Here’s how we'll be eating, working out and de-stressing this year
The latest diet buzz is around achieving good ‘metabolic flexibility’ – the ability of the body to switch easily between fat and carb burning. Research shows that those who have good metabolic flexibility are better able to lose and maintain weight and are at a lower risk of diseases such as diabetes.
“Our metabolism has the key to unlock our health and wellness. If we take care of it by making it more flexible, everything else follows – higher energy, weight management, lower blood sugar,” says GP Dr Emeka Okorocha.
Along with several studies looking into the benefits of metabolic flexibility, functional medicine practitioner Will Cole – among Gwyneth Paltrow’s team of experts – discusses the concept in his latest book Intuitive Fasting (he also has a quiz on his website, drwillcole.com, to find out how flexible your metabolism is). Meanwhile nutritionist Rhian Stephenson has an online seminar on the subject in February (artah.co).
The way we eat now, with a generally high carb, high sugar diet combined with snack culture, worsened by two years of often bad eating habits has meant that our bodies rely on carbs and sugar to get us through the day. The effect is dangerous for our health: around one in four UK adults suffers from obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
The key to achieving metabolic flexibility is to bio hack your metabolism – which can be achieved by adapting your carb intake, intermittent fasting and exercising (particularly HIIT) – and a range of tools promise to help. Lumen, for instance, measures the carbon dioxide in your breath to give you an indication of whether your body is burning carbs or fat. It then suggests nutrition plans and how long to fast in order to get you back in the fat burning zone (lumen.me).
In 2022 you might be asking for your latte with a shot of potato milk as the humble spud embraces the alt-milk world. From February, Waitrose will start stocking the Swedish potato milk brand Dug, which claims to be the most sustainable alt-milk on the market.
It’s not just potatoes – sunflower seeds are set for a revival next year. In the US, Ben & Jerry’s recently released sunflower seed ice cream, while Whole Foods has sunflower butter, and brands including Biona have leapt on the trend too.
Plant-based foods are only set to increase. Since the release of Netflix’s much-talked about documentary, Seaspiracy, more of us are looking for alternatives. Vegan sashimi ‘zalmon’, usually made with made with tapioca starch, is on the rise, along with mushroom ‘bacon’ from the company MyEats.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School found in a poll that 29 per cent of people had experienced particularly vivid dreams during the pandemic – a ‘dream surge’ which has led to a rise in dream therapy. From apps to courses and retreats, seeking help to decipher what it all means is on the up. Tree Carr, who runs a retreat, says she has seen a huge spike in people wanting to know more about their dreams. When you “begin to decode them, you realise that your unconscious mind is helping you to balance something out in your waking life,” she explains.
Breath work has gained prominence with apps and classes to help master the technique. But the newest way to oxygenate your body is a session in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Typically, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a treatment where you get into a pressurised chamber and breathe in pure oxygen. Athletes have long used the treatment: footballers Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo, swimmer Michael Phelps and basketball star LeBron James are all known fans. But now others are jumping on the trend to get the anecdotal benefits (studies are so far inconclusive) that include better sleep, faster recovery times and newly, improved breathing capacity for long Covid sufferers.
“In normal conditions, the air we breathe is comprised of oxygen levels of 20.9 per cent. However, inside a hyperbaric chamber, the air is able to reach 95 per cent oxygen. This increase in oxygen levels helps to oxygenate the blood and encourage new blood vessel formations… [this] helps to develop your breathing capacity,” explains Samson Garwood, assistant head of ftness at Lanserhof at the Arts Club. As well as at some fancy gyms, chambers are available at some hospitals and clinics around the country, including at The Nottingham Oxygen Centre, which is currently treating those with long Covid.
The surprising fitness trend storming TikTok is weighted hula hooping: the hashtag #weightedhulahoop has had more than 200 million views and counting. But unlike many social media trends, this one is actually good for you. A 2019 study published in Obesity Facts found that those who used a weighted hula hoop for just under 13 minutes a day for six weeks lost just over 3cm from their waist, along with abdominal fat, compared with those who just walked 10,000 steps per day. Try the Core Balance Weighted Fitness Hula Hoop, £14.99 (corebalancefitness.co.uk).
Analysis by Bupa notes an 80 per cent increase in searches on Google for ‘mindful moving’ – which studies confirm can improve our wellbeing, and even reduce depression. Apple Watch recently upgraded its tracking function to allow users to track two mindful workouts, Pilates and tai chi, as well as introducing meditation programmes that you can do as you run or walk.
Other wearables are now concerned about our stress levels: while our Fitbits, WHOOP bands and Amazfit devices now measure things like heart rate, blood pressure and breath rates – and often suggest breathing exercises if they detect you are stressed – a new device developed by Swiss scientists uses droplets of sweat to track the cortisol (stress hormone) in your body.
Other high tech advances in the fight against stress include the first smart ice bath, Monk, launching later next year, which will bring the mental health benefits of cold water swimming at home – without wading through pond weed. It is set to cost around £2,999.
During lockdown, high tech spin bikes from Peloton, Echelon and the AI-powered CAROL, were a sensation (Peloton’s sales surged 172 per cent after the first lockdown). But next year the focus will shift from spin bikes to kit that blends more seamlessly into the fabric of your home. “MIT has developed a prototype smart carpet with 9,000 pressure sensors that can identify 15 exercise-related actions,” Sarah Housley, head of consumer technology at the trend forecaster WGSN, says.
Peloton Guide, launching in 2022, uses AI-enabled camera technology that connects with the TV and tracks your movements (to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly), as well as tracking your movement through the week, to assess which muscle groups we use regularly, feeding this into its algorithm to personalise its workouts. (It starts at £450 with a £12.99/month Peloton Guide Membership.)
HILIT – high intensity low impact training – still harnesses the cardio and fat-burning benefits of HIIT, meaning you still have to push yourself. But, according to Lydia Arnoux, Barrecore teacher and personal trainer, it “reduces the risk of injury”. Think swimming and cycling over running and lunging and push ups instead of jumping jacks – just make sure they are performed fast.
This kind of exercise can maintain and build muscle, and is particularly useful for women post-partum or older people, as we “naturally lose muscle mass and our joints may get a little sore,” Arnoux adds.
Working at home has had a major impact on our posture, with a study published last year pointing out that it “may promote the onset of musculoskeletal disorders. Working in a sedentary position for prolonged periods increases the risk of neck pain and/or low back pain.”
Gym John Reed is launching a Mobile Flow class to combat these twinges, which are more commonly accrued at the kitchen table due to not having the right chair or office equipment. The ‘range of low-intensity movements,’ mostly bodyweight and yoga exercises, are designed to release tension in strained parts of the body, like the hip flexors. As omicron has taken over, several gyms have upped or even entirely reverted to their online class offerings once more. Like hybrid working, expect hybrid workouts to be a feature of fitness for some time to come.
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Here’s how we'll be eating, working out and de-stressing this year