Do You Recognize These 10 Health Fads?

By Mike Howard

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I admit it, I love top 10 lists! And, as this decade draws to a close, I especially love top 10’s of the decade.

The 2000’s certainly had a nice blend of the progressive, the questionable and of course the utterly ridiculous. The 2000’s could be defined as the decade where we waffled over carbs, incorporated technology and took exercise and dieting to new extremes.

So, here are the trends and a brief commentary on each one:1. Low Carb Diets:
It was an up-and-down decade for the low carb proponents, with Dr. Atkins making a comeback in the earlier part of the decade. In 2004, low carb diets began to wane in popularity, with low carb stores and products eventually taking a tumble, and Atkin’s Nutritionals declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy (only to re-emerge shortly thereafter).

Low carb did manage to get some more legitimacy in the scientific community, shunning its image as “dangerous,” and in the process continues to enjoy a very strong following that won’t disappear anytime soon.

Most of the science, however still points towards calories as being the most prominent factor in weight regulation.

2. Technology (web-based and other applications):
Technology has permeated every facet of our lives, with health, fitness and nutrition being no exception. Some of the more prominent trends of technology include forums and support groups from Sparkpeople to Fit Day to millions of other forums where people can share experiences, tips and post annoying spam products.

  • Fitness applications such as ipump and ifitness.
  • GPS technology, an add-on to the now-archaic heart rate monitors.
  • Metabolic sensor devices such as GoWear fit, Sensewear and Bodybugg, which track your basal metabolic rate and your caloric requirements.
  • Pedometers, a less technological and much cheaper offering became a popular tool for tracking activity.

3. Video Game-Based Activity:
This was the decade that the video game industry saw a massive opportunity in activity-based gaming.

Nintendo’s Wii were the frontrunners in the fitness-based gaming, with their standard wii Sports and Wii Fit. Dance Dance Revolution was fun and as a side benefit, many lost weight while playing it. Games have since become more user-friendly and sophisticated.

4. Dance-Based Fitness:
A few years back, striptease and pole dancing classes starting to spring up in commercial gyms and private studios alike. Less-risque dance-based classes such as Zumba, and reality TV shows such as Dancing With the Stars and Dance Your Ass Off also helped spark the trend.

5. Exercise Gadgets:
There are always a ton of new gadgets that enter the marketplace. Most of them range in quality from mediocre, to a couple of steps below utter crap.

Some of the better gadgets include:

— TRX suspension system. This one is a little more cash, but it is VERY versatile and can be very effective.
Kettlebells. This tool actually pre-dates the dumbbell, but only experienced a surge in popularity this decade. Its different casting provides an option to perform certain exercises more effectively than with a dumbbell.

Some of the less desirable are as follows:

— Just about any abdominal machine/gadget.
Shake weight.

And, then there’s the “good-under-the-right-circumstances-but-overused” category:

— Stability balls.
— Balance implements (balance boards, discs, BOSU’s, Bongo boards).
— Ballast balls

7. Moderate Carb Diets:
Where many people couldn’t stick with Atkins, moderate carb diets such as South Beach began to surface in 2003. Other moderate carb diets such as the Sonoma Diet and diets based on the glycemic index would also fall into this category. Again, these diets also happen to be lower in calories.

8. CrossFit:
While there was extreme dieting there was also extreme fitness. CrossFit gained a cult-like allegiance by many across the globe who swear by the methods.

Like any trend there are good things about it, namely it takes the typical gym elements out and focuses on big lifts, full body movements and incorporates gymnastics and other body weight exercises.

Unfortunately, CrossFit certification is flimsy at best with coaches not expected to have any knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics and movement screening. The result is a certification mill that has (in many cases) inadequately qualified coaches putting people through high-risk exercises. While the lay public praise their system, their methods remain under scrutiny from reputable strength and conditioning coaches, and rehab specialists.

9. Boot Camp Style Workouts:
With personal training out of the financial reach for many and extreme workouts in vogue (read above), hundreds of thousands of people are turning to boot camp style workouts to fulfill their fitness goals. This trend picked up steam in the second half of this decade and shows no signs of slowing down as we enter the ’10’s.

10. Mind-body Exercise:
The tandem of Yoga and Pilates, and various combinations thereof continue to calm, stretch and “posture-ize” millions across the world. These styles of exercise can be great complements to strength training and targeted mobility (but should never replace them).

Which trends do you think were good? Bad? Neutral? Anything else you think should be on the list?

18 Comments

  1. Kacey

    Great article and healthy comment resolution here. I enjoy, and like when I find, intelligent conversations. I am continually astonished and sometimes amused by some of the diet fads being marketed. The shake weight commercials always make me laugh. Guess its just not my kind of niche. But certainly to each their own in regards to their own personal pursuits of fitness. For me I like the simple, more natural exercises like mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and horse riding. And have been using a new diet tracker , which has really helped me track foods, nutrition, and calories.
    And also agree that passing an exam makes a good trainer. With most everything else higher skill results from more education and of course experience.

