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2016 Wellness Trends

Our wellness predictions are in! These are the 16 top health and fitness trends we'll all be talking about in the year ahead.

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No. 1

Why Everyone is Eating Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner out of a Bowl

It all started with smoothie bowls.You know, the ridiculously photogenic ones that populate your Instagram feed every morning? But now bowls are branching out to claim lunch and dinner, too, and they’re making a savory appearance on healthy-leaning restaurant menus, going by the name of grain bowls, macro bowls, veggie bowls, poke (sushi-style) bowls, and more. There’s even a cookbook called Bowl coming out by foodie-author Lukas Volger this year.

While many point west to the trend’s origin—with Cafe Gratitude serving as the Cali-style veggie bowl patron saint—it’s now a cross-country phenomenon, with many of the buzziest new eateries (in New York City alone, there’s Dimes, By Chloe, and Inday, among many others) attracting a stylish clientele eager to dig into their single-vessel offerings. And even fast-food has caught on: Sweetgreen’s rapid ascent to the healthy cool kid’s lunch table has happened with a bowl in hand, and Los Angeles’ Edibol created an entire good-for-you grab-and-go restaurant around the concept.

But there may be more than just tastebuds directing this trend. Some say that portion control is behind the bowl, that it’s a great way to get your protein, grains, and veggies, in perfect proportions (see this handy how-to infographic). Others say that this is just the healthy, casual way more Americans want to be eating right now. “There’s something really comforting about the serving vessel,” says Volger. “There’s something nice about the whole meal being there.”

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No. 2

Super Trend Alert: Athleisure

You already know that more women are wearing Lycra on the reg instead of jeans. (Workout clothes constantly outpace denim, growing by at least 5% a year, to $68 billion, according to analysts at Barclays.) But in 2016, we expect athleisure (a combination of “athletic” and “leisure”) to become a super trend, stretching its street-style Spandex offerings into every corner of everyday life.

Our cultural obsession with wearing stylish leggings and tops that can go from brunch and errands to casual Friday was recently recognized by Merriam Webster, which recently admitted the term “athleisure” into the dictionary. All around us designers like Tory Burch, Cynthia Rowley, and Rebecca Minkoff are getting into activewear. Collaborations, like Derek Lam 10 Crosby x Athleta, mark the first of dozens we’ll be seeing. Curated boutiques like Bandier and Juja Active that stock dozens of fitness fashion brands in increasingly chic styles are taking off. Buzzy new labels like Tracksmith, ADAY, Karma, and Carbon38’s house collection seem to debut daily. And single-brand stores like Sweaty Betty and Athleta are popping up every time we lace up our sneakers.

“We’re all looking for chic, casual, and comfortable clothing that looks effortless and as the shapes and fabrics get more sophisticated, I think the trend will continue,” says Leesa Evans, a celebrity stylist. Soon the category is going to be a big part of every mall in America—and every woman’s wardrobe.

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No. 3

Seaweed is the New Kale

Suddenly, everyone is talking about the not-so-sexy underwater plant, for its nutrient profile, skin-care benefits, and incredible potential for combatting climate change (as recently detailed in The New Yorker, which called it “a miracle food”). “Seaweeds are amongst the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet, and as they have access to all the nutrients in the sea, they are an extremely rich source of minerals,” explains Scotland’s Mara Seaweed CEO and co-founder Fiona Houston. Houston says an array of Michelin-starred chefs are now cooking with her products, and “manufacturers are using seaweed as a healthy option to replacing the salt added to processed foods,” adds Jane McKenzie, PhD, a food and nutrition expert at Queen Margaret University.

Repechage founder Lydia Sarfati was one of the first to bring high-quality seaweed harvested off the coasts of France and Maine to skin-care in the US and says she’s seen its popularity growing recently, which doesn’t surprise her. “The bioactive substances derived from seaweed provide a beneficial and functional role at the cellular level, contributing to healthy looking skin, hair, and nails,” she says. Sushi joints are going to have to give up their monopoly—soon we’ll all be making both salads and face masks with kombu.

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No. 4

The Uber-ization of Beauty and Spa Services

The spa and beauty world has embraced the tech-enabled sharing economy with on-demand services. Zeel can get a massage therapist to your door in less time than it takes for your takeout order to arrive. The Ritualist does the same with pore-perfecting facialists. Manicube sends manicurists to the office of busy professionals. And Glamsquad deploys hair stylists and makeup artists across NYC, LA, and Miami (with Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, DC slated for 2016). Even a spray tan is just a click away these days.

