Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Best and worst fitness trends

From Thigh Masters to the Fitbit, NAIT Personal Fitness Trainer instructors weigh in

The weeks that bookend New Year’s represent peak vulnerability when it comes to the latest fitness craze. And why not? Promises of easy paths to rippled abs, buns of steel or fat melted magically away sound pretty good during holidays spent sitting, socializing and snacking.

That’s likely part of the reason Canadians spent more than $31 million on fitness equipment in January 2016, and about the same the 2 years previous. By summer, that number dipped to less than $12 million (before shooting back up in December).

Not all that equipment is junk, of course, but some items raise the suspicions of certified trainers. With NAIT’s Personal Fitness Trainer program turning 20 years old this academic year, we asked 3 instructors to tell us about questionable fads of past decades, as well as practices that hold genuine promise for the health, rather than just the physiques, of those pursuing positive changes in the future.

Here’s what they said.

“The Shake Weight was pretty weird” – Kate Andrews, Chair


A fad to forget – The Shake Weight was pretty weird. I’m not sure what the research around it was but the ads looked pretty funny.

One worth keeping Functional fitness training. The term is quite the buzz right now but it can be very beneficial. The idea is to train the body in the same way that it moves on a daily basis. So compound or multi-joint exercises are used more than single-joint or isolation exercises.

What she’d like to see more of – I hope that reducing sedentary behaviour remains a priority. Our world has quickly adapted to making it easy to sit a lot and that affects our body in so many negative ways.

Opening wallets for a quick fix – Randy Dreger, Instructor


A fad to forget – The Thigh Master advertising always showed only very fit people doing the exercises and implied that their entire body would be transformed in a short time. The workout was equated to an aerobic training session but the tool only worked one side of the thigh.

Roughly USD$100 million worth of Thigh Masters have been sold. It shows the willingness of people to spend money on a quick-fix product.

One worth keeping – The Fitbit is a great technology that has emerged. It provides inspiration and feedback. It also offers 2 very important functions: the reminder to get moving every hour and a goal to take 10,000 steps a day.

What he’d like to see more of – An enhanced focus on the impact of regular exercise on health. Specifically, that exercise is medicine – a movement that encourages a healthy lifestyle. It can significantly reduce the risk of:

  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Colon cancer
  • Mortality and risk of recurrent breast cancer
  • Risk of developing Alzheimer’s
  • Depression as effectively as medications or cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Risk of premature death
     

The trouble with selfies – Leanne Telford, Recently Retired Chair

selfie, ribcage braggingA fad to forget  The weirdest or worst trends would be in social media – the selfie, which has led to disordered body perceptions. There was the “ribcage bragging” or the “thigh gap” or the “collar bone challenge.” These images promote a disordered perception of what is healthy and what people think they should look like.

One worth keeping – One of the best things to emerge over the last 20 years is that people are seeking out the assistance of qualified exercise professionals. People are looking for their trainers to have more formal education and training. While the industry is still not regulated there is definitely a move towards higher qualifications.

What she’d like to see more of – I hope that the Exercise is Medicine movement continues to grow.


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