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  2. reiki attunements

    i really impressed by your article, I agree with what you are saying in regards to other personal training certification processes. It’s a more systemic problem and passing an exam does not a good trainer make. Would you not agree, however that the more detailed and complex a skill you are learning (and teaching others to learn) the more demanding a certification process should be? To be teaching ANY higher-risk/complex movment skill requires a great deal of knowledge in anatomy, biomechanics and postural/movement screening. It takes way longer to perfect and fine-tune these movements let alone teach them to others.

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  3. ian M/32/182/5'11"

    Although those videos are funny for a variety of reasons, I think you are way out of line saying “this is what some corssfitters are like”. The videos are spoofs, and make some entertaining points, especially regarding how something like Crossfit is misunderstood by passive onlookers.
    Anyway, I will not argue with you, it is definitely true that high-level training brings some added risks. It is also true that most injuries come from being stupid and doing thinks with a lack of knowledge, which I guess you do point out. The fact that Crossfit has sparked a revolution in professional strength and conditioning in sports ranging from MMA (BJ Penn, George St. Pierre) to Olympic skiing (Eva Twardokensis) not relevant, I guess -especially since professional coaches rarely acknowledge they are using Crossfit methods.
    I suppose it is safer to “work out” with the Wii Fit, keep the gut, and die of a heart attack at 50.

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  4. Sensei

    Got the Wii Fit for xmas, dying to try but still skeptical at the same time. I don’t know how effective a video game can be to replace my gym time. Guess we’ll find out!

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  5. Mike Howard

    One more thing – here’s an animated versions of what some crossfitters are like (it’s meant to be in good humour – no offense intended). Oh and it contains unsavoury language – open at own risk (but it’s hilarious).

    2 crossfiters and a bucket of chalk
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsTbas5NgF0&feature=PlayList&p=AA30B5FA309E7A12&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=27

    Crossfit Q&A
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPeAE8qTy6M&feature=PlayList&p=AA30B5FA309E7A12&index=28&playnext=2&playnext_from=PL

    A Good Cult
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJyPha4Rfdo&feature=PlayList&p=AA30B5FA309E7A12&index=14

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  6. Mike Howard

    Ian – congratulations on your success! I respect your accomplishments very much. It has worked for you and that is the most important part.

    I am curious as to how you’ve concluded that crossfit has low injury rates? While there is no data that I am aware of, there are at least a half a dozen reported cases of rhabdomyolysis from doing crossfit workouts – pretty unique to “fitness” related conditions.

    Also, take one quick glance at the crossfit message boards under the “injuries” section and you’ll see scads of crossfitters posting on their ailments – many of them quite serious (disc herniations, etc).

    All sport and fitness has risks but the nature of crossfit style workouts lends itself to an increased risk of injury. This will depend on the knowledge and skill of the coach no doubt but this brings me back to me original point – you should have a certain degree of mastery before you teach someone else!

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  7. Mike Howard

    Hi Adam, You said’

    “Mike – It sounds like your concerned with the risk for “untrained” coaches to injure their clientele with complex movements. Based soley on empirical evidence, it seems as though the success of CrossFit which sparked by the internet, adopted by the armed forces and supported by over 1,000 affliates world-wide (more than ballys and 24 hour fitness) wouldn’t have grown so large if it were coached by untrained professionals that caused constant injuries.”

    I’m not arguing that crossfit doesn’t work well for many individuals because it clearly does. But just because something becomes popular doesn’t mean it’s universally good. It’s like saying the Twilight movies are great because they made an a*s-ton of money at the box office. The master cleanse and other detox diets are used by hundreds of thousands – this doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a higher degree of risk involved.

    Also, you can’t compare crossfit affiliates to commercial gyms – it’s apples to oranges.

    “Maybe the focus of your comments on CrossFit could have elaborated on its forward-thinking environment of comraderie, incredible retention rates and it’s “sport of fitness” ideology. We all need to take a lesson from the success of CrossFit. They never mass-marketed, only provided a product that proved it’s results remarkably better than the globo-gyms of the world which strive to create a portfolio of clients that are used solely to pad someones pocket book.”

    I didn’t have the space to elaborate on either the positive or the negative aspects of crossfit. I think we can learn a lot from what crossfit promotes – they’ve done a tremendous job in packaging together a system that attempts to address many aspects of fitness and movements and equipment that are more useful for sport and performance.

    That said, to not acknowledge the less desirable aspects of crossfit is to be in complete denial. Frankly, when crossfit fans downplay/deny/become overly defensive of their system, it really hurts the organizations credibility.

