Fitness Tips

Blue Zones Thinking Is Coming for Our Workouts

Ali Finney

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This one goes out to anyone who’s ever been told to schedule their workout like an “important business meeting,” only to fold under the pressure of a last-minute deadline or the prospect of 15 extra minutes with the snooze button. As our calendars come to look more and more like unbeatable games of Tetris, our workouts need to become less square. Which is why, in 2020, you can expect a more flexible approach to fitness to gain steam: A proliferation of shorter workouts from new and beloved fitness brands will make it easier to fit sweat sessions into jam-packed schedules, coupled with an increase in adoption of a “Blue Zones” approach to exercise—wherein we take a cue from some of the longest-living people in the world and work more activity into our daily habits—will have us raising our heart rate without hitting pause on our days. Flexible fitness for the win.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about a quarter of Americans are getting enough exercise, and one poll commissioned by the fitness app Freeletics named “not having time” as the number one excuse. One way an increasing amount of people are fitting workouts into their days? They’re making them shorter. Between January and September this year, YouTube views for 10-minute workout videos topped 150 million—that’s more than the views for 40-, 50-, and 60-minute workouts combined. Streaming platforms like Peloton, Aaptiv, Mirror, and Sweat with Kayla are also leaning into the less-is-more mentality and offering an increased number of workouts that top out at 15 to 20 minutes. Speaking of 10-minute workouts, here’s one to try:

Not to be left behind, brick and mortar studios are also catering to a pressed-for-time crowd. In 2019, SoulCycle and Fhitting Room launched short and sweet versions of their signature classes (Soul30 is an IRL offering while Fhitting Room’s 30-minute workouts are available to stream), while newbie Sweat440 debuted with a mission to “crack the code on convenience,” says co-founder Matt Miller. Sweat440 classes are 40 minutes long, but are split into four 10-minute circuits; new members can join at the start of each 10-minute block. Because a new “class” starts every 10, you can never really be late; and if you need to dash before you finish all four circuits, you can. Also new on the scene are the high-tech biohacking gyms Hackd (which opened its doors in late 2018) and Dave Asprey’s Upgrade Labs (2019), which offer hyper-personalized workouts that promise to fit a week’s worth of strength training or cardio in less than 20 minutes. (Both have expansion on the brain for 2020.)

Americans are becoming wise to something that other regions of the world have known for generations: The healthiest lifestyles incorporate activity into their daily routine.

At the same time, Americans are becoming wise to something that other regions of the world have known for generations: The healthiest lifestyles incorporate activity into their daily routine (e.g. walking the dog or biking to the market). “Those who live in Blue Zones put emphasis on sleep and recovery…and incorporate exercise into their daily regimen,” says Emily Kiberd, DC, founder of New York City’s Urban Wellness Clinic. “Their lives are dynamic. Not a constant go, go, go, but a mix of movement, then rest.” In 2018, for the first time in 10 years, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans put forth by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) were revised to say that any bout of exercise (even those under 10 minutes) would count towards the 150 to 300 minutes of activity recommended per week. The ODPHP’s Healthy People 2030 initiative, which includes a set of objectives to improve Americans’ health in the next decade, is also in favor of flexible guidelines for fitness.

Exercise doesn’t have to cost a million dollars to be effective. Your only two options are not to “go hard or go home”.

This cumulative fitness philosophy is also reflected in your fitness trackers—which celebrate when you achieve daily activity goals, not when you finish an hour-long workout—and is thread through the fabric of the buzzy fitness apparel brand Outdoor Voices. OV founder Tyler Haney brings her brand’s “doing things” tagline to life with a slate of events—from dance parties to runs to ice skating meet-ups—that get attendees’ blood pumping without being explicitly billed as “exercise.” “What I’m interested in is, how do we get to the people who haven’t gone on a hike in a year or don’t have access to a SoulCycle class? How do we provide the resources to get them moving?” Haney says. Keep an eye out for even more on this front from her brand in 2020.

At its core, flexible fitness makes clear something we’ve long known to be true: Exercise doesn’t have to cost a million dollars to be effective. Your only two options are not to “go hard or go home”—you don’t even need to be wearing leggings for something to “count” as your workout for the day. The more we turn to physical activity that’s flexible, adaptable, and kind to our bodies, the better able we’ll be to reap the mood-boosting, endorphin-pumping benefits it has to offer.

But wait, there’s more! Click here to read the rest of our 2020 Wellness Trends predictions.

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