Fitness fads come and go faster than Usain Bolt runs a 100-meter dash. Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine questions thousands of fitness professionals and compiles a worldwide survey of fitness trends. While many of the top picks – such as wearable technology and group training – become the next big thing, others, like punk rope or trapeze classes, never truly breakthrough in the exercise world. The new year is a great time to start a fitness routine, or switch up your existing one. From infrared sauna therapy and high intensity interval training (HIIT) to aqua yoga and cryotherapy, these five unique, must-try trends will keep you happy and healthy in the new year.

Infrared Sauna Therapy

Infrared sauna therapy is the latest spa craze to take the world by storm. How does it work? Instead of heating the space around you with traditional heat, infrared sauna therapy warms the body from the inside, using infrared lights to vibrate and break down water molecules inside the body. Many boutique and luxury spas also incorporate LED light therapy into the infrared sauna regime, creating a holistic, full-wellness experience. More importantly, the sweating process during an infrared sauna is more efficient than a traditional sauna.

According to spa professionals, 40 minutes in an infrared sauna can burn up to 600 calories. The red-hot, holistic trend also improves circulation, purifies skin, relives muscle pain and rids the body of heavy metals like mercury and lead. The Mayo Clinic has found that infrared saunas are helpful in treating chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

According to the survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity interval training is the number one fitness trend for 2018. It’s not surprising, either, considering HIIT is tailor-made for people with busy lives. Rather than spend an hour on a treadmill or Stairmaster, HIIT focuses on shorter, more intense bursts of exercise. Research indicates you can achieve more progress in 15 minutes of interval training (three times a week) than jogging on a treadmill for an hour.

The Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that 20 minutes of an intense workout burned an average of 15 calories per minute – twice the amount used on a long run. In addition, HIIT workouts improve aerobic capacity, burn fat, build a healthier heart and increase metabolism. HIIT allows you to squeeze in a workout during your lunch break. It can also be done with little or no equipment, which means staying fit no longer requires an expensive gym or health club membership. HIIT workouts are beneficial for everyone including older adults and those who struggle with rapid weight gain. With HIIT, being too busy to stay fit is no longer an excuse.

Aqua Yoga

(Image via TMPL Gym/Facebook)

While yoga will never go out of style, new innovations can freshen up your exercise routine, adding some namaste to the new year. Aqua yoga has been making waves for the past few years, and it’s one of the most popular forms of yoga among modern yogis. Since the body bears less weigh in water, aqua yoga is easier on the joints and knees than traditional yoga. At the same time, due to the movement of water, aqua yoga is more challenging than traditional yoga when it comes to balance and maintaining poses. The popular floating workout relaxes and stretches the muscles. It improves strength, flexibility and range of motion. Most importantly, aqua yoga kicks your core into shape with less of a chance of injury. Soaking has long been a time-honored approach to healing. By practicing yoga in the water, the body becomes more flexible and the mind easily slips into a meditative state.

Virtual Reality Workouts

Virtual reality (VR) workouts, otherwise known as immersive fitness, might seem like science fiction, but more and more technology is showing up at the gym. Combining the addictive allure of video games with the immersive quality of virtual reality, VR exercise machines can deliver a core workout while making it seem like users are flying or deep-sea diving. The idea of the virtual reality workout is to make exercise less monotonous. It’s no longer enough to have a TV embedded in a treadmill. Tomorrow’s workouts will let you drive Formula 1 cars in the gym.

According to Bloomberg Technology, VirZOOM Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, transforms exercise bike machines into VR controllers that let gym-goers ride horses and drive cars. Meanwhile, a Helsinki-based start-up overlays digital images onto rock-climbing walls, allowing gym-going gamers to battle one another while they ascend. There are home workouts built around VR, too, including archery, shooting and boxing games.

While skeptics say these types of gimmicks won’t trick the brain into making the body work, there’s no denying that exercise, for many people, is boring, and that gaming is one way to get people inspired about working out. VR exercise machines are expensive – upwards of $10,000 in some cases – so don’t expect to see this sort of technology at the local YMCA. Still, immersive fitness represents a brave new world of working out.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has wellness buffs and pro athletes flocking to sub-zero temperature chambers for increased energy, mental stability, improved sleep, and a revved metabolism. The emerging health and fitness trend is also said to be a major calorie burn; three minutes “chilling out” in temperatures as low as -256 degrees Fahrenheit promises to burn up to 800 calories.

Cryotherapy originated in Japan in the 1970’s to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Today, most cryotherapy research focuses on its effects on muscle repair and performance – think of it as taking an extreme ice-bath to sooth soreness after a workout or sporting competition. The New York Knicks are said to have their own Cryotherapy chambers, and soccer star Christiano Ronaldo is a fan of the trend. Many celebrities have touted its anti-aging benefits and positive effects on mood. Crotherapy spas are popping up all over the U.S., and two to three minute sessions in a Cryo chamber can range from $64 to $90.

We all know that New Year’s resolutions can be short-lived. Staying on top of your health and fitness resolutions can be challenging. The idea is to find a fitness trend that’s creative and inspiring. Finding the willpower to stay fit should be less of a battle when you find something that you truly enjoy.

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