    So here are my summary points – after this everything else is based soley on opinion and experience.

    Crossfit has many desirable aspects to it including; the focus on movements, bio-energetics, minimalist equipment and yes they have very good comraderi. People get great results from their workouts. it can be great for GPP and off-season training for athletes.

    Conversely, Crossfit has some deficits/credibility issues to address (which they seem to be working on). I’ll stress right now – I’m not talking about ALL crossfit coaches but many – please don’t tell me there are only a few bad apples because there are not. Namely;

    Their certification system: You brag about the 1000+ affiliates but would you not rather much less WELL QUALIFIED coaches that are actually mandated to take courses in anatomy, physiology and movement screening BEFORE they work with clients?

    Brash and elitist attitude: Comraderi is one thing, but the cultish attitude exhibited by many crossfit followers is really douche-y. I enjoy conversations with crossfitters who simply love the workouts and aren’t trying to bash other more traditional systems of training. Any culture where exercising until you vomit is considered funny and worthy of a t-shirt is sophmoric at best and potentially dangerous at worse. Oh and rhabdomyolysis isn’t funny and neither are “Uncle Rhabdo” shirts. This mentality starts from the top at “couch” glassman.

    I don’t have heaps of time here but there are gaps in their programming as well such as arbitrary WOD’s that don’t have any macro or meso cycle consideration. No emphasis or clear-cut guidelines on restoration or recovery, performing mutiple reps of olympic lifts – those are the main points.

    No system is perfect. Crossfit fills a need to be sure but there are deficits that need to be addressed – even the crossfit koolaid swillers can’t deny this.

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  8. Melanie Thomassian

    Yes, dog walkers seemed to be popular there too, along with cremation services for pets!! Crazy!

    I think I may be in the wrong career too, lol

    Reply
  9. Jim Purdy

    “1. Low Carb Diets”

    Yes, indeed! That was my number one diet strategy in 2009. My weight bounced around, but my overall health definitely improved.

    And for me, it didn’t necessarily mean eliminating all fruits and vegetables. Three of my favorite foods are non-sweet fruits — avocados, tomatoes, and red sweet bell peppers.

    And I also enjoy foods with lots of water and fiber, especially low-calorie low-carb vegetable soups.

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  10. Adam Martin

    I have the ACSM Health Fitness Instructor certification which I obtained in March of 2006. The test was composed of multiple choice questions (100-200). It was administered at a computer web station in a testing facility (not affliated with the ACSM).

    Mike – It sounds like your concerned with the risk for “untrained” coaches to injure their clientele with complex movements. Based soley on empirical evidence, it seems as though the success of CrossFit which sparked by the internet, adopted by the armed forces and supported by over 1,000 affliates world-wide (more than ballys and 24 hour fitness) wouldn’t have grown so large if it were coached by untrained professionals that caused constant injuries. Maybe the focus of your comments on CrossFit could have elaborated on its forward-thinking environment of comraderie, incredible retention rates and it’s “sport of fitness” ideology. We all need to take a lesson from the success of CrossFit. They never mass-marketed, only provided a product that proved it’s results remarkably better than the globo-gyms of the world which strive to create a portfolio of clients that are used solely to pad someones pocket book.

    Reply
  11. Jody - Fit at 52

    I tend to be a traditional gym person BUT I do like to use the stability balls & BOSU for a different things that shake up my routine.

    I would love to try the TRX if I could afford it & no kettle balls in my gym so….. but I would like to try them.

    The Cross-Fit looks interesting too but never tried it.

    I got the opportunity to try kickboxing & regular boxing thru LA Boxing who contacted me about reviewing their club. I LOVED those workouts!

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  12. ian M/32/182/5'11"

    While it is easy to criticize Crossfit’s methodology based on speculation and theory, the essence of Crossfit philosophy is to prove effectiveness through practice, not through debate.
    In this regard, Crossfit consistently produces great results in all fitness domains, while actually boasting a very low injury rate (even among affiliates catering to not-so-fit communities, and much lower than most sports). This is perhaps because Crossfit empowers individuals to seek knowledge and learn for themselves, while providing a wealth of resources to do so, just have a look at the ever-growing video library on the Crossfit Journal which gives access to world-class coaching on everything from rowing to Olympic lifting to ultra-marathon running.
    The Level 1 Certification is an introductory course which grants trainers a limited license to begin using the methodologies. The Level 2 certification is a great deal harder, and most who attempt it actually fail and have to try again.
    While in my opinion, Crossfit is probably the safest and most effective GPP training methodology to date, I understand why fitness theorists would take issues with it, especially if they have not experienced the gains themselves. This is always the case with innovative, paradigm-shifting ideas, and I expect the nay sayers will stick to their guns ’till the bitter end in spite of being constantly confronted with hard, quantifiable evidence-based results.

    p.s: I am NOT affiliated with Crossfit, although I intend to take a Level 1 Cert as soon as I can. I have been training MMA for 20 years, 6 of those as a professional, and have seen Crossfit increase my work capacity and revolutionize my training over the last 8 months following the Main Site, FOR FREE!

