It’s the time of the year when we inevitably find ourselves searching for ways to become healthier and happier. Whether that means finally joining a gym or taking up new eating habits, you’ll see the familiar headline everywhere: ‘New Year, New You’. There’s no need for over-the-top fitness goals which have you throwing in the towel before spring rolls around. If you’re lacing up a pair of trainers for the first time or looking for somewhere else to get fit besides the gym, we’ve got the latest health and fitness trends for 2017 to help you along the way.
They’ve become as much a part of your wardrobe as your regular accessories – activity trackers, like Fitbit and Polar, are being seen more and more on people’s wrists, monitoring everything from how many steps you’re taking daily to your food intake. Wearable technology is showing no signs of slowing down, coming in at the top of the list for the second year in a row of the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) ‘Worldwide Fitness Trends’ survey . You don’t have to shell out the big bucks for one of these either.
If tracking your steps is all you’re after, a variety of apps on your smartphone or an inexpensive pedometer will do the trick. But if you want to take your health monitoring to the next level, Kennedy Town-based Biorna Quantics has developed ‘wellness and performance technologies’ to help track your diet and lifestyle in the form of home-testing kits. You can measure food sensitivities, base your exercise routine on your DNA, and monitor your sleep routine.
More than a gym
Boutique fitness centres will continue to grow – places where you can attain your fitness goals in a more personal manner.
“People will gravitate towards a boutique or brand that feels like home for them and offers them the kind of social support that can be missing from big gyms,” says Elle Kealy, a Hong Kong-based fitness and wellness business coach, and women’s fitness expert. “I also see more and more people following their favourite boutique brand online via on demand and live streaming services, which is something I’m launching for my clients in 2017 as well.”
Some of these boutique brands offer unique ways to get fit, rather than plugging away on a standard treadmill. Gym workouts seem so boring when you can partake in something like aerial exercise, toning your body by twisting and spinning via long pieces of fabric suspended from a ceiling. Aerial Arts Academy offers a list of very intriguing classes, including aerial silk, aerial hoop and aerial hammock.
You may have tried it at a hen party for a bit of fun, but pole dancing can be a great way to burn calories and build muscle strength. Studios are popping up around the city, with classes offered at a number of venues, like Pole Divas and Flaunt Studio. And they’re not just for women. N2 Pole Studio, founded by Narlton Tsang, an international competitor in pole sports, has classes for men and women taught by Narlton himself. Pole dancing isn’t just for a lark – some participants are practically gymnasts, but luckily there’s classes for beginners who have never climbed a dance pole before.
There’s also ways to get lean and firm by channelling your inner ballerina. Barre-based exercise can be gentle and even calming, and is a great way to improve posture and flexibility. The classes tend to be smaller at studios offering this kind of workout, like Barre 2 Barre, making it a more personal experience than sweating in a sea of fancy exercise equipment in a crowded gym.
Need something a bit more intense? High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is another growing global fitness movement, according to the ACSM poll. Rather than putting in a full workout session, HIIT consists of low to moderate intensity intervals alternated with high intensity intervals, usually lasting around 30 minutes. And it’s got no shortage of followers in Hong Kong.
“HIIT continues to be a trend, as it’s short, sharp and intense,” says Kealy. “Most companies in Hong Kong are incorporating it into their workouts, whether it’s CrossFit, spinning, boot camps or strength training.”
HIT45 does 45 minute training sessions, starting with a warm-up, followed by cardio and strength training, and the all-too important post-workout stretch. Eco lovers will enjoy knowing their calorie burning is coming courtesy of environmentally-friendly treadmills, which burn 30% more calories and produce less pressure on joints.
To the extreme
If HIIT isn’t challenging enough for you, how does flipping over giant tyres, hurling Atlas stones and tackling a Hercules hoist strike you? Strongman training is hardcore and focusses on building full-body strength and working all your muscles. You may find yourself beating your chest like a warrior after a session, not to mention sore in places you’ve never felt pain before, but boy will you see results and de-stress. URSUS Fitness in Sai Ying Pun does strongman training and runs a ‘Bearcamp’ involving HIIT-style circuit classes using strongman equipment (check out the image at the top of this post).
Expect climbing to get popular too, as it becomes recognised as an Olympic-level sport for the first time at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Your manicure may suffer a bit from gripping the surface both indoors and outdoors, but it’ll be worth it when you marvel at your newly-acquired upper body strength and wicked calves. There’s less-intense climbing walls for the kids out there too, so you can make it a family fitness affair.
It’s been practised since ancient India, but yoga is still very much in style and trending this year. The list of benefits is lengthy – it relieves anxiety, increases your blood flow and builds muscle strength. ODINSON in Sheung Wan offers private and intimate group yoga sessions in lovely surroundings, with classes in Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Dharma yoga.
Flex has been around in HK since 2005 and runs yoga classes along with Pilates, barre and aerial fitness, some of which cater to teens and kids. Keep an eye out for their rotating promotions, including signature detox sessions and specialised yoga technique classes.
If you prefer your downward dogs in the open air, ApeYoga lets you bend and pose al fresco with the Hong Kong skyline as your backdrop, or in the privacy of your garden with one-to-one sessions.
You’ll need fuel to carry you through any of these workouts, and a good eating plan to keep you in top shape, inside and out, throughout the year. Drop the kale chips and bin the quinoa – 2017 is all about wellness tonics, Japanese food (not just sushi) and anything purple, so says the mother of all health food chains, Whole Foods (fingers crossed we get one in Hong Kong one day!).
In their report on trends to watch in 2017, wellness drinks featuring turmeric and basil made the list, ingredients from Japan like wakame and nori will make their way into our kitchens, and purple vegetables – cauliflower, asparagus and sweet potatoes – will become a staple, in the vibrant royal colour boasting high antioxidants and nutrients.
Hong Kong has not lagged behind on the juice front, so expect popular chains such as nood food and Genie Juicery to keep you refreshed year-long with turmeric-laced tonics and cold-pressed juices with basil. While we may be lacking actual Whole Foods stores here, no worries, as there’s plenty of health and organic food stores scattered around the city to stock up on nutritious snacks, healthy Asian food and all things purple.
And with more health and fitness trends emerging all the time, make sure you find time between the squats and the juice pressing to stay in touch with the HK Hub for all the latest news.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London.