Their popularity stems from the simple fact that women are just really crazy busy. “During our home appointments, our clients are sending emails, talking to their children, reading the newspaper, or browsing on social media,” says Alexandra Wilkes Wilson, Glamsquad’s co-founder and CEO. “Now you don’t need to spend an hour or more at the salon and put your life on hold to look and feel your best.”

And if the service isn’t in-home or office, it’s more convenient than ever: Manhattan’s Heyday forgos languid spa rituals in favor of affordable, drop-in facials; desert-chic The Now in Los Angeles offers massages in 30 minute increments, so you don’t have to clear your schedule to enjoy a moment of relaxation; and Mud, currently in Chicago and Boulder, offers skin-care masks like DryBar offers blow-outs, in a shared room.
In the process, they’re democratizing the notion of pampering. “People don’t have time, they don’t have money, and it’s pretty inconvenient to schedule [traditional spa] appointments on a regular basis.” says Heyday’s co-founder and CEO Adam Ross. He speaks for the whole beauty movement when saying, “we’re not re-imagining the facial, we’re re-imagining the experience of the facial.” That and making beauty and wellness services possible for otherwise busy, stressed-out people.

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No. 5

Minerals Get the Rockstar Treatment (and Magnesium is the Darling)

Vitamins may get all the glory. But this year experts are going to be calling minerals the real health rockstars. The ailments of modern life that affect us all—stress, sleeplessness, and a dependence on afternoon double espressos (whoops!)—aren’t just giving us something to whine about, they’re depleting our mineral levels, particularly magnesium. Functional medicine docs say that 80 percent of us are deficient in magnesium. Why that’s a problem? Magnesium is linked to improving your muscle and bone strength, and “controls hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, helps regulate blood pressure, and keeps the immune system strong,” explains Frank Lipman, MD.

We’ll see more people making sure they’re “remineralizing” this year, either by taking supplements, or using topical magnesium oils and sprays, which are said to be just as beneficial, or by soaking in Epsom salts or magnesium flakes in a hot bath. “Transdermal absorption [through the skin] is an effective way to increase your magnesium levels,” says Ania Mankowska-Allard, director of The Nob Hill Spa at The Scarlet Huntington in San Francisco, which taps the mineral’s homeopathic history for a luxe Magnesium Wellness Treatment to help with everything from stress and insomnia to eczema.

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No. 6

Intensive Fitness Programs Become Super Hot

Fitness reboots aren’t just for January resolutions. Intense fitness programs, which incorporate additional lifestyle elements such as nutrition and health coaching, are getting more popular as a way to ramp up and recommit to health and fitness, with the added gratification of achieving measureable results (like muscle gain, and lost inches). Barre3’s Amy LeClerc says the 100-studio brand sees “steady month-over-month growth in our 28-to-Great program,” which offer a fitness-nutrition combo platter, and their bi-annual Challenges sees the largest influx of new clients “with thousands of people committing to exercise, an eating plan, and other healthy behaviors that go way beyond the month they’ve committed to.”

AKT’s “Transformation Program,” created by founder and celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser, is an 8-week fitness and lifestyle reboot, with participants working out 6 times a week, cleaning up their eating habits with the help of an in-house nutritionist, and learning new skills at special weekly sessions. Other popular programs include Barry’s Bootcamp Academies, Flywheel’s Power Up, and Equinox Training Camp (ETC), a program that combines nutrition, goal-setting, and high-intensity workouts three times a week with the same group of people. In addition to tools for healthier living, these programs also provide the support and accountability that helps people create healthier habits, which is what makes this a hit far beyond the month of January.

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STOCKSY - Kim Lucian
No. 7

Beauty Products You Drink

This year’s big skin-care trend isn’t about what you slather on, it’s what you’re sipping as part of your beauty regimen. Dozens of companies—from Beauty Chef to Hum Nutrition and Fountain—are making beauty-boosting beverages loaded with the nutrients that help promote a healthy glow from within, or fight acne, or prevent the signs of aging, and more. Many of these elixirs contain superfood ingredients and antioxidants linked to skin health, such as turmeric, probiotics, zinc, and adaptogens like Rhodiola Rosea, and they come in powder form that you just stir into a glass of water.

Why are these going to be huge in 2016? “Consumers are increasingly making the connection between skin care and nutrition,” says Walter Faulstroh, founder of leading beauty supplement brand Hum Nutrition. We’ll see big retailers starting to take note in 2016, rolling out these inner-beauty beverages in stores from Urban Outfitters (Moon Juice Beauty Dust) to Sephora. “People are becoming more and more savvy about how improved wellness can also benefit their appearance, says Sephora director of merchandising Catherine Lepetit, who’s stocking 100 stores with Hum Nutrition starting in mid February, and likes the new ingestible beauty route for customers. “It’s a unique and innovative offering in the skin-care category and industry,” she says.

