Mar 14, 2024 - News

A new fitness trend focused on longevity

Illustration of a woman stretching on a yoga mat shaped like a plus

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

We're no longer in the heyday of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and CrossFit. Now, low-impact workouts — and particularly Pilates — are all the rage for American adults.

Why it matters: As longevity becomes a primary health focus, a growing number of exercisers are opting for movements that advance their day-to-day functioning and better protect them from injury.

By the numbers: In Nashville, Pilates ClassPass bookings increased 99% in 2023, compared to 2022, according to data shared with Axios.

  • The most popular Pilates studio on the fitness booking platform was Bodyrok, which has four locations in Middle Tennessee.
  • Overall, Pilates was the most popular ClassPass workout of 2023, with booking reservations up 92% from 2022, according to data shared with Axios.
  • And Yelp searches for Pilates increased 25% from the previous year.

The big picture: The surge in interest in workouts like Pilates has to do with a workout mindset shift.

  • Many people now exercise primarily for health and longevity.
  • Almost 29% of consumers say they exercise for a long and healthy life, compared to 20% the year before, according to survey data from exercise platform Mindbody.
  • And more than one-third of Americans say they prefer low-intensity training exclusively, according to Mindbody.

Zoom in: "Functional fitness" is a kind of movement that more than half of those surveyed by Mindbody say they pursued.

  • It's a relatively new wellness phrase that doesn't have an exact clinical definition, but it generally means exercise that advances physiological function, Nima Alamdari, honorary professor of sport and health sciences at the University of Exeter, tells Axios.
  • Unlike stationary bikes and certain gym equipment, which often encourage repetitive singular motions, functional fitness typically involves working multiple muscle groups via different planes of movement, done at low or high intensity, with or without equipment.
  • Mindbody defines it as "a type of strength training that prepares the body for day-to-day activities like squatting, bending, pushing, and lunging."

Functional fitness and low-impact exercises like Pilates are "particularly important" for people 40 and older because that's the age that muscle mass and function can start to decline, says Alamdari, who's a clinical advisory board member of functional fitness workout company Pvolve.

What we're watching: Alamdari says more exercise research is in the works, including studies he's working on related to recovery and injury prevention in runners.

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