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I’m a Personal Trainer. Here’s Which Fitness Trends Don’t Live Up to the Hype

It's time to leave some of these trendy fads behind.

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The fitness industry is an expansive wasteland of overhyped fitness fads and get-fit-quick schemes. While we’ve previously covered some of the most common fitness myths in “12 Common Fitness Myths Busted,” we thought it might be worth taking another look to see what new fads have cropped up and which ones are actually worth the hype.

The “no days off” mentality

With 24/7 access to fitness fads and “no days off” inspiration bombarding our social media, the drive to get and stay fit can easily get out of hand. While it’s great to maintain a focus on improving health and wellness, the belief that more is always better might not pay off the way you think.

“I’ve seen so many people fall victim to the ‘no days off’ mantra,” says Joelle Cavagnaro, who has a Master of Science in exercise physiology and is CEO of Level TEN Coaching. “It’s important to understand that we need rest and we need recovery, no matter your fitness goal.”

Failing to take a day off each week is a recipe for disaster. As Cavagnaro explains, this kind of constant physical activity keeps our sympathetic nervous system — aka our “fight, flight or freeze” system — active, which means our “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system has no opportunity to activate and thrive. This can lead to reduced metabolic health, poor menstrual function, decreased immunity and even reduced psychological health.

The bottom line: No matter what you’re training for or how important that final fitness goal is, you need days off to rest and recover.

Tracking tech

There’s no denying fitness technology has come a long way in the past several years. From running apps and calorie trackers to wearables that measure heart rate and sleeping patterns, modern technology has provided many useful tracking tools for developing healthier habits. And with better apps and new gear and gadgets coming out every day, this is one fitness fad that shows no signs of stopping.

What happens when you become obsessed with the tech?

If you’re constantly checking your Apple Watch, Fitbit or Garmin to see how many calories you’re burning at any given minute, you might be missing the bigger picture.

“Fitness programs that force people to become hyperfocused on their caloric burn are a hard pass for me,” Cavagnaro says. “There are so many benefits to strength training and exercise as a whole, caloric expenditure shouldn’t be the ultimate driver of your fitness journey.” The number on the screen not only can be highly inaccurate, but this calorie-burning obsession also could lead to a negative relationship with food and exercise in the long run.

The bottom line: Fitness technology is useful for developing healthier habits and keeping track of your progress. Just don’t let it rule your life.

Miracle diets and supplements

If you watch morning news shows or frequent health websites, you’re bound to see a new story or article promoting the latest fitness fad “miracle” in the form of an obscure diet or supplement.

While some foods and supplements do have a long track record of promoting better health or improving energy and metabolism, be wary of newcomers, especially if the promises seem too good to be true.

“Any time a new fitness fad hits the market, it’s important to ask questions,” Cavagnaro says. “How long has this trendy new thing been around? Is there current research around it? Have its benefits been documented in a peer-reviewed journal?”

Even real results often get misconstrued or blown out of proportion by the time they reach the consumer. To separate fact from fantasy, just answer a few common-sense questions: Does this fad align with your current goals? Is it sustainable? Is it extreme? Does it bypass your health to prioritize your physique? While vetting each new fitness food or supplement might sound like a lot of work, it’s better than diving into something that could cause real harm.

The bottom line: Check reliable sources and use common sense before you go all in on a new diet or supplement.

10,000 steps

Perhaps the most underrated fitness fad of the past few years, the 10,000-steps-a-day fad has nonetheless earned die-hard support among Forbes CEOs and retired grandmas alike. Perhaps it’s because it’s just so easy to remember — 10,000 is a nice round number — and it plays well with other fitness fads (use that Fitbit!). But is this popular fad really worth all the hype?

Though it’s hard to lose weight or transform your body through walking alone, this particular fad does have its merits. It’s not that reaching 10,000 steps magically unlocks new levels of vitality and longevity. It’s just that walking is one of the simplest things we can do for our physical and mental health, and a 10,000-step goal is a surprisingly motivating way to make it happen.

“I am a firm believer that walking is hands down one of the most underrated things we could be doing for our health,” Cavagnaro says. “We know walking reduces the risk of heart disease, improves insulin sensitivity, helps to manage blood pressure and cholesterol, improves sleep, boosts immune function, improves digestion, decreases stress and increases our NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), further contributing to our overall daily caloric expenditure.” So the next time your mom paces the living room to “get her steps in,” skip the eye roll and join in on this easy — and free — fitness fad.

The bottom line: It’s not the number that makes this fad magical, but the motivation to get up and get moving!

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