You don't have to say goodbye to your favorite workouts just because we're entering a new year. After all, 2019 was packed with worthwhile workouts (shout out to kickboxing and micro-HIIT!) that can definitely get you to your fitness goals.
But after pouring through data and speaking with top experts, we've identified some pretty exciting fitness trends we think will be everywhere in 2020, and we have a feeling you're going to want to give them a try.
1. Megaformer Workouts Will Transform Your Core
Thanks in part to glowing praise from celeb fans like Meghan Markle, Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama, the Megaformer is "one of the fastest growing trends in fitness," according to ClassPass, whose users attended more than a million Megaformer classes in 2019 — a jump of almost 40 percent from 2018.
Despite sounding like the super-villain in an upcoming action film, the Megaformer is actually an exercise machine invented in the early 2000s by Sebastien Lagree, a former bodybuilder and CEO and founder of Lagree Fitness.
The machine's movable carriage, springs and cables may remind some exercisers of a Pilates reformer, but there are differences: The Megaformer is longer, has two additional platforms and adjustable handlebars to facilitate more exercise modifications and is connected differently to those cables and springs.
The Lagree Fitness method — which was originally named Pilates Plus — will leave you feeling stronger and more flexible. You use the machine and your own body weight to create resistance during a sequence of slow, compound movements for a full-body workout.
"You may be doing a leg exercise, but your arms and abs are engaged as well and doing a ton of work; or if we're focusing on an oblique exercise, your chest, arms, and shoulders are still working as well," says Jenny Brian, a certified Lagree Fitness master trainer.
Like Pilates, Megaformer workouts are easy on your joints, but that doesn't mean they are easy.
"Megaformer workouts challenge even the fittest of people in novel ways, meaning your body isn't used to this," certified personal trainer and CrossFit Level One coach Amanda Capritto tells LIVESTRONG.com. "Megaformer workouts train you in so many modalities at once, including strength, stability, flexibility, balance and muscular endurance."
That makes it a smart choice for anyone looking to bust through a fitness plateau or become a more well-rounded athlete (you'll strengthen and stretch all sorts of smaller stabilizer muscles rather than the big guns you're used to challenging), Capritto says.
"Staying in control keeps the joints safe and stimulates the intrinsic muscle fibers and connective tissues," adds Heather Dorak, co-owner of Pilates Premium. "Plus, slow and controlled movements activate the slow-twitch, fat-burning muscle fibers in the body, effectively stimulating the body for maximum results."
Just check with your doctor before signing up if you're recovering from an injury, especially if your injury messes with your range of motion. "On a Megaformer, your flexibility will be challenged, and if you have a doctor's orders to stay out of certain positions, you may want to clear this with your doc first," Capritto says.
If you're the kind of person who prefers boutique studio workouts to at-home or big-gym workouts, consider adding the Megafomer to your fitness bucket list. The low-impact workout strengthens muscles and challenges your core in a way that a lot of other workouts just don't. And with more than 300 locations in the U.S., there's likely one near you. Once you've signed up, here's what to expect before your first session.
2. Workout Classes Will Get Even More Inclusive
The idea is simple: Fitness shouldn't be just for a select group of people. It should be for everyone, including people with mental and physical disabilities.
In 2019, more boutique gyms and fitness chains finally turned their focus to people of all fitness levels, not just those who are in "peak shape," says Susanna Kalnes, a master trainer (she trains the trainers!) for the workout video company Beachbody. "They do this by either pairing each participant up with a heart rate monitor or having them take a fitness survey in order to track personal growth on a screen," she explains. "This allows each person to feel like they are working toward their own goals versus feeling like they are in competition with or being compared to each other."
"When people of all different ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities work hard and sweat together, there is a greater feeling of inclusivity and connection to those who aren't exactly like you. And that's a beautiful thing."
In 2020, expect inclusivity and accessibility in fitness to be under an even brighter spotlight. Influencers like London-based fitness instructor India Morse are bringing much-needed representation to the workout world. Morse, who is deaf, starred in a major advertising campaign celebrating women athletes for DW Fitness First, a privately owned health and fitness company, in 2019.
"I got into fitness as a hobby but discovered accessibility was poor in many gyms and classes," Morse writes on her website, You Lean Me Up. "So I decided that I had had enough, and it was time to step up to disrupt this unacceptable situation."
