With so many health and fitness trends out there these days, it can be hard to tell which ones are actually worthy of our time. Whether you’ve heard about them on a podcast, seen your friends testing them on Instagram Stories, or read about them online, below are five trends that have some solid science behind them.
1. The Keto Diet
Unless you’ve been on a year-long life sabbattical, you’ve heard about the ketogenic diet by now. Probably the diet of 2018, keto has actually been around since the 1920s, when doctors started using it as part of a therapy plan for people with epilepsy.
“The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, very low-carb, moderate protein diet that transitions your body into a state of ketosis,” says Ariane Hundt, M.S., a clinical nutrition coach in New York City. “Ketosis means that your body uses fat (in the form of ketones) as energy instead of carbohydrates (or sugar).” The perks: quick water and fat loss, steady energy, and diminished hunger and cravings.
You see, carbohydrates promote water retention, says Hundt. (For every gram of carbs you eat, your body holds onto about 2.5 grams of water.) When you slash your carb intake to less than 50 grams total per day—as is required on keto—you shed water weight.
Plus, by eliminating sugar, you free yourself of the blood sugar spikes and crashes it causes, promoting stable energy, keeping you out of the cookie jar, and further supporting weight loss.
The buzz doesn’t end there, though: Early research suggests keto may protect cognitive function and help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. While more large-scale studies are needed, the preliminary results have many a health expert intrigued.
The hitch for many people, however, is that the keto diet requires an all-or-nothing approach. “People think they can eat keto one day and have carbs the next, but that leads to fat storage fast,” says Hundt. “As soon as more carbs come in, the body switches back to burning carbs and not body fat.”
So if you’re interested in trying keto, you have to be willing to commit. Hundt recommends easing into it with three to five days of clean eating, and sticking to keto for at least a month to see substantial benefits.
Gone are the days of artificial cinnamon bun-flavored coffee creamers. Personal trainers, fitness influencers, and nutritionists alike are now mixing collagen into their morning coffees (or smoothies).
Fans tout the protein for improving athletic performance, supporting joints and muscles, and promoting healthy skin. The idea makes sense, considering collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and makes up our joints, skin, and other tissues. (In fact, it’s collagen that makes our skin supple and elastic.) Thing is, we produce less collagen as we age, which contributes to the rise of wrinkles and achy knees.
Researchers are still playing catch-up to prove the benefits of collagen supplements, but there is some initial evidence out there. One study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, for example, found that just four weeks of collagen supplementation improved skin elasticity in women ages 35 to 55.
Research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism also suggests that collagen peptide supplementation may improve symptoms in athletes who experience joint pain during exercise.
While collagen specifically hasn’t been shown to improve fitness and boost muscle gains, supplementing with it can up your overall protein intake, which in turn supports performance and physique gains.
Want to give a supplement a try? Hundt recommends looking for a product that’s organic, grass-fed, and contains Type I and III collagen (the most abundant). Brands like Vital Proteins offer a variety of collagen supplements, including collagen peptides, whey-collagen combos, and Beauty Waters infused with other skin-nourishing ingredients. Bone broth is also a great source of the protein.
To support your body’s own collagen-producing ability, you can also boost your intake of whole foods that contain lots of glycine and proline (the two most prominent amino acids in collagen), says Hundt. Beef, chicken, pork, eggs, kale, cauliflower, spinach, and pumpkin are all good options.
3. Functional Fitness
Though Monday chest days and Tuesday leg days have long dominated many a workout routine, more and more trainers, classes, and gyms now embrace functional, or ‘real life,’ fitness. Stemming from the rehabilitation world, functional fitness is all about developing and maintaining strength, mobility, and agility that prepare you for life both in and out of the gym.
