Earlier this month, the Association for German Language decreed that the German “word of the year” was Zeitenwende, which roughly translates to “historical turning point.” The ostensible reason for this selection was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but as the Association noted, the word applies broadly to anything that might constitute the beginning of a new era. In that sense, 2022 felt especially rife with the spirit of the Zeitenwende: post-pandemic life saw many people reimagining the concept of work-life balance. A megalomaniac billionaire’s takeover of a popular website inspired mass introspection on what we want our social media lives to look like. At a moment like this, the only thing more fraught than trying to untangle the present is trying to guess what the future might hold.
In other words, there’s no better time for our annual list of predictions. As in years past, we reached out to a range of health and wellness experts to get their takes on the year ahead. Among the highlights: the rise of AI workouts, the proliferation of recovery tools, and a growing conviction among millennials that exercise is the new religion.
The Wealthy Will Turn Away From Fancy Food Trends
Inflation is up, and it’s taking a big toll on people’s buying power at the grocery store and restaurants. Grocery store prices are up 12.4 percent year-over-year as of October 2022, and they’ll probably continue to rise in 2023. That’s such a big jump that it’s impacting almost everyone—in one survey, more than half of the respondents with household incomes over $100,000 said that price increases were their biggest challenge when shopping for food.
Because affordability will be a top priority when it comes to food choices, even among affluent consumers, I think 2023 may finally be the year when we see a shift away from expensive supplements and trendy wellness foods (think açai packets, $10 frozen Daily Harvest bowls, and $13 jars of nut butter). Nutrition experts have long been saying that there’s nothing magic about these foods, and that most supplements aren’t necessary, but wellness culture has continued to prop up the luxe, pricey stuff. Now that people need to keep a closer eye on their food budgets, I think they’ll realize that they really don’t need any of this stuff. I’m excited to see affordable, nutritious staples—like grains, beans, and frozen fruits and vegetables—move back into the wellness spotlight.
–Christine Byrne, Outside contributor and dietitian
A Machine Might Write Your Next Workout Plan
We’re in a bit of a hype-bubble as I write this, but it’s hard not to be impressed by ChatGPT, the quasi-omniscient new chatbot and/or harbinger of the demise of human civilization that’s been sweeping the Internet. Over on Reddit’s running messageboards, the novelty of asking ChatGPT to write you a marathon plan is already wearing off: “we need a bot to stop people from posting chatgpt training plans,” one jaded user complained. But ChatGPT is just the most visible manifestation of a dramatic improvement in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities over the last decade—and there are already examples of AI-powered adaptive training plans on the market, as well as other emerging applications like biomechanical analysis. I don’t know where it’s all headed, but I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about AI in the fitness world this year, and perhaps getting used to the idea of delegating some of our workout decision-making to the machines.
Gyms Will Replace Churches
My big trend for the year is the increased popularity of “third places” dedicated to wellness and fitness. From members-only clubs to climbing gyms and wellness studios, fitness-focused third places want to restore a sense of community. 30 percent of millennials and Gen Z have no religious affiliation, per Gallup. Meanwhile, church membership among U.S. adults recently fell below 50 percent for the first time. As participation in organized religion declines alongside a growing distrust of social institutions, younger generations increasingly worship at the church of wellness. With covid precautions gone for most, individuals starved for human connection are venturing out in search of belonging and well-being.
More People Will Choose Strength Training As Their Go-To Workout
2023 will be the year that strength workouts (progressing through heavy weights for low reps) become not just OK for everyone, but even our default form of exercise. The human body is designed to rebuild muscle we lost from too much sitting and too much dieting, muscle that we need for a functioning metabolism and to be able to bend down and pick stuff up without getting lower back spasms. More of us will realize strength isn’t even just about strength; many strength movements, like squats and deadlifts, are also about building crucial mobility and flexibility.
Strength training is not reserved for pro athletes. Anyone can jump in and get something out of it, just like they can with running, spinning,yoga, or Pilates, and—this is key—without advancing through those other activities first. Strength training is not the final exercise frontier; it’s just another type of movement (though one with unique and severely underrated benefits). More people will also see its style of workout is actually more enjoyable than most mainstream forms of exercise. Three sets of five reps for three movements, or one straight half hour on a treadmill? I know what I’d pick.
The Steroids Silence Might Finally End
If you follow the more-absurd end of the fitness internet, it was impossible to miss that this fall the Liver King, an influencer and nutritional supplement magnate, was revealed to be on some pretty serious performance enhancing drugs—“gear,” to the initiated. If you’ve ever seen a picture of him this is…not a shock. But it’s pretty far from the “ancestral” lifestyle and diet of raw offal he recommends to his followers. There was, naturally, a heartfelt apology video and a gleeful Joe Rogan Experience episode with the YouTuber who broke this story open, More Plates More Dates.
And yes, that’s just one self-consciously absurd social media persona. But you don’t have to go much deeper on the More Plates, More Dates YouTube channel to hear Derek, who just uses his first name, accuse some bold-face Hollywood names of similar setups. It’s always been the case that it’s easy to accuse any given enormous person of juicing, but given that huge muscles are increasingly mandatory for actors and influencers, the Liver King is probably not the only prominent name on serious gear. It feels like 2023 is the perfect year for one of them to spill the beans on how he actually got into Marvel movie shape.
—Chris Cohen, wellness editor, GQ
Workouts Will Be More About Consistency Than Max Effort
We are more than a decade into high-intensity interval and hard core circuit training––a “go hard or go home” mentality. I think we are going to see people challenge themselves to be consistent without feeling like they need to go all-out. There will be more focus on low intensity: Just doing something and building physical activity into your day. For middle-aged and older people, there will be more focus on balance and toning versus max strength workouts.
–Michael Joyner, physiologist and anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic
Elite Marathoners Will Race More Than Twice a Year
In 2023, I think more U.S. marathoners will take the Yuki Kawauchi approach to racing—which is to say, competing over 26.2 miles way more frequently than the standard two a year. I’m not sure if it was Kawauchi’s 2018 Boston Marathon victory that did it, but we’re starting to see more and more pros taking a crack at racing (and recovering from) multiple marathons a year, including Sara Hall, Keira D’Amato, and Maegan Krifchin, to name just a few on the women’s side. More competing, less pressure… I’m into it!
The Recovery Market Will Continue to Expand
Over the past five years, brands like Hyperice, Oura, and Whoop have taken the concept of recovery from the performance world and made it more accessible for the everyday athlete. As more people look to optimize rest and recovery, the product ecosystem around it will expand. However, I think people want more than just products; they want education and experiences built around achieving goals. Social media and the internet have often turned health and wellness into passive consumption instead of active participation; I think there will be more in-person experiences to address this gap.
Women’s Sports Will Surge
2022 has (again) shown the power and the potential for women’s sports. We saw the gold medal performance of Eileen Gu and Chloe Kim, the inaugural Tour de France Femmes, and new American records in marathon from Keira D’Amato and Emily Sisson. Viewership and investment in the WNBA is up while in England, attendance at Women’s Super League games increased 200 percent over last year. People rallied around efforts to bring Brittney Griner home and to celebrate Serena Williams’ evolution away from tennis, but they also called for reforms in the National Women’s Soccer League and collegiate running. It’s shown that people care about women’s sports and also believe women athletes deserve better. In 2023, I think women’s sports is going to get even more of the attention and investment it deserves. Plus, the Women’s World Cup will be massive and a slew of new books (cough cough) will keep women in the center of the conversation.