Influencers bringing more mainstream attention to inclusivity in fitness will in turn spark the growth of more physical gyms and studios where people of different abilities can exercise. We're already seeing this: The ASD Fitness Center in Orange, Connecticut, offers group and individual workouts led by International Sports and Sciences Association-certified trainers for people with autism, and Equally Fit, launched in 2016 by a personal trainer who has autism himself, opened its first physical personal training studio in Tampa, Florida, in March 2019.
And along with those brick-and-mortars will come more trainers earning specialized certifications for working with clients with disabilities. Autism Fitness, for example, teaches fitness professionals to coach people with autism. Since launching its level one curriculum in 2017, the organization now has more than 200 certified experts and runs seminars at various fitness facilities, including box gyms like Crunch in partnership with the American Council on Exercise and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
The number of interested trainers attending those seminars more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, Autism Fitness founder Eric Chessen tells LIVESTRONG.com. He plans to launch a level two curriculum and expand to Australia in 2020.
"It's really important we consider all the people who we train and what their physical, behavioral and cognitive skills are," Chessen says about working with clients of all abilities. "There's some aspect of fitness programming that we can bring into [all of] their lives."
That kind of specialized education for trainers is a big change from what most are used to, Kalnes says. "When you take a certification of this nature, it provides you with an entirely new outlook on what fitness can mean to someone and forces you to look at health in a new light. Trainers can get so caught up in thinking a one-size-fits-all approach leads to greater health, but going through a specialized certification like this could be eye-opening."
There's eye-opening potential for non-disabled exercisers, too. "When disabled people take class with non-disabled people, the non-disabled people get a greater lesson in motivation and commitment to exercise," Kalnes says. "This experience may show the non-disabled people there are no excuses for them to not be at the gym regularly. When people of all different ages, shapes, sizes and abilities work hard and sweat together, there is a greater feeling of inclusivity and connection to those who aren't exactly like you. And that's a beautiful thing."
Workout gear will also get in on this trend. In late 2019, Nike launched a new basketball shoe designed to be easier to get on and off for people with disabilities. The lace-less Air Zoom UNVRS were designed in partnership with professional basketball player Elena Delle Donne and inspired by her older sister Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and autism.
Other developments will be more personalized. Kalnes recently met a man who "had a physical disability where one of his legs was about five or six inches shorter than the other," she says. "Rather than thinking that sitting on an indoor bike was impossible, he had special shoes made that clipped in like all indoor cycling shoes, but these had a thick platform on the bottom of one shoe to even out his stride. He was such an inspiration and I was proud to cycle by his side in class. He said most bike shops will do this for you if you just ask."
We certainly hope that this trend continues to grow in the new decade. If you're eager to see more inclusivity and accessibility in fitness, consider volunteering your time to help an adaptive athlete (someone with a disability) learn a sport you like or compete in a race. Achilles International and Shirley Ryan Ability Lab are two organizations we love. And if you're a trainer, consider pursuing certifications that can further your work with people of all abilities. Doing so, Kalnes says, "encourages the trainer to reach out to others in their community because they would have the skills, knowledge, compassion and drive to help more individuals reach their personal health goals."
3. Virtual Reality Workouts Will Expand
Picture this: It's cold and rainy outside and you're in no mood to leave the house for today's yoga class. So you head to your living room, strap on your headset and do your sun salutations in a sunny virtual-reality garden instead.
Virtual reality (VR) is poised to finally leave their consumer tech conference bubble and join us in the real world. Global VR headset sales are projected to nearly double by 2023, up from 52 million devices sold in 2019 to 100 million, according to a January 2019 report from market research firm Juniper Research. By 2023, the same report predicts that VR game revenue could top $8 billion, rising from just over $1 billion in 2019.
All the available devices require downloading games or apps from something much like an app store. Some game downloads are free, while others will run you $40 or more, and you'll need to verify that the specific game you're interested in is compatible with your headset or console.
While the general concept of VR workouts is pretty much the same across all devices (put on your ski-goggles-like headset, enter a virtual scene and start sweating), there are two types of headsets that have very different price points. Cheaper options, like the Bnext ($39.95) or the Optoslon ($41.99), have built-in sensors that track your movements and are only compatible with smartphones. You open the app or game you've downloaded, pop your phone into a compartment in the headset with the screen facing you, lift the headset to your eyes and go.
