Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Probiotics Part 4 - Traditionally Fermented Foods

Here are some examples of traditional fermented foods you should consider making a regular part of your diet to help boost the levels of beneficial bacteria in your bowels. And remember: When adding traditional fermented foods to your meals, the key is to eat a small portion of them on a very regular basis. Once or twice daily with meals is best.


Yogurt has been used for centuries to cure bowel troubles and diarrhea. In addition, regular yogurt (not the low-fat kind) contains the hormone-like substance called prostaglandin E2, which can prevent ulcers. But the type of yogurt you eat makes a difference. To make sure you choose the right one:

Be sure the label says the product has "active cultures." Some companies pasteurize the product after it's been made, and this kills off the remaining beneficial bacteria, making it useless.
Look for products made from L.acidophilus bacteria cultures. They will have the greatest benefits. Most yogurts are now made using L.bulgricus or S thermophilus.
Avoid yogurts containing sugar. (Usually the yogurts with fruit are loaded with sugar.)
Add your own fruit. Bananas give yogurt a sweet taste and counteract the sourness. For a more consistent sweetness, try blending the banana into the yogurt in the blender.
You can also make your own yogurt. (And yes, you can use pasteurized milk.)

Cottage Cheese

The traditional fermented food cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, and to a lesser degree, beneficial bacteria. Look for low-salt products.


Whey is the liquid remaining after the curds and cream have been removed from clabbered milk. You can use it in soups, add it to steamed vegetables, or mix it into fruit juice or blender drinks for extra zip.


Kefir is an excellent milk-based beverage that you can make by adding kefir grains to milk. (The grains are actually colonies of yeast and bacteria that look like cooked rice clumps. Sounds appetizing doesn’t it?) In 12 hours, about four ounces of grains added to one quart of milk will produce the beverage.

Non-Dairy Fermented Foods

If you have a bacterial imbalance in your bowels but can't handle soured milk products, try some of these other traditional fermented foods:

Pickled cucumbers
Pickled garlic
Pickled beets
Pickled radish
Pickled corn relish
Korean kimchi
Soy sauce
Fermented tofu
Naturally fermented and unpasteurized beers

Lactic Acid Yeast Wafers

Lactic acid yeast wafers work the same way lactic acid–fermented foods do, in that they help re-establish the bacterial flora of the lower bowel. If you begin to include traditional fermented foods in your diet, you probably won’t need the wafers—but the wafers can sure come in handy when you’re traveling.

During travel, especially internationally or to third-world countries, you tend to encounter a wide range of organisms your body may not be used to dealing with. If the bacteria in your lower bowel can’t deal with the new organisms, your body proceeds to flush them out as a safety mechanism, bringing on diarrhea. For adults with diarrhea, two lactic acid yeast wafers with each meal will stop diarrhea, often within the same day. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Probiotics Part 2 - Species and Strains: What Are Their Differences?

Lactobacillus Species
The predominant and most important bacteria that reside in the small intestine are the Lactobacillus species. These species are responsible for producing lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (the sugar in milk). They also collectively ferment carbohydrates in the gut, producing lactic acid as result of this process. Lactic acid helps create an acidic environment in the digestive tract, which discourages many unwanted microorganisms that thrive in an alkaline environment. Lactic acid also increases absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, and iron.
Strain NameWhat It DoesWhat It Supports
L. acidophilusL. Acidophilus is, in my opinion, is the most important strain of theLactobacillus species. This bacterium colonizes most densely in the small intestine, where it helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal wall, ensure proper nutrient absorption, and support healthy overall digestive function.Research shows that acidophilus also can help ease occasional digestive discomfort. In a double blind placebo controlled study, patients taking this probiotic strain experienced significantly more relief from their symptoms than patients taking a placebo. A separate meta-analysis found that probiotics containing acidophilus help to alleviate occasional diarrhea, and a third study found that supplements containing bothacidophilus and B. bifidum help modulate the response of microflora in the intestines to the effects of antibiotics.Additional preliminary research shows that acidophilus may help boost immune system activity and support vaginal health in women.
  • Overall digestion
  • Nutrient absorption
  • Relief from occasional cramping, gas, and diarrhea
  • Immune health
  • Urinary and vaginal health in women
L. fermentumThis probiotic strain, which has been found in the probiotic foodssourdough and kimchi, produces superoxide dismutase and glutathione, both powerful antioxidants that help neutralize some of the toxic products made in the gut during digestion. L. fermentum has also been isolated as exhibiting activity against foodborne pathogens.
  • Overall digestion
  • Detoxification
L. plantarumL. plantarum is known for its ability to produce hydrogen peroxide. The body uses hydrogen peroxide as a defense against bacteria consumed in food, as well as other microorganisms. Research has also found this strain to be effective in helping support immune function in healthy adults.
  • Overall digestion
  • Immune health
L. rhamnosusThis probiotic strain is known for its ability to survive passage through the GI tract and is thought to be among the best Lactobacillus strains for vaginal health. It also loves to travel to foreign places; that is, a review of research on probiotics finds that Americans traveling from New York, NY, to developing countries and taking L. rhamnosus had a 3.9 percent rate of diarrhea, compared to a 7.4 percent rate for those not taking a probiotic.A second review of research concluded that L. rhamnosus may help improve vaginal and urinary health and decrease vaginal irritation.
  • Traveler’s diarrhea
  • Vaginal health in women
L. salivariusL. salivarius is somewhat unique among probiotic strains in that it is capable of growing in less than ideal conditions, including environments high in salt, and with or without oxygen. It is found in the oral cavities (mouth, throat, and sinuses), intestines, and vagina, but grows best in the small intestine.Research has shown that people taking L. salivarius had increased markers of immune activity. An additional study found that supplementing with L. salivarius helps to prevent the colonization of undesirable bacteria.
  • Immune health
  • Oral health
L. paracaseiL. paracasei is a robust strain found in the small intestine. It may also colonize in the colon if taken along with milk protein, which increases its resistance to stomach acid. This probiotic strain has the unique ability to support liver function. A prospective randomized study found that supplementation with a mixture of fiber and probiotics, which included L. paracasei, lowered urine pH and improved liver function in half of subjects.
  • Liver health
L. gasseriRelatively new, this probiotic strain is among the species of Lactobacillipredominantly linked to microflora in the vagina. Women with vaginal discomfort tend to have lower levels of L. gasseri than women with normal vaginal health.L. gasseri also supports digestive health. Research shows that supplementation with a combination of L. gasseri and B. longum helps limit occasional diarrhea in adults.
  • Vaginal health
  • Relief from occasional diarrhea
L. reuteriL. reuteri colonizes in both the intestine and oral cavity. In human trials, it has been shown to support digestive, oral, and immune health.
  • Oral health
  • Immune health
  • Overall digestion
Bifidobacterium Species
Billions of Bifidobacterium line the walls of the large intestine (colon) and help ward off invasive harmful bacteria and other microorganisms, including yeast. Like the Lactobacillus strain, Bifidobacterium produce lactic acid, which provides up to 70 percent of the energy required by cells that line the intestinal wall, enhancing the natural protective barrier in the gut. Lactic acid also helps keep the pH of the large intestine acidic to discourage the growth of other bacteria. Additionally, this lower pH environment facilitates the absorption of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Bifidobacterium also produce B-complex vitamins and vitamin K.As we age, the numbers of Bifidobacterium found lining the large intestinal wall naturally begins to decline.
Strain NameWhat It DoesWhat It’s Good For
B. bifidumThis probiotic strain is among the first to colonize in the intestines of babies and continues throughout life to be one of the main groups of good flora found in the large intestine. (It can also be found in the small intestine.) In addition to helping promote bacterial balance, it prevents the growth of unwanted bacteria, molds, and yeasts by naturally adhering to the intestinal mucosa better than other bacterial strains.B. Bifidum assists in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, fat, and proteins during digestion. It also produces enzymes that break the larger molecules down into smaller components that the body can more efficiently use.A meta-analysis of double blind human trials found that B. bifidum is one of the probiotic strains that can help alleviate occasional diarrhea, especially when traveling.
  • Overall digestion
  • Nutrient absorption
  • Relief from occasional diarrhea (particularly related to travel)
B. longumB. longum is one of the more common strains of Bifidobacteria found in the GI tract. Its digestive benefits stem from its ability to break down carbohydrates and to scavenge and neutralize everyday toxins found in the gut. Preliminary research suggests that the antioxidant properties of this probiotic strain include the chelation of metal ions—especially copper—and the scavenging of free radicals.It is also supportive of immune health. Elderly patients administered B. longum showed heightened immune function for 20 weeks after discontinuing supplementation.
  • Overall digestion
  • Detoxification
  • Immune health
B. infantisThis probiotic strain is the largest population of beneficial bacteria in babies. The amount of B. infantis in our guts decline as we age, but it remains an important part of our microflora. Supplementation with B. infantis has been shown to decrease bloating and bowel movement difficulty.
  • Overall digestion
  • Relief from occasional bloating and constipation
Bacillus Species
Bacillus bacteria are rod-shaped, spore-bearing bacteria that produce lactic acid Because it is a spore-bearing bacterium, it is highly resistant to heat, moisture, and light, making it highly resistant to stomach acid, and readily colonizes in the small intestine. Bacillus also resides in the body longer than other bacteria and is excreted slowly.
Strain NameWhat It DoesWhat It’s Good For
B. coagulansB. coagulans, like other lactic acid–producing bacteria, produces enzymes that assist in the digestion of lactose. It also improves the body’s ability to use calcium, phosphorus, and iron, and stimulates both gastric juices and gastric motility.This strain also supports vaginal health in women. One study shows that women who took B. coagulans daily saw improvements in their vaginal pH level, with 91 percent of reporting relief from vaginal discomfort.
  • Overall digestion
  • Relief from occasional constipation
  • Vaginal health
Streptoccocus Species
Strain NameWhat It DoesWhat It’s Good For
S. salivarius K12This probiotic strain is found in the oral cavity’s mucus membranes and is known for its ability to produce BLIS (bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances), which inhibit the ability of other undesirable bacteria to grow.Research has found that the 10 percent of the population who naturally carry BLIS-producing strains of oral bacteria have significantly fewer sore throats. Studies have associated S. salivarius K12 with better ear health in children, “significantly” reduced dental plaque scores, increased levels of interferon gamma in saliva (an immune marker), and significant reduction in volatile sulphur compounds that cause bad breath.
  • Overall oral health
  • Immune health
S. Salivarius M18S. salivarius M18 is also found predominantly in oral mucosa and, like theK12 strain, it also produces BLIS. S. salivarius M18 is most active in specific areas on the gums and teeth. S. salivarius M18 also promotes a healthy inflammatory response in the gums.
  • Healthy teeth and gums