“Unlike a conventional routine that targets specific muscle groups (say, glutes or triceps), functional training hones in on specific movement patterns in multiple planes of motion that are seen in daily life,” says group fitness instructor Lauren Seib, C.P.T. When hiking or playing with our kids in the backyard, we’re constantly rotating, side stepping, and stepping up and down—not just moving forward and backward. Mimicking those movements in the gym—with exercises like squats, lateral lunges, pushups, medicine ball throws, and step-ups—helps better prepare our bodies for whatever movements we need to do in day-to-day life, she says.
Functional training also offers another major perk: The movements in function-focused workouts are compound in nature, meaning they recruit more than one muscle group at a time, challenge stability, and involve a full range of motion. “All in all, this helps improve quality of life while developing muscle memory, increasing flexibility, strengthening from head to toe, and burning major calories,” says Seib.
Instead of sitting on machine after machine, or focusing on just one muscle group at a time, incorporate more full-body workouts into your strength training routine—and don’t shy away from the free weights! Seib recommends movements that mimic daily life, like bent-over rows, which simulate lifting groceries out of the car.
For cardio, trade in the treadmill for a hike or walk outside. If you’re a group fitness fanatic, look for classes that incorporate multiple types of equipment, like rowing machines, dumbbells, and medicine balls. (CrossFit, OrangeTheory, and Les Mills are all good examples.)
The more we try to cram into our daily to-do lists, the more we realize the importance of one high-priority task: self-care.
“In this age of anxiety, self-care has become the new kale, but it’s more than just a buzzword,” says Kristen Lee, Ed.D., L.I.C.S.W., behavioral science expert and author of Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking—Learn What it Takes to be More Agile, Mindful and Connected in Today’s World. “We are living at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities.” Take the never-ending news cycle or the black hole of perfectly-curated Instagram accounts constantly trying to draw us in, for example.
Whether it’s meditating, heading out for a mind-clearing walk at lunchtime, or soaking in a long bubble bath at the end of the day, taking the time to do whatever helps you relax and tune into what you need is a trend mental health experts hope sticks. (Especially considering more than 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders.)
“We now have the science to prove that when we engage in self-care—deliberate, intentional attention to our physical, mental, and whole health—that we are actually protecting ourselves from stress overload and burnout epidemics,” says Lee.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for what works, but dedicating time to whatever self-care works for you can help sustain your health in the long run. “The key is making it a daily ritual, and being deliberate about it,” Lee says.
Start by replacing little time-suck activities (like scrolling through Instagram at night) with something that makes you feel good, like writing in a gratitude journal. Even just 10 minutes makes a difference.
5. Sleep Tech
We all know how crucial quality Zzz’s are for our health, but let’s face it: Going tech-free in the hours before bed is tough. Luckily, the sleep industry has learned how to make our beloved technology more snooze-friendly.
“Good sleep plays a critical role in your health and well-being, from protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, to boosting neurocognitive functions, mental health, and longevity,” says Jonathan Charlesworth, staff research scientist at Fitbit, which has tracked more than 6.5 billion nights of sleep through its wearable devices. “Technology provides data that can help you better understand your sleep patterns, sleep quality, and how you compare to other people of your same age and gender.”
Having all of this information on hand helps you pinpoint where things may be going wrong, says Charlesworth. “[It] can help you make more informed decisions about your health and implement lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep over time.”
Another way to learn more about your sleep quality: the iFit Sleep HR. Download the app, slip the device under your mattress, and hit the hay. The device tracks your heart rate and respiratory patterns, then churns out data on your sleep cycles and breathing quality that can make you aware of sleep problems like excessive snoring or even sleep apnea. Plus, the built-in smart alarm wakes you during the lightest part of your sleep cycle so you’re not jolted awake.
There’s also the ‘sleep robot,’ Somnox, which can actually help you sleep better. Designed as an easy-to-snuggle pillow, this machine simulates breathing patterns that your body naturally syncs to, helping you relax and fall asleep faster. It can even play white noise, guided meditations, or lullabies for those who need audio to help them mentally power down.