More expensive setups, like the Oculus Quest (starting at $399) or PlayStation VR (starting at $199), require more computing power, so they connect to a PC or a gaming console. They typically deliver a more immersive, realistic-looking experience and may also come with additional gear, like handsets you hold while throwing punches, running mats that track your steps or remotes to select a new game while you're already wearing your headset.
In the virtual world, there's something for just about everyone: You can play tennis or golf or box against a virtual opponent, practice yoga, dance or even squeeze in a body-weight strength session with a game like Hot Squat, which challenges you to do as many squats as you can while ducking to navigate a series of virtual tunnels.
If you'd rather get your heart pumping with something closer to a traditional video game, there are plenty of creative options, including sword fighting with Blade and Sorcery and light saber-swinging with Beat Saber.
"Virtual reality has the ability to essentially trick people into thinking that they aren't working out," Capritto says. "While some people love exercise for exercise itself, others abhor it and only do it for the health benefits, if they do it at all. Being able to insert yourself into a place you actually want to be and do an activity you actually want to do — say, in a dance studio or hiking in the Canadian Rockies — can be much more appealing than battling an overcrowded gym or going for a run on the same route you've been running for years."
If you're willing to burn a little cash up front, you'll burn some legit calories, too. The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise (yep, it's a thing) estimates many of these gamified workouts torch between 2 and 8 per minute — meaning you could burn just as many calories during half an hour of intense virtual sword fighting as you could on the elliptical.
And you might even feel better doing so: Cyclists in a small October 2019 study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported less leg pain during high-intensity pedaling sessions when viewing a changing cityscape using VR than when they biked while gazing at a static image.
"You can get an amazing workout, better than you might normally," certified personal trainer SJ McShane tells LIVESTRONG.com, simply because a shiny new trend might get you more excited than normal to sweat. "You're trying something new, you're in an inspiring setting with the blink of an eye and you can have buddies join in with you."
If you love trying the latest in fitness tech but at-home workouts make you lonely ("Some people are just much more effective and consistent with exercise when they are physically around the energy of other people," Kalnes says), don't fret: The country's first-ever VR gyms welcomed clients in 2019. Black Box opened its doors in San Francisco in March and expanded to its second location in Boise, Idaho, in September. Sessions combine aspects of gaming with resistance training on a real-life cable and pulley system and high-intensity cardio for a fully immersive workout, according to the brand's website.
As with most new technologies, VR headsets and at-home workout devices can be expensive. There also isn't a ton of research into the long-term effectiveness of VR workouts yet, and if you get too sucked in to the VR world, your regular workouts might lose some of their shine, McShane warns. That said, VR can be a fun, immersive way to shake up and stick with your fitness routine, Capritto says — just make sure you give yourself and your flailing limbs plenty of space to move.
4. Exercise Will Be Functional
It's easy to forget that exercise isn't just about building endurance, nailing a PR or dropping 10 pounds; it's also about keeping your body and mind healthy.
"Being [physically] strong translates into every other part of your entire life — your mental health, your confidence, your ability to carry yourself, your being a capable person," Ashley Borden, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer and fitness expert, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
In its annual predictions for the top fitness trends of the upcoming year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) ranked its Exercise Is Medicine initiative sixth in 2020, up from the 10th position in 2019. The program aims to integrate physical activity and clinical care by encouraging doctors to assess exercise habits and make workout recommendations (and referrals) as a part of regular appointments.
Integrative wellness destinations that put your workouts and your doctor under the same roof are starting to crop up, but limited locations and high prices (The Well, a membership-based wellness space that opened in New York City in 2019, costs $375 a month) mean this trend is still new and probably won't be widely available right away.
What is widely available right now, however, is functional fitness, which came in 12th on the ACSM's 2020 trends list. Functional fitness is all about building strength to make it easier to perform everyday tasks, whether you're picking up a 30-pound bag of dog food or lifting your carry-on into the overhead bin on an airplane, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Functional fitness emphasizes training movements as a whole, not the individual muscles in isolation," says Cameron Yuen, CSCS, a senior physical therapist with Bespoke Treatments in New York. "This helps develop more strength as you can lift more weight this way, develops coordination as you use your whole body to create or stabilize against movement and has more carryover to everyday life."
