Fitness snacking! Exer-dating! Karaoke on a bike! Katie Strick rounds up the hottest health hacks for the 12 months ahead
By Katie Strick 8th January 2024
You might not want to hear this, so we'll say it quickly: that new Christmas Garmin isn't going to clock up the kcals by itself. Now for the part you probably do want to hear: jumping back on the January fitness wagon doesn't have to mean signing up for a marathon or guiltily sweating off silly season with seven-day-a-week HIIT.
No no. You might have missed that post-Barry's euphoria but the good news is London's fitterati has been hard at work to serve up some less daunting workout trends you'll actually look forward to getting stuck into: think classes designed to be done after a long day at work and sustainable workouts you'll actually be able to stick to through summer and beyond.
From 30-minute lunchtime 'snack' classes to karaoke on a spin bike, let this be your 2024 fitness bible. Let's do this.
Train for longevity, not just January
If 2023 was the year of biohacking your body into living longer through extreme wellness treatments (ice baths, oxygen chambers etc.), 2024 will be the year we apply this longevity mindset into our fitness routines. "It's all about going back to basics," says Wes Santos, founder of boutique group PT gym Instate Fitness, who believes this turn towards simpler, more sustainable fitness is a backlash to years of expensive fad diets and pretentious, gimmicky workouts.
The 'hot girl walk' TikTok trend — encouraging low-impact, daily workouts over punishing your body a couple of times a week — is a perfect example of this, as is another recent #FitTok trend, the 3-2-8 workout, which combines Pilates, strength training, and walking for an all-around fitness routine that boosts strength, mobility and overall health.
Creator Natalie Rose, PT and founder of Body by Barre, says she designed the 3-2-8 method to meet the increase in clients' demand for a workout they can actually stick to — for years, not just a few months. "I created the method after working with hundreds of clients who struggled with fat loss, PCOS [polycystic ovary syndrome] symptoms, and finding a sustainable workout split that made sense around their busy schedule," she says.
Pvolve — the cult resistance-based workout endorsed by Jennifer Aniston — encapsulates this longevity mantra with its slogan 'break a sweat, not your body'.
“It is way more sustainable than any other workout that I have done,” Aniston said recently. 'Tarzan movement' — an animalistic fitness trend currently ranked as PureGym's second fastest-growing fitness trend — also encourages this idea of primal movement for mobility and longevity.
Melissa Power, founder of new Crouch End spin studio Cadence, supports this idea of training for longevity. Her classes are all about re-educating Londoners on "harmful" Instagram fitness trends like triple-time speeds and moving away from chasing that momentary thrill that comes from cycling dangerously fast. "At Cadence, we deliver that exhilarating experience you'd expect in a spin class whilst also safeguarding bodies, improving heart, lung, bone, and muscle health, and training for longevity too," she says of her classes, which feature a fun karaoke-spin element on Friday nights.
Santos supports this of protecting members' bodies. For him, it's about real, enjoyable, unpretentious training methods: "promoting a diet consisting of nourishing whole-foods, encouraging positive lifestyle choices, staying active outside of the gym floor, minimising stress, and most importantly, to relax and have fun with it, he says. "We've all seen the proof that living in this way will put us on the path for a long, happy and healthy life when we've looked at the daily habits of centennials all over the world."
Four is the magic number
For Helen O'Leary, clinical director at boutique London pilates studio Complete Pilates, four is (fittingly) the magic number for 2024. Her studio's 3:1 classes see one instructor to three participants: a tried-and-tested formula that offers a more affordable option than PT, but a small enough group that classes can be personalised.
For her, this small group training approach ties in with several of the key fitness trends for 2024: three people per instructor allows for a more tailored approach, compared to just pounding the pedals in a spin studio; it also allows for a greater, safer focus on strength; and it's more sociable than a PT session, too. "There's a group bonding effect, with the specificity you need, whilst being an affordable alternative to 1:1 training," she explains.
Shop 'til you drop(-set)
HIIT class at Gymshark on Regent Street? Yoga while you browse the shopping rails on King's Road? Yep, you read that right. It's not just the likes of Blok, Pyscle and 1Rebel where we'll find ourselves working out in 2024. This year, our favourite sportswear brands are increasingly offering in-house fitness classes, too.
Gymshark's new multi-use Regent Street hub now offers more than 30 classes each week, from strength workouts to yoga (there's also a 5K running club every Tuesday), while Under Armour's latest store in Battersea Power Station features a performance centre offering shoppers fitness coaching and physiological assessments.
Los Angeles-based athleisure brand Alo Yoga — a favourite of A-listers including Kendal and Kylie Jenner, Hailey Bieber and Taylor Swift — also opens its first UK store on Chelsea's King's Road in the next few months, with yoga clothing being sold alongside a timetable of in-house vinyasa sessions. Two more London stores are set to open later in the year, including a flagship on Regent Street featuring a gym and wellness club.
Test your way to a personal best
You've charted your migraines and heart health using 23andMe and finally received your long-awaited Zoe patch for Christmas. The next step towards understanding your body and what's happening inside it? DNA testing for fitness, so you can personalise your workouts according to your genes.
Dr Stuart Grice, a former researcher at the Functional Genomics Unit at the University of Oxford and co-founder of FitnessGenes, which offers users more than 150 DNA reports from one £149 test and "genetically tailored" workout plans for a further £29, says understanding their genes has helped his users to lose more than 80lbs in weight, optimise their fitness to sleep better and shave minutes off their PBs by matching their training and nutrition to their unique DNA.
Race to the finish
You don't have to run a marathon or sign up for a triathlon to take up a fitness challenge in 2024: now, London's gymerati are jumping aboard the competition train, too. "Fitness competitions used to be isolated to specific types of training, such as endurance and obstacle racing, we are seeing far more competitions and races in the functional space than ever before," says George Crook, head of performance at F45. He is increasingly seeing members using classes to train towards indoor, mass-participation fitness events such as Outtrain, Turf Games, Battle Cancer and Hyrox.
Hyrox — the German-founded functional fitness race widely regarded as the marathon of the gym world — saw a 223 per cent jump in interest towards the end of 2023, according to PureGym, with Hyrox's own organisers now hosting hybrid classes at gyms such as Third Space and The Gym Group. It's said to be more accessible than Crossfit, and has now expanded to 17 countries including the UK. The Wings for Life World Run — a global, gamified running event that sees partipants around the world see how long they can run before being caught be the ‘catcher car’ — is another cult challenge for 2024 (this year's edition is on May 5).
Sandy Macaskill, co-founder of Barry’s Bootcamp, agrees 2023 was a bumper year for clients signing up to fitness challenges and predicts 2024 sign-ups to be record-breaking. Barry's first Hell Week of the year, from January 29, is expected to be its busiest yet before the global gym chain hosts its first-ever 'Face Yourself' challenge, tasking clients with completing 10 or 20 classes in 30 days throughout February in return for a prize.
"We’re seeing clients wanting more accountability from their fitness and enjoying the camaraderie of group fitness and working out together," Macakills explains. "Instead of worrying about how fast the person next to you is going, or what weight they’re lifting on the floor, it’s more about your own personal goals and achievements. 2024 is the year to challenge yourself."
Match your mood
'Long day at the office' classes are the new 'bums and tums', according to Nancy Best, PT and founder of female-only strength-training community Ladies Who Crunch, who says 2024 will be the year we see fitness programmes focused on a specific emotion, rather than an aesthetic.
This year Best will launch her 'mood glossary': a tool that helps members navigate her class library via their emotion (think 'angry', 'exhausted' or 'energetic') or life scenario such as 'long day at the office' or 'sleepless night with the little ones'.
Peloton also allows users to filter its classes by core emotions while Gymbox has just launched its mental health-focused 'Weight Lifted' class for those feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Try fitness snacking
Our busy pre-Covid lives are back, baby, so it's lucky the research says we don't need to sweat for long to achieve an effective workout. According to latest data from Asics, 15.09 minutes could be all it takes to experience uplift — and Londoners are cottoning on. According to PureGym, exercise snacking — a term first coined on TikTok to describe the phenomenon of short, snappy workouts to fit in with our hectic schedules — has seen a 190 per cent jump in interest in recent months, with David Lloyd Clubs offering premium, shorter 'snackable' fitness classes on its online platform and Barry's recently trialling a new 30-minute Hustle class in response to demand they're seeing for a short, sharp but effective workout that can be squeezed into a lunch break.
Fitness coaching app Freeletics calls this phenomenon 'time-optimised fitness' while celebrity trainer Don Saladino predicts a rise in what he calls metabolic workouts: those designed to optimise calorie expenditure throughout and post-workout. "It involves exerting maximal physical effort in a brief, high-intensity session by engaging in compound movements that activate multiple muscle groups simultaneously," he explains. Among the benefits are building lean muscle mass, improved cardiovascular health and increased metabolic flexibility.
Hit the wall
Pilates has been the fastest-growing workout type for a couple of years now (see: #RealMenDoPilates on Instagram, or Harry Styles' abs), and 2024's hottest piece of Pilates equipment is, mercifully, something we all have access to already: any wall in your house (or office, depending on how public you want your workout to be).
According to PureGym, wall Pilates is the largest-growing trend as we move into the new year, with a huge 4,461 per cent jump in searches. Wall-assisted glute bridges and wall sits are a good way to ease yourself in, says Macallum Livock, a PT at the gym chain. "Wall Pilates is great for beginners, as the wall provides stability and enables you to build up confidence with the movements while being more supported than with bodyweight alone." The wall can then be used to provide extra resistance as you grow in confidence.
It's not just in the Pilates studio that London's fitterati are increasingly incorporating walls into their routine. If 2023 was the year that indoor climbing took off (again, thanks Harry Styles), 2024 will be the year of kilterboarding, according to bouldering insiders.
It's essentially high-tech climbing using a special light-up training board (kilterboard), the best of which are fully adjustable so you can alter the angle to anything between zero degrees (vertical) to 70 degrees (practically parallel with the floor).
You've spent six months flirting with that parkrun crush and invited your Hinge date to next month's singles dinner party. The next step for IRL dating? Sweating together on the date itself. "Most social and dating events have been an excuse to binge drink, but I've seen an exponential increase of people making more health-conscious decisions in recent years," says Liz High, a fitness and nutrition coach with 339,000 followers on Instagram (@liz.bitesback). She says she has noticed a spike in fitness-focused dating apps such as FITFCK, a London-based fitness dating platform that recently received investment from OnlyFans founder Tim Stokely.
FITFCK aims to connect likeminded gym-lovers but also hosts its own events (the next one is on Valentine's Day and will involve a workout at Fitness First followed by a secret nightclub takeover, plus a very special VIP host to be revealed later this month).
It's not the only one encouraging singles to sweat while they flirt. Fitness dating app Fitafy has hosted events with the likes of F45 and new padel tennis community Padel Social Club in Earls Court plans to host a series of 'date nights' in 2024 for singles sick of the alcohol-fuelled rollercoaster that is dating in the capital.
For fitness coach Lois Banks (@thrivewithlois), combining fitness and dating is a natural symptom of this new health-conscious era we live in and brings multiple benefits. "You can have a bit of banter, be a bit cheeky with each other and challenge one another to be better," she says. "The endorphins are flowing too so you come away feeling great after a workout." If that's not an excuse to sweat more in 2024, we don't know what is.