Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fads are out, realistic health trends are in for 2014

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Bouncy stretches while wearing leg warmers. Exercise belts that promised to melt away fat. The revelation that eating low-fat food was the magic formula for instant weight loss.

Thankfully, health and fitness trends seem to be less faddish and a little more down-to-earth these days.

What's in store for 2014?

Here are my predictions:

Coconut water as a sports drink

THERE was a time you could only find this exotic drink in specialty ethnic markets and health food stores, but for the past couple of years, cans, portable boxes and large cartons of the stuff are available at mainstream supermarkets (Vita Coco, one of North America's leading coconut water brands is reportedly set to rake in $250 million in revenue this year, up from $150 million in 2012).

The trend will continue in 2014. The selling features of coconut water? According to manufacturers, it contains naturally occurring electrolytes (including more potassium than a banana). Combine that with the fact coconut water has a light coconut taste, is virtually fat-free, contains no dyes and touts much less sugar than traditional sports drinks, and it's easy to understand why consumers in North America and Europe are guzzling the drink.

But do we really need it? Experts say water is an adequate hydrator for most light-to-moderate exercisers. For those who engage in more serious activity such as marathon-racing, replacing electrolytes is important to prevent dehydration. Keep in mind coconut water doesn't contain a lot of sodium, a necessary electrolyte that's found in traditional sports drinks.

High intensity interval training (HIIT)

SHORT bursts of intense activity followed by periods of slower movement or rest will be the new way of exercising in 2014. The thinking? These types of power workouts -- that usually last for 20 to 30 minutes -- are perfect for busy people who use the "I don't have time" excuse not to exercise. Studies also suggest interval training helps you burn more calories at rest than hour-long, steady-paced workouts. That equates to more fat burned over the course of the day, even when you're sleeping. Researchers also say this intense type of training increases your cardiovascular fitness quickly.

Nixing vitamin supplements

in favour of 'clean' eating

IN 2013, people continued to grow suspicious of oral nutrient supplements after headlines suggested the detrimental affects of certain vitamins. One study, for example, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found men with high levels of omega-3 in the blood were more likely to develop prostate cancer.

Although it is not clear whether these men got their omega-3s from food or pills, such information has created a mass distrust of supplements. Instead, people are turning to whole, nutrient-dense food to replace their once-loved vitamin supplements. Look for the trend to blow up in 2014 as more people strive to eat "clean"-- choosing whole foods with few ingredients as their meals and snacks.

Exercising while pregnant

FOR years, doctors told their pregnant patients they should exercise only if they were active before conception. That advice became outdated a decade ago when experts realized exercise can lead to an easier labour and a healthier baby.

That's when the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology established guidelines on exercise during pregnancy. The guidelines encouraged all women with "uncomplicated" pregnancies to exercise whether or not they were sedentary before they conceived.

Even though the idea is no longer new, widely circulated photographs of pregnant celebrities (Halle Berry, Jessica Alba and Drew Barrymore) wearing workout clothes -- ready to exercise, despite their protruding bellies -- has made exercising while pregnant popular. Expect the trend to continue in 2014 as more exercise classes designed just for mothers-to-be pop up everywhere. Look for programs run by certified exercise professionals who will need your doctor's consent before you start working out with them.

Probiotics

PROBIOTICS became a buzzword in the yogurt industry this year. Most consumers have heard about the role of probiotics in promoting "digestive health" -- a idea one yogurt giant has marketed with great success. In 2014, probiotics will become a buzzword not just in yogurt commercials and on yogurt labels, but in most households. Scientists say these bacteria can do everything from prevent colon cancer to reverse vaginal infections, so expect more food companies to use the term to market their products.

Nutrition apps

NEED to find out how many calories are in your favourite food? How the food you're about to eat rates on a scorecard? There's an app for that. Such nutrition applications -- web-based programs designed for computers and mobile devices -- will become more popular in 2014. Such a trend means consumers run the risk of mindlessly relying on apps without really understanding how to fend for themselves in the grocery store.

Nevertheless, apps can be beneficial tools in helping you eat well, but it's best to learn to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists. As well, use common sense when interpreting a label's health claims. Exercise tracking devices that use apps will also be everywhere in 2014.

Have a story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 23, 2013 D5

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