"Functional strength training makes you a functional human being," Borden adds. It's something everyone should incorporate into their workout routines, she says. But it may be even more important as we rack up more birthdays, Yuen says.
"For the Baby Boomer population, it is important to maintain muscle mass, joint mobility and tissue flexibility. Training compound functional movements through their full range of motion addresses all of these areas," he says. While other forms of strength training and stretching might help with muscle mass and mobility, "performing functional movements is generally a superior form of training for this population."
"If Baby Boomers can train regularly in this way, they will have an easier time with day-to-day living when they reach their 80s, 90s and, in this day and age, beyond!" Kalnes adds.
Start by thinking about functional fitness in terms of movements rather than muscle groups, Yuen says. "In general, you will want some kind of movement that involves squatting, hinging at the hips or bending forward, pressing a weight away from you and pulling a weight towards you."
Even if you're not exercising to help prevent or treat a specific condition, this trend is an important reminder that exercise is about more than just looking good. It's about staying agile and independent for your longest, healthiest life possible. "If you haven’t worked out in a long time, talk to your doctor first and then work with a personal trainer to get started," Kalnes says, adding that it's best to start with body-weight exercises and build up to using resistance.
Add these beginner-friendly functional movements to your strength-training routine:
5. Mini-Trampoline Classes Will Bounce Back
What's old is new again: A fitness favorite of the '80s will see a resurgence in the coming year.
Borden says she's noticed mini-trampoline workouts — called "rebounding" by those in the know — spreading throughout Los Angeles (Busy Philipps is a fan) and predicts it'll catch on across the country in 2020.
Rebounding combines cardio, simple choreography, toning and stretching for an effective workout that also doesn't take itself too seriously. So it's not surprising that more than 30 percent of respondents in an October 2019 Cleveland Clinic and Parade magazine survey said they'd give trampoline workouts a try.
"In addition to the physical health benefits of improving balance, strength and circulation, trampoline fitness is just fun and provides a physical activity to de-stress, sweat and build strength through youthful movement," says Leeja Carter, PhD, diversity and inclusion division head for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
Even better, a typical class won't stress your joints as much as running or other cardio, but it'll definitely still get your heart pumping: A trampoline workout burns the same number of calories as running at a pace of 6 miles per hour, according to a small October 2016 study from the American Council on Exercise.
"I think rebounding is such an across-the-board great exercise for all levels and all weights," says Borden, who recommends Bellicon rebounders for those who want to try this workout at home. "I love that there's no impact ... and you can't not smile on the rebounder."
Unleashing your inner child keeps you engaged in your workouts by making it something you want to do rather than something you have to do. Start with an intro class geared for beginners or invest in some gear and push play on a streaming rebounding workout.
What you'll need to get jumping:
It's easy to get swept away by a buzzy fitness fad, but not every hot new workout is effective, safe or worth your time. The trends we're most excited about for 2020 are all three, which is great, but ultimately how you move in 2020 is a lot less important than just making sure you do.
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Exercise is Medicine"
- Mayo Clinic: "Functional Fitness Training: Is It Right For You?"
- ClassPass: "2019 Fitness Trends"
- ACSM: "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020"
- American Council on Exercise: "Putting Mini-Trampolines to the Test"
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "Interactive Virtual Reality Reduces Quadriceps Pain during High-Intensity Cycling"
- Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise: "VR Ratings"
- WHOOP: "New Capital, Improving Your Experience"
- Juniper Research: "Virtual Reality Games Revenues to Reach $8.2 Billion by 2023, Driven by Smartphone Content"
- Lagree Fitness: "The Megaformer Vs. the Traditional Reformer"
- Marie Claire: "Inside THE WELL, NYC's New Private Fitness and Wellness Club"
- F45: "The World's Fastest Growing Fitness Franchise"
- Parade: "Are Your Health Habits Extreme or Mainstream? Find Out in Parade's 2019 Cleveland Clinic Healthy Now Survey"
- New York Times: "Torturer to the Stars"
- JAMA Psychiatry: "Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among Adults"
- Mayo Clinic: "Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms"