Every year sees a host of health and wellness trends come about and while some prove their worth and have staying power, others thankfully fade into obscurity.
2018 saw a few great ones including cauliflower becoming a staple food (rice and ‘steaks’), non-dairy milks and cheese on the rise, more people turning to a plant-based diet, being more aware of gut health, probiotics and the continued interest in herbs and spices for better health.
The top fitness trends last year included the continued surge in people taking up yoga, HIIT, strength training, bodyweight training, group exercise classes and relying more on wearable technology to help with their fitness goals.
What does 2019 hold for us?
Fast food & casual dining get a healthy, vegan-friendly makeover
Photo: Lifestyle Asia
The words ‘fast food’ and ‘healthy’ don’t usually go together but as more people change the way they eat, the F&B industry is changing the way they feed us. The numbers don’t lie—demand for meat-free food increased by over 980% in 2017, the vegan meat market is set to grow by 25% over the next four years and a global survey found that 40% of consumers are choosing to include more vegan food into their daily diets. When even the most famous fast-food chains introduce meat-free options and healthier, vegan frozen meals are becoming mainstream, you know that this is a trend that’s here to stay.
- Good Monster: hot rice bowls with vegetarian and vegan options.
- Rocket Kitchen: wholesome fusion customised bowls.
- Agrain by HALE: healthy customised bowls for sit down & delivery.
- Kale (Hong Kong): fast food with flexitarian options.
Plant-based food & lifestyle become even more mainstream
Remember the days when being vegetarian or vegan meant mock meat, tofu, vegetables and homemade nut roasts? Due to innovative cooking methods, research, creative home cooks and chefs, inventive use of ingredients (jackfruit, tempeh, seitan, non-dairy cheese) and inevitably the power of social media, plant-based food will be the norm.
People are choosing to become vegan for many reasons, primarily for health, the environment and to not be part of the exploitation of animals. Malaysia still has room for improvement but who would have thought that we would ever find non-dairy cheese or even Quorn products in our supermarkets? From the ‘bleeding’ Beyond Burger, tender, juicy Omnipork and JUST Egg (made from mung beans) to entire ranges of vegan cosmetics and shoe labels (vegan Doc Martens, anyone?), this is a lifestyle that here’s to stay. Leaders such as Bill Gates and even our favourite celebs like Lewis Hamilton and Beyonce and Jay-Z have even made headlines backing the vegan movement themselves.
Workplaces prioritise wellness
Defined as activities and policies organised by a company to ensure staff are mentally and physically healthy, workplace wellness is picking up momentum here. The realisation that a healthy (happy) workforce equates higher productivity, increased revenue and lower health insurance claims has seen more companies invest time and money into programmes and initiatives.
This can be as simple as having a salad bar in the canteen to offering specialised programmes to lose weight, get fit, maintain work-life balance and how to eat well. On the local front, AIA Vitality is a strong proponent for workplace wellness and does regular studies proving how much companies in each respective country need to get on board with this. As stressful as things get, your work life should never affect your health!
- Coffee in Common: Cafe at Common Ground co-working space
Yes, financial wellness is a thing now
Our mental and physical state is directly affected by what happens in life. And, being financially sound is an integral component in having a stable life and good health. The first step towards financial wellness is to talk about it and seek legitimate advice if you find yourself in an overwhelming situation due to debt (credit card, student loans, mortgages), loss of income and poor investment choices.
YouTube influencer Aja Dang made headlines speaking up about her student loan debt, and now uses her platform to bring awareness overwise not talked about topics—finances, loans, debts and budgeting. Being financially unstable can make you ill, stressed, anxious, affect relationships and take up bad habits to cope. As more and more people are drawing these correlations, there is a growing emphasis on understanding the need to plan ahead, instill proper money values (insurance, never spend more than you can afford, invest wisely) and being open to sound advice.
Wellness & travel become the perfect pair
Travel and wellness are perfect partners. We go on holiday to get away from the grind of daily life, to relax, explore new destinations and spend time with family and friends. By adding the opportunity to take a yoga course, go on a digital detox or even learn about Asian herbal remedies, wellness becomes more fun and a holiday goal to aim for.
Regional destinations like Bali, Koh Samui, Hua Hin and Goa are renowned for their diverse programmes. Even hotels, airlines and airports are offering healthier meals catering to all kinds of diets, better fitness facilities, spas and even space to practise meditation and yoga!
Mindful food, packaging and lifestyle choices
Last year’s keywords—sustainable, the 5 Rs (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle), zero waste, bulk buying and plastic pollution—will influence consumers even more this year. As corporations recognise the consumer’s desires of being mindful of what and how much they consume and how everything is packaged, they are beginning to offer their products and services in more eco-conscious ways.
Forget fast fashion, buy bulk, use reusable straws, drastically decrease single-use plastic, support local farmers and businesses, try a zero waste lifestyle and choose products that are environmentally sound and have climate-friendly systems in place. Choosing to stop or cut down meat consumption is an easy lifestyle choice with a huge impact—agriculture and livestock are huge contributors to carbon dioxide emissions.
Brain health takes centre stage
As focused as we are on keeping our body fit, we forget that other crucial organ—the big old brain. We want a healthy brain that will last a lifetime but there are many factors that affect this including a poor diet, pollution, stress, lack of sleep and even prolonged screen time. Alzheimer’s is a major threat to our brain health and is at epidemic levels across the world.
The most important defence against this is a wholesome diet (brain boosting compounds), healthy lifestyle (weight maintenance, fitness), keeping mentally active (learning new skills) and having a good social life. It really is very simple—eat well and more plant-based, exercise, digitally detox, reduce stress and be happy!
Asian herbs as remedies make a comeback
It’s what we’ve always known—the many herbs our grandmothers used do work. Ancient remedies are passed down through the generations because before modern medicine, we relied on what nature had to offer. Adaptogens (natural substances that combat stress by regulating hormones) will be the buzzword this year with traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic herbs leading the way.
Scientific research has yet come to absolute conclusions but most of these herbs are safe and if it’s been used for millennia, they must work. Popular Asian herbs that are adaptogens to look out for include Gotu Kola (Pegaga), Ashwagandha, Astragalus and ginseng.
Rise of stress & anxiety awareness: self-care is not selfish
The pressure to perform, look and feel good constantly is a very modern problem. With the relentless bombardment via social media of perfect bodies, lives, holidays and even food, many young people are feeling the strain. As we gain more awareness of this transcendent pressure and that stress can wreak havoc on everything from gut health, immunity to even sleep, we come to realise we all need to take a step back. It’s time to ease up on the constant pressure to eat beautiful food, wear the latest gym gear, try every fitness regime and pose for all those muscle-baring IG pictures.
While it may be difficult to completely strip back and simplify these aspects of life, people are recognising the importance of self-care practices that can even be as simple as going for a walk in the park, reading a good book, having a foot massage, meeting friends for brunch or signing up for an art class for a creative release. The focus this year is on happiness and peace of mind. Think of it as self-preservation and a way to be a kinder, calmer person.
- Stephanie Looi's 4 tips on mastering self-care
- CheckCheckCin (Hong Kong): Traditional Chinese medicine mocktail tea bar and kitchen
Workouts become cortisol friendly and recovery is key
Cortisol is known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone and we are now becoming aware that on top of the stresses from everyday life, are bodies can also get stressed during workouts, and there can be a point when you’re actually over-exercising and your body rebels. If you think that hard-core, punishing workouts are the only way to achieve your fitness goals, you may be doing more harm than good.
Cortisol is released in stressful situations including during a relentless gym session or an extra long run. Fitness goals can still be achieved with low-impact workouts such as reformer pilates, taking time to recover properly and doing a workout that is fun and doesn’t make you feel stressed! Prehab & injury prevention services are on the rise and are even helping grow fitness studios in London.
- The Flow Studio: reformer pilates group classes.
- Regenerate class at FireStation: a recovery based class focused on mobility, core strengthening and dynamic stretching.
- The Playground Fitness’ group classes where play and fun meets fitness (classes are followed by a 10 minute cool down focused on breathing for recovery).
Seamless integration of tech and fitness
Gone are the days of just putting on your sneakers and going for a run to work up a sweat. Now there’s wearable technology like the FitBit (to track time, distance, geography, calories, heartbeat), apps covering the entire gamut of fitness and high-tech recovery gadgets. And, as each year passes, this will get more efficient and adapt to your specific health needs.
The TheraGun, a handheld massage machine, has rapidly grown in popularity with celebrities and athletes such as Kyrie Irving, Michael Phelps and Ashley Graham swearing by them, proving that tech has even infiltrated recovery.Download apps to help do a minimal equipment HIIT workout, offer meal prep tips and recipes, try out innovative exercise routines and even have someone guide through a week of detox! And you can do it all in the comfort of your home.
- fio: a fitness app with workout and nutrition videos. Choose from a variety of plans ranging from basic to premium workout videos.
- FitSphere: an online fitness programme created by Liv Lo combining yoga, HIIT and weights.
- ClassPass Live: Monthly subscription app for live and on-demand workouts that can be done at home and even comes with a heart rate monitor.
Targeted health products for women
Female hormones affect everything from how we look, age, heart health, sleep quality, gut health and bloating, and our moods. Hormone health will have its place in the spotlight this year as the wellness industry gets into gear and comes up with products to help women achieve greatness in their daily lives!
There are now plenty of natural supplements, home testing kits, types of exercises and alternative therapies aimed at taking into account all our monthly and age-related fluctuations. Nutritionists and personal trainers are now creating specialised meal plans, programmes and apps to help us understand what our bodies go through during our cycle and in turn regain control over our mood, strength and health.
- Yoga for hormonal balance
- Seed cycling to balance hormones
- Understanding our bodies by tracking our cycle
- Recipes for each phase of your cycle
And, we haven’t even talked about the plant-based fish everyone’s raving about…