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Probiotics Part 1 - Benefits

How Gut Bacteria Improves Immune Health

One of the most well-known non-digestive benefits of good gut bacteria is a stronger immune system. This happens in a number of ways, but generally is the result of our microflora’s ability to prevent pathogenic organisms from taking hold in our bodies.
As a natural byproduct of their own metabolism, the microbes living with us produce substances that our bodies use to fortify our defenses against bacteria, yeast, and other invasive organisms. Research has shown, for example, that the bacteria lining your intestines reinforce the barrier that prevents pathogens from seeping out of your GI tract and into the body. This is particularly important in your large intestine, where fecal matter accumulates before being excreted. Without a strong barrier in place, toxins from your feces can be reabsorbed, placing an additional burden on your immune system. (This is often referred to as leaky gut syndrome.)

This protective mechanism depends on a fatty acid known as butyrate (or butyric acid), which is produced by the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species of gut bacteria. One of butyrate’s main functions is to promote the growth of the mucus membranes that line the intestines and to increase their production of “mucking.” Mucking is a component of mucus that lines and protects the walls of the intestines. The mucus constantly sloughs off and carries pathogens with it.

Gut bacteria also support immune health by keeping the digestive tract at a pH level where it’s difficult, if not impossible, for undesirable bacteria, such as salmonella (which causes food poisoning), shigella(which causes diarrhea), and E. coli (which can cause intestinal disease and chronic kidney failure), to take root and grow. Healthy gut flora also produces a volatile fatty acid which, along with other byproducts, makes it difficult for fungus and yeast to survive.

Finally, good gut bacteria also help keep you regular. The shorter your bowel transit time, the less opportunity there is for toxins to be reabsorbed into your blood stream.

How Gut Bacteria Improves Mental Health

If you don’t believe that there’s a connection between our gut and our mood, try describing how you felt the last time you were nervous, afraid, or angry. If you use phrases like “butterflies in the stomach” or a “stomach tied in knots,” you’ve just proven how true this is.

Within the body, we actually have a “second brain” called the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS controls and regulates our intestinal tract and senses environmental threats. It reports information to the brain via the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body. The vagus nerve links a number of organs with the brain, but about 90 percent of the signals passing along it are traveling from the gut to the brain.

It may seem strange that there is a neurological connection between the gut and the brain, and that you can treat the brain with antidepressants and see improvement in bowel problems. But what’s even stranger is that until recently, conventional medicine never considered directly treating bowel problems to improve mood disorders. It’s a two-way street between the brain and the gut, after all. If you change one area, it makes a difference in the other.

Depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders are just of few of the more common problems that have been closely linked to intestinal problems. As to which came first—the gastrointestinal disorder or the psychiatric illness—it’s hard to tell. But based on trends over the past few decades, we can’t help but think the constant assault on our intestinal flora is the underlying cause of many of the psychological problems we’re now experiencing.

How Gut Bacteria Boosts Energy Levels

When your body is absorbing nutrients and ridding itself of toxins more effectively, it stands to reason that you will feel an overall improvement in your energy level. But this is also supported by science, which has shown us that probiotics can be an effective way to fight fatigue—particularly chronic fatigue.

Blood and saliva samples were taken for one month in eight athletes who had fatigue and declining performance. All were shown to have a reduced secretion of interferon, and most were found to be infected with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). (Most adults are carriers of this virus.)

When the athletes were given a probiotic supplement (Lactobacillus acidophilus) for a month, not only did their interferon levels improve to levels found in healthy individuals, but only one was found to exhibit EBV shedding in the saliva. Also, the fatigue disappeared, and athletic performance noticeably improved. 

How Gut Bacteria Improves Cholesterol Levels

Much of the cholesterol produced by your liver is converted into bile acids, which are stored in the gallbladder and used to help digest fats. Ultimately these acids end up in the colon, where they are either destroyed or excreted in bowel movements.

People who don’t eat enough fiber (one of the habits that damage gut bacteria) often have too much pathogenic microflora in their GI tract. One of the things those unwanted bacteria do is attack bile acids. Specifically, they break the acids down into several substances, including a toxic product called lithocholate. Lithocholate causes the liver to convert less cholesterol into bile acids.

From here, a couple of things happen. When less cholesterol is converted to bile acids, it begins to accumulate in the blood stream, and levels rise. Also, less cholesterol reaches the colon where it can be excreted in bowel movements. This is especially dangerous because bowel movements are the body’s main method of ridding the body of unwanted cholesterol.

Eating a high-fiber diet effectively supports the good bacteria that leave passing bile acids intact. As a result, your body excretes more cholesterol, and in effect is “tricked” into creating more bile acids.

How Gut Bacteria Regulates Hormone Levels

I could write a book on this topic, but it would probably put us both to sleep—so I’ll keep it short.

Normally, as much as 60 percent of the estrogen circulating in the blood is picked up by the liver and "deactivated." It is then dumped into the gallbladder and released with bile into the intestines for excretion. In the GI tract, an enzyme produced by our good gut bacteria, called Beta-glucoronidase, reactivates the estrogen so it can be reabsorbed into the body.

When the bacterial flora is out of balance, the estrogen is neither reactivated nor reabsorbed. Instead, it is lost in the stool. Low estrogen levels have been linked to osteoporosis, PMS, water retention, breast soreness, severe menstrual cramps and heavy flow, slow menstrual cycles, migraine headaches, etc.—all problems that women (and the men they live with) want to avoid.

A similar process occurs with many other hormones, as well as folic acid, vitamin B12, bile acids, cholesterol, and vitamin D.

How Gut Bacteria Reduces Yeast Infection Occurrences

Apart from residing in the intestinal tract, beneficial bacteria also reside in the vagina and urinary tract, where they deter the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast. 

They are a primary defense against urinary tract infections (UTIs) and acute cystitis. Approximately 60 percent of women in the United States experience UTIs or acute cystitis during their lifetimes, and 30 percent of those women have multiple occurrences.

We know that the beneficial bacteria reach the vagina by migrating from the colon, out of the body, and into the vagina and urinary tract. Although there are multiple species residing in the vagina,Lactobacillus is the most prominent. As it does in the gut, the lactic acid that these bacteria produce help to keep the pH level of the vagina and urinary tract slightly acidic, which reduces the growth of yeast and harmful bacteria—including E. coli, one of the chief bacteria that cause UTIs.
If we look at women’s genitourinary health from this perspective, it’s easy to understand why some women experience recurring problems with UTIs. If the balance of bacteria is off in some way, pathogens are more likely to adhere to the bladder wall and cause infection.

Though antibiotics will effectively clear up the symptoms of a UTI, they also will kill off the friendly microflora that is needed to protect the urinary tract in the first place. This sets the stage for an ongoing cycle of infection.

The most effective way to break this cycle is not additional medication, but rather re-establishing healthy flora by eating fermented foods and/or taking probiotic supplements high in the Lactobacillusspecies. Once restored, it’s reasonable to assume that subsequent infections will be much less frequent.

How Gut Bacteria Improves Oral Health

The primary benefit of probiotic flora in the oral cavity - the mouth, throat, and by extension, the nose, sinuses, and ear canals—is in support of our immune system, since often our first exposure to viruses and bacteria comes through the mouth and nose.

More than 600 species of bacteria have been identified within the oral cavity. Most of those species probably play a lesser role in health, but researchers have found that higher numbers of the more prominent beneficial species directly correlate to a reduced incidence of everything from bad breath and dental caries to ear infections, strep throat, and tonsillitis. 

The most effective way to increase the number of good bacteria in the oral cavity is through the use of probiotic lozenges, particularly those which contain the species Streptococcus salivarius. Tests have shown that using a lozenge that incorporates the K12 strain can help restore the natural bacterial flora of the mouth and throat. These bacteria produce compounds referred to as “bacteriocin-like inhibitory substances” or BLIS, which act as natural antibacterials and help control the growth of invasive microorganisms that cause infections.

How Gut Bacteria Supports a Healthy Weight

More and more research is emerging that draws a direct link between our weight and the health of our gut flora (including its role in the success of gastric bypass surgery), but this shouldn’t be a surprise. The connection has been known, and manipulated, for years by the agricultural industry.

Antibiotics—which kill the natural bacterial flora in the human body that influences how we break down and absorb the nutrients that help keep us lean and healthy—are known as growth promoters. Farmers have been using antibiotics for more than half a century to fatten cattle, pigs, and chickens. With the use of these medications, animals gain more weight more quickly, on less food. I’ll say that again: antibiotics stimulate growth with less food.

How Gut Bacteria Contributes to Longer Life

The more diverse our bacterial flora is, the more effective it is and the better our overall health tends to be. To see this, you need look no further than a study that examined gut microbes in the elderly.

When researchers looked at the gut bacteria of 178 elderly individuals over the age of 65 (average age 78, none of whom were being treated with antibiotics), they found that the microbes varied extensively depending on where the individual lived and the state of their overall health.

The people who lived independently in the community had the most varied microbacterial flora and were the healthiest. People who lived in long-term assisted living homes had less diverse microbacterial flora and were frailer.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Foods That Fight Inflammation

Foods that fight inflammation

Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.

However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That's when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's—have been linked to chronic inflammation.

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects.
Choose the right foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that inflame

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:
refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
French fries and other fried foods
soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)
margarine, shortening, and lard

Inflammation-promoting foods

Not surprisingly, the same foods that contribute to inflammation are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats.

Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation. It's not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.

Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn't the sole driver. Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake.

Foods that combat inflammation

Include plenty of these anti-inflammatory foods in your diet:
olive oil
green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
nuts like almonds and walnuts
fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Anti-inflammation foods

On the flip side are foods and beverages that have been found to reduce the risk of inflammation, and with it, chronic disease, in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.  Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

Anti-inflammatory eating

To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you're looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fitness Trends 2018

1. High-Intensity Interval Training

 High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) took the top spot in this year's survey (it was also number one in 2014). A HIIT training session involves bursts of maximum-effort, very hard work (typically about 20 to 90 seconds), followed by a period of low-intensity recovery. The goal is to recover enough that you can go hard again during your next work interval. If you're a beginner, you might have longer rest intervals, or work intervals that are challenging but not at maximum effort.

The ACSM says HIIT workouts are typically 30 minutes or less, although they can be longer. But while they may be short, they definitely aren't sweet. As the name suggests, HIIT workouts are designed to be high intensity, and a major part of the appeal is that they're an incredibly efficient and effective way to get your cardio in and burn lots of calories (if that's something that matters to you) without requiring a ton of time.
That said, because they're so intense, you shouldn't be doing HIIT workouts every day. This can lead to overtraining and an increased risk of injury (which survey respondents expressed concerns about, according to the ACSM). 

2. Group Training

Group training (or group fitness classes) didn't make the top 20 trends until 2017, but their popularity is rapidly rising. The ACSM defines group training as a workout for five or more people led by an instructor, designed to be motivational and effective for people of different fitness levels. This could be anything from trendy HIIT classes like OrangeTheory Fitness, to dance cardio classes, to old-school step classes at the YMCA.

