It’s hard to think of anything that the arrival of COVID-19 hasn’t changed. Almost overnight, we have had to adapt how we work, eat, socialise and shop. Another huge casualty of the pandemic, of course, has been exercise. With gyms, fitness studios and pools all closed, most of our usual workout options have been severely limited. Yet it’s never been more important to keep ourselves fit – both mentally and physically. Have you heard of metabolic syndrome? This term incorporates a cluster of conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. It’s linked to significantly worse outcomes for COVID-19 patients. One study suggests that anybody hospitalised with the virus was over three times more likely to die if they had metabolic syndrome.
Then there are the psychological benefits of exercise. It’s an amazing stress-buster. I love the natural feel-good rush of endorphins that follows a great workout. I also feel better about myself generally when my clothes fit and feel great – it really does boost my self-esteem! Lockdown won’t last forever, of course. But it’s already changed our approach to exercise, and how the next hot fitness trends will evolve. Read on for my round-up of some of the best new workout ideas for 2021 and beyond.
The holistic approach
Interestingly, one of the most exciting new workout ideas isn’t just about workouts. Get ready to hear a lot more about holistic health. This inclusive approach to wellbeing incorporates fitness, food and health, and prioritises the mind-body connection. To paraphrase Jemma Thomas, personal trainer and founder of Jemma’s Health Hub, it’s not about workouts, it’s a way of life.
“This year women want to take a more holistic approach to their health and fitness, where they have everything in one place, where all are connected – be that workouts, recipes ideas and friendships,” she explains. “Women want to be a part of something, a community where they can bounce ideas off each other, and support one another.” She adds: “Similarly, they want an online workout community where they can get inspiration for healthy [meals]. Because it’s all connected: what you eat, how you think and what you do. They want a one-stop shop that’s easy to access, affordable and quick to do while they’re stuck at home balancing work and family.”
Jemma’s Health Hub community has enjoyed a surge in popularity during the pandemic. She attributes this to the increased need for motivation and support during difficult times. “It’s been wonderful to make a difference to so many busy women,” she acknowledges. “I am sure this will continue into 2021 as women appreciate how great it is to have everything in one place.”
If you thought you’d heard about every possible type of yoga, think again. One of the more unusual (yet completely logical) workout ideas for 2021 is…eye yoga. For obvious reasons, most of us are spending far too much time in front of our screens. This can trigger a number of problems, including eye strain and inflammation – but there are some innovative solutions.
“Fortunately, there are several therapeutic yoga exercises that we can do to promote our eye health,” confirms yoga and mindfulness teacher Brenda Ward. And yes, eye yoga really has become a thing in 2021! It’s often taught at the end of a class, and only takes a few minutes to practise. These exercises involve taking your eyes through a range of movement, including sideways, near and distant, and rotational viewing.”
Brenda continues: “Palming is often included, too. This involves rubbing the palms of your hands together to generate a little heat. Then you place your warm palms gently over your closed eyes, and allow them to absorb the warmth radiating from your hands.”
Brenda maintains that with regular practice, eye yoga can make a real difference to eye muscles strained by constant close work or hours of screentime. Visit her website www.brendayoga.co.uk to find out more.
I adore classical ballet, but I realise I’ve left it a little late to don tutu and tights and audition for the Mariinsky. But that doesn’t stop me admiring the strength, stamina and flexibility of ballet dancers. So I was very excited to discover Ballet Fusion, one of my favourite new workout ideas for 2021.
All the principles
Ballet Fusion was founded by fitness expert Rhea Sheedy. The programme focuses on safe, effective exercises that are based on ballet principles and technique. Their objective is to shape, tone and strengthen the entire body. Ballet Fusion taps into the trend for low intensity, easy-to-follow, no-equipment workouts. If HIIT classes aren’t for you, this is definitely one to try!
“HIIT can be great for achieving muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness,” acknowledges Rhea. “But when done too much, HIIT can actually prevent muscle recovery, leading to physical and mental burnout. High-intensity workouts can be bad for the body, as they are more likely to result in injury.”
She continues: “Conditioning classes, such as slower-paced ballet fitness, Pilates and yoga are seeing a real surge in popularity. These classes benefit both the body and mind with incorporated breathing techniques, stretching and detoxification, as well as strength building and flexibility….Ballet fitness is a great choice for people looking to take a more holistic approach to their health. Ballet is famous for its posture benefits. It improves core strength and balance, as well as helping to improve flexibility and suppleness of joints and muscles. It’s a great alternative workout for people working from home.”
Rhea has the numbers the back this up. Her website visitors have tripled since [last] March. Interestingly, around 40% of her clients now come from overseas, as the trend for at-home conditioning classes goes global. Best of all, Ballet Fusion is suitable for all ages and abilities. “The majority of our clients are aged 25 to 44,” Rhea confirms. “But we also have a large percentage who sit in the 55-64 age bracket. I love this! This older age bracket can be more gym-averse, but online classes like this allow them to go for it from home.”
Workout ideas: walking
As regular readers will know, I’ve always been a big fan of walking. Nothing deters me – not even the recent wintry snowfalls – or my Raynaud’s Syndrome! I simply wrap up warmly, select my favourite podcast and head for the hills. And it seems I’m not alone. Figures published last year demonstrate that 39% of people were choosing to walk more than they did before the pandemic outbreak. And 94% thought it likely they would continue to do so once travel restrictions were moved. I know that lots of people don’t think of walking as one of the most exciting new workout ideas. But it’s a free, easy, accessible way to boost fitness, prevent weight gain and improve your cardiac health. It’s also a natural mood-booster, and being outside even increases our exposure to vitamin D. So in the nicest possible way, why not take a hike today?
I’ve long been an advocate of Pilates (both Mat and Refomer). So it might seem strange to include it here, among lots of new workout ideas. But Clinical Pilates is something different. It’s especially suitable for anyone with back pain and stiffness, although it can be tailored to address other needs/problems too. Chartered physiotherapist Lyndsay Hurst has made Clinical Pilates more accessible via her Your Pilates Physio website. This resource incorporates a huge library of expert-led online Pilates classes. It can help members to build a tailored programme of online Pilates workouts. It also offers unlimited email support from a qualified physiotherapist.
“Spending time working from home at inappropriate desks has left more and more people suffering with aches and pains, as well as stiffness in the spine and hips,” Lyndsay explains. “Clinical Pilates focuses on building strength and control in the small muscles around the joints that control the position of the joints as we move. There is also focus on building strength in the postural muscles, and moving the joints through their full range of movement to ensure joint mobility and flexibility.”
She adds: “I see lots of common muscle imbalances in my day-to-day practice as a physiotherapist. I can create movement sequences to improve these. Clinical Pilates is also modified to accommodate people with certain spinal conditions and problems. This means they can exercise safely in a way that will help improve, and not irritate, their condition.”
Workout ideas with fitness apps
There are no shortages of fitness apps and trackers, but Fuelbetter, launching this week, aims to move things to another level. It’s not exactly about new workout ideas per se. Its objective is to calculate your unique nutrient requirements, based on your physiology and lifestyle.
Fuelbetter claims to track micro-nutrients, to help users take the guesswork out of eating right and maximise recovery post-workout. According to the team behind it, this sort of information was previously available only to elite athletes with regular access to dieticians and sports scientists. So how exactly does it work? “You log your physical activity and the app not only tells you how many calories you’ve burned, but the net carbs you’ve used, as well as the fat, water, sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium and VitaminB3,” the company explains. “It also tells you how much you need to replace, and what to eat to do it…Each suggestion is crafted around foods you are already eating. [We believe this is a] powerful tool to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.”
Click here to discover more ideas for exercising at home during lockdown.