Pete McCall by Pete McCall

Given today’s hectic lifestyles, it can be a challenge to keep up with all the new discoveries related to exercise, fitness and health. To help fill in the gaps in your knowledge, here are some of the most significant health- and fitness-related findings and trends that emerged in 2015. 

1. Most people want to have a fun experience when they exercise, but exercising on your own can often feel boring.

From boutique studios to hardcore workouts in gritty industrial spaces to slogging through the mud, this past year showed us that people want to do more than just sweat during their workout time. Rather, they want to have a unique exercise experience that allows them to connect with other like-minded individuals. Whether it is the challenge of the workouts or the opportunity to combine exercise time with social time, high-intensity workouts are clearly more than just a passing fad. 

2. A diet with high in processed or red meats could increase the risk of developing cancer.

In October, the World Health Organization released a statement indicating that consuming large amounts of red or processed meats could increase one’s risk of developing cancer. While this doesn’t mean that the occasional piece of bacon or grilled T-bone will trigger a heart attack, it does highlight an easily correctible behavior (reducing your consumption of these foods) that could improve your health, reduce the risk of cancer and add years to your life. 

3. Having virtual friends who exercise can have a positive impact on your lifestyle.

We all have the friend (or friends) who feels compelled to post a selfie in every conceivable location or constantly provide status updates on the most inane facets of daily living. There is some good news for fitness enthusiasts, however, as emerging research suggests that having virtual friends who exercise can have a positive impact on your lifestyle by helping you to improve your level of physical activity. 

4. There are huge benefits of exercise for older adults.

We have known the general benefits of exercise for years, but as the population ages we’re learning more about the benefits of exercise for older adults. During the later years of the human lifespan, exercise isn’t just about vanity or aesthetics—it’s about promoting good health, improving the quality of life and enhancing cognitive function. Both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training can elevate levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a neurotransmitter responsible for growing new cells in the brain. 

5. Staying physically active throughout the day is an important component of achieving and maintaining good health.

We now know that getting to the gym for a workout isn’t enough. In fact, researchers have quantified the negative consequences of remaining sedentary throughout the day, and identified the benefits of short bouts of low-intensity physical activity. Healthy behaviors that get people moving throughout the day, such as having a standing desk at work or taking brief walking breaks, can help improve overall health and well-being. 

6. Sleep plays an important role in weight loss and maintaining optimal health.

The next time you want to sleep in or spend the day snoozing on the couch, tell yourself it’s part of a well-rounded exercise program. This year, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (yes, there is a whole organization dedicated to learning about sleep) recommended that people get at least seven hours of sleep per night to maintain optimal health. And in a separate study, researchers found that a lack of sleep could lead to weight gain. In other words, sleep plays an important role in weight loss and maintaining optimal health. 

7. Fitness is becoming more global.

Worldwide, people are beginning to realize the importance of daily activity and exercise in promoting optimal health. As a result, health club franchises such as Gold’s Gym and Anytime Fitness are expanding internationally in markets such as Indonesia, India, Philippines and Egypt. If you’re an ACE Certified Fitness Professional and have a desire to live and work overseas, now might be the time to pursue that goal. 

8. Women like lifting weights, too.

In gyms around the world, women are muscling the guys out of the squat cage in order to achieve the aesthetic benefits of strength training. Thanks to the impressive results that thousands of women are achieving by participating in high-intensity workout programs, women who might have skipped the weight room in favor of more cardio are learning that gripping and ripping with the iron is a great way to achieve the strength and aesthetics they desire.