No matter here are plenty of benefits of group fitness classes. They can be a great way to try a new workout or mix up your routine (many boutique fitness studios offer free or discounted first classes, as a bonus). There's also a social aspect—classes can be a fun way to sweat it out with friends or meet new people. Plus, when you sign up for a class, you're committing to your workout, which can help you stay on track with your routine.

3. Wearable Technology

Activity trackers smart watches, and heart rate monitors are as popular as ever—if you're into seeing your workouts by the numbers, wearable technology can give you interesting feedback about how you move. Many estimate your steps, sleep, standing time, calories burned, and time spent working out.

Heart rate monitors in particular can also give you objective information about how hard you're actually working during a sweat session, which can be helpful if you're training to be in a specific heart rate zone. (How you feel isn't always an effective measure of how hard you're working—factors including the room temperature and how much you like your workout can also influence how hard a workout feels to you.)

Wearable tech is going beyond the Fitbits and Apple Watches people wear on their wrists, too, the ACSM says. The sleekn Motiv Ring was recently released, which tracks activity via your finger. Smart fabric and textiles are also on the rise, says the ACSM—Wearable X just introduced the Nadi X yoga pants, which delivers vibrational feedback to the wearer to encourage good form and alignment. The ACSM also notes that smart eyeglasses are gaining in popularity.

4. Bodyweight Training

While bodyweight training has been around for a long time, it's been re-popularized by the fitness world over the past several years, says the ACSM. Bodyweight training is popular thanks in part to its convenience. There's no equipment and minimal space required, so bodyweight exercises are great for anytime, anywhere workouts. Most bodyweight exercises are accessible for any fitness level, and they're often easy to modify, too.
Plus, your own body really is an incredible resistance training tool in its own right. Using your bodyweight during exercises including push-ups, squats, planks, lunges, and more can be an incredibly challenging and effective way to work your muscles. 

5. Strength Training

Strength training has been a strong trend since the first year of the survey, according to the ACSM. And with good reason: Strength training is an extremely important element of any fitness routine. Strength training helps prevent the age-related decline of muscle mass, keeps your bones and heart healthy, and helps prevent pain and injury in everyday life. Muscle mass also plays a role in maintaining a healthy metabolism (although it won't drastically increase the number of calories your body burns at rest).

6. Educated, Certified, and Experienced Fitness Professionals

While this might not seem like a particularly glamorous trend, it is an important one. According to the ACSM, there's been growth of educational programs and certification programs that have been accredited through legitimate organizations (such as the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences.) Certification standards differ by organization, but in general, a certification means that a trainer has taken a standardized test to demonstrate knowledge of gym safety, exercise form, and training principles.

There's also an increased interest in more regulation of the industry, according to the ACSM. Overall, it's important that fitness professionals know their stuff to lead clients and classes in a way that's safe and effective.

7. Yoga

While yoga has landed on the trends list for many years, it moved up one spot in 2018. The ACSM credits yoga's consistent popularity with being refreshed and reinvented every year—there's no shortage of styles to choose from, including Iyengar yoga, power yoga, Bikram yoga, and more, and each come in and out of popularity.

Devoted practicers credit yoga with mental clarity and stress management, and it's also a great workout for improving flexibility and balance (which are important to an overall fitness routine). Depending on the style, it can also help build muscle strength and endurance.

8. Personal Training

Personal training has been in the top 10 trends since this survey began, according to the ACSM. Getting one-on-one time with a trainer can help many people reach their goals in a safe and effective way that works for them. Of course, personal training isn't the only way to have an efficient and individualized workout routine—it can be pretty expensive, so while personal training can be helpful, it's also not realistic for everyone.

Part of this trend is also in making sure personal trainers are educated, notes the ACSM—in fact, recent legislation has been introduced in several states to establish licensing of personal trainers (although none of it has been adopted yet). 

9. Fitness Programs for Older Adults

According to the ACSM, there's a growing market for fitness programs that are tailored to older adults. After all, staying active is a great way for people to maintain bone and muscle mass with age, in addition to overall health benefits. In 2018, there may be more specific classes and fitness programs designed for retired people looking to make fitness a priority.

10. Functional Fitness

According to the ACSM, "functional fitness is defined as using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living." For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it also works the muscles you use to squat down to grab the phone you dropped.
Think of functional training as training for life, whether you're hauling boxes into a new home or reaching up to grab a suitcase from the overhead bin on a plane. It's about feeling strong and capable in all areas of your life—not just at the gym.