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  13. Spectra

    I’m surprised at how quickly the Wii Fit/DDR/etc. trend has caught on, especially among older women who have teenaged kids. I know a lot of people who have the Wii Fit and just love it. Personally, I refuse to buy a video game system simply for working out, but if someone I knew had one, I might try it once or twice to see how it was.

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  14. Heather

    Which ACSM certification do you have? Mine was a test, not online but in a testing facility, and was more than 100 questions……

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  15. Mike Howard

    Ha! This doesn’t surprise me in the least – very funny indeed. It seemed to be a decade of dog pampering and opportunities for pet-related services. Popular dog walkers in my city can easily make $80,000 a year (I am going to give my guidance counselor a good tongue-lashing!).

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  16. Mike Howard

    Hi Adam,

    Let me address your concerns…

    I agree with what you are saying in regards to other personal training certification processes. It’s a more systemic problem and passing an exam does not a good trainer make. Would you not agree, however that the more detailed and complex a skill you are learning (and teaching others to learn) the more demanding a certification process should be? To be teaching ANY higher-risk/complex movment skill requires a great deal of knowledge in anatomy, biomechanics and postural/movement screening. It takes way longer to perfect and fine-tune these movements let alone teach them to others.

    At least with ACSM, ACE, NSCA, etc you are required to know some anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, etc. but they cover a more wide range of topics and (aside from CSCS – which DOES have a video component last I checked) does not include any higher risk/higher velocity lifting such as olympic lifting.

    In terms of the level 1 certification, please clarify for me. I did not realize there was an actual grading. Also my understanding is that it is a 2 day seminar, not 3. You might want to verify this if you’r taking it, lest you show up for the 3rd day and you are the only one there.

    Also, did Wescott endorse EVERY aspect of Crossfit or did he simply commend various desirable and forward-thinking components therin (something I don’t hesitate to compliment when it comes to crossfit). To their credit, crossfit has contracted some very high level strength coachs to conduct seminars – it’s a step in the right direction. There are still deficits in their overall system at the accreditation level downwards.

    And if you want to start quoting experts, here’s a few from some of the top performance/rehab/biomechanists the world over.

    “Why don’t you frikin’ screen somebody before you throw tak at them” Gray Cook

    “I don’t think most adults are orthopedically geared towards Olympic lifting. Any good Olympic lifting coach will tell you that you can’t have the technical mastery and do high repetition exercise”. Mike Boyle

    “That’s a great disc herniator,” (watching a video of a hip-back extension exercise on the CrossFit website.) “A lot of lifts and jumps are demonstrated by people with wonderful form. But the average person could open themselves up to the risk of injury.”
    Dr. Stuart McGill

    As far as military training is concerned. They should use a lot of the methods advocated by crossfit. But if you look at perhaps one of the greatest needs in the military, it’s injury prevention – something that haphazard crossfit programming doesn’t address very well. The number 1 cause of disability in the US military is lower back injury and other musculoskeletal injuries are very prominenent.

    Like I said, crossfit does some things well but will continue to suffer a credibility issue until it cleans up some aspects of its organization.

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  17. Melanie Thomassian

    Hey Mike,
    How about working out with your pet?? When I visited Bondi Beach in Australia I saw a group of ladies working out with their personal trainer and their pooches. I’m not against working out with your dog, but this was pretty funny, they seem to take their dogs everywhere, usually in little colourful handbags!! Paris Hilton eat your heart out!!! 🙂

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  18. Adam Martin

    I think you may want to do your homework on the crossfit certification process. I am ACSM certified, what seems to be deemed the “gold standard” in fitness. The ACSM testing process required no practical examination, only a 100 question online multiple choice test. Although it required an exercise science degree, I must say that what you learn in a 4 year bachelor program doesn’t translate to real-life personal training environments. Now on the other hand, CrossFit has a three day highly interactive certification process with a practical examination at the end. And they are not afraid to fail people out of their $1,000 registration if they are not qualified. I have the “gold-standard” certifcation and I will be attending the CrossFit certification in February. I recently sat in on a webinar with Dr. Wayne Wescot, one of the worlds leading scientific strength-training resources, and he endorsed CrossFit during his question and answer session. CrossFit may have been flimsy in the beginning of this decade, but it is the same organization that was recently invited to the American Exercise Physiologists Conference. There is a reason this cult-like allegiance is practiced by every major military/special tactic operation in the US and abroad.

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