: Interest is increasing in “digestive health” and the “microbiome,” which is the gut environment. While some seek to improve these areas with pre- and probiotic supplements, others take the more recommended route of increasing their fiber intake from a variety of sources—whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit, and vegetables—as well as consuming fermented foods like miso and sauerkraut. Individuals are also continuing to seek simple, convenient food that is more healthful, like cut-up vegetables, frozen vegetables, and boxed low-sodium soups. Some will now put healthfulness over convenience and be more willing to spend time on food preparation.
AR: The pandemic sparked a unique spike in individuals’ self-awareness and motivation to focus on their health and well-being. This spike has continued in all aspects of health and wellness, ranging from nutrition and mental health to physical health and more. Based on this, and the fact that this trend has continued well into 2022, I expect health and well-being will not only continue to be a major trend in individuals’ lives but will become an even larger component of their time and effort. Whether it be increasing the number of walking breaks they take during the day, dietary changes, or signing up for a fitness program, I expect individuals will continue to focus on themselves in a positive way in 2023.
Are there any trends from recent years that you believe are losing favor or will not continue in 2023?
MH: Recent years have seen a rise in online counseling and telehealth. While not falling out of favor, in-person nutrition and health guidance is now not the only option available for those seeking professional instruction. With consumer awareness and the increased availability of online nutrition counseling by credentialed nutrition professionals, these virtual sessions can more easily facilitate personalized eating plans and continuous support in making lifestyle changes.
AR: At-home fitness has declined and seemingly plateaued. New, innovative at-home tools are constantly available—Peloton, Tonal, Mirror. But since the COVID-19 spike in sales, most of these at-home approaches have returned to their normal sales levels, and many have gone the way of other fitness fads and disappeared. I expect this will continue in 2023. At-home fitness will always be an option, but it will not return to the levels seen during the pandemic. I believe this is also true of individuals who built or will build at-home fitness facilities. These at-home fitness furnishings are exciting and convenient, but many of them simply take up space and are not used enough to justify the expense and clutter. Most individuals will instead choose to pay for a gym membership.
Anything else you’d like to add?
MH: Pasta continues to evolve with even more healthful choices, with bean pasta and brown rice pasta joining the lineup in recent years. Coming soon will be chickpea pasta, spaghetti squash pasta, and quinoa pasta. All are typically higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals than pasta made with white flour. With increased interest in consuming oils higher in healthier mono-unsaturated fats, avocado oil is joining olive oil and canola oil as popular choices. A trending vegetable for 2023 will be mushrooms—a versatile vegetable that comes in many varieties and can be prepared in myriad ways. While burgers made from plant-based “meat” has been around for a few years, coming soon is plant-based seafood made with mushrooms.
AR: During the pandemic, there was a clear and purposeful rise in at-home workout equipment and the use of outdoor spaces like parks, playgrounds, and tracks. As the “new normal” began to calm down and return to previous ways, the use of fitness centers became prevalent again and, in some areas, increased as individuals who became more inactive during the pandemic realized they needed to “get in gear.” The return of gyms was never a big question as they have been around and successful for decades, but one of the largest changes in these fitness centers has been the emphasis on cleanliness. Many gyms realized they needed to increase their focus on ensuring clean and hygienic environments to protect members’ health and personal comfort. I expect this positive change to continue in 2023.
This interview has been edited and condensed.