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No. 8

Meditation Will Be Part of Your Social Life

“We’re sharing the benefits of meditation in a way that’s social and fun,” Jesse Israel said recently to a crowd of 800 people who had come after work with friends, significant others, or co-workers to meditate in an auditorium in New York City. Israel’s The Big Quiet, which has organized large meditation gatherings in Central Park and is now aiming to spread to multiple cities, is just one example of how meditating is becoming the new happy hour.

Girlfriends who before may have met up for a SoulCycle class to catch up are now heading to Unplug in Los Angeles and MNDFL in NYC for drop-in sessions, and The Path’s meditation gatherings are be-seen affairs packed with young, creative professionals. Meditative events are diversifying too, so you may hear a lecture from a Buddhist monk, enjoy a swanky vegan dinner after sitting in silence, learn to knit as a group while focusing your mind, or get treated to a sound bath. Chill out time isn’t a just solo activity anymore.

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No. 9

Matcha Everything

Matcha (a Japanese green tea that’s in powder form and is whisked into hot water or milk) is becoming a trendy new staple in pretty much any coffee shop you go to (yup, even Starbucks), and more and more brands from Teavana to T2 are making at-home versions of the lightly caffeinated beverage as well. “We experienced double-digit sales growth last year of our Organic Imperial Grade Matcha,” says Teavana director of tea development Naoko Tsunoda. As a result, the company just launched single-serving organic matcha.

And it’s not just for drinks. Trendy hotspots in New York City like Victory Garden, Juice Generation, and Lafayette love adding matcha to desserts and brunch menus. With this kind of enthusiasm for the tea, we could see more matcha-dedicated cafes pop up around the country to join MatchaBar in New York City and Matcha Box in Los Angeles. And we wouldn’t be surprised if the antioxidant-rich green tea started to show up in beauty products or if matcha machines soon occupied a place next to your Nespresso in 2016. (In fact, Sharp just released an instant matcha maker…)

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No. 11

Meet Adaptogens, the New Stress-fighting Superherbs

You’ve heard of superfoods. Well, meet the superherbs. Some plants have superpowers that can help the body adapt to stress and handle it in a healthy way (versus making us run down and feel exhausted). These wonders are called adaptogens, and they have the attention of physicians like Frank Lipman, MD, and juice mavens (Lianna Sugarman to Amanda Chantal Bacon) to skin-care brands (Juara). They’re excited about the potential of these stress-fighting superherbs to improve all kind of issues related to health and beauty.

“They help your body adapt to its specific needs,” says Dr. Lipman, who has long been prescribing adaptogenic herbs to his patients. “No food can do that, [and] I don’t know any other herbs that work that way.” So this year you’ll start to see adaptogenic ingredients like moringa, Ashwagandha, maca, and Ginseng in your juices, healthy food items (including chocolate), beauty products, and more. “As we burn out on big pharma drug experiments and look to sustainable sources to help with stress and health, all arrows point to these herbs—and they truly work,” says Bacon, who stocks her juice bars with these herbs in smoothie-friendly forms. “Once you experience the effects, you will never go back.”

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No. 12

Nut Milks Go Bespoke and Small Batch

You could say nut milks are now getting the attention that cold-pressed juices were getting seven years ago. More people are drinking nut and seed milks than ever before, thanks to all the exposure around dairy intolerance and the bad press surrounding soy. People now want milks that are all-natural and emulsifier-free (2015 was not a kind year to carrageenan). Customers are looking at ingredients, says Elly Truesdell, the local brand buyer for Whole Foods’ Northeast region, and they’re putting down the milk cartons. “As better milk alternatives have been made—that are refrigerated and not shelf-stable, and are free of certain ingredients—people are starting to choose those.”

These newer bespoke brands like OMilk are thinking outside of the shell with inventive flavor combos and milks made with cashew, walnut, macadamia nut, Brazil nut, even pistachio. Beyond the supermarket, many cafes are making their own nut milks, with Yelp reviewers praising the creamy homemade offerings at Sqirl, Go Get Em Tiger, and other healthy Los Angeles spots. And for a taste of milk-man nostalgia, outfits like NotMilk and Can Can Nut Milk deliver small batch nut milks to your door. “We’ve quadrupled our production in the last six months,” says Carolyn Flood, the co-founder of NotMilk who—along with her sister Susan—personally drops off the handcrafted blends. “It’s kind of like store-bought orange juice versus fresh-squeezed. It’s just worlds apart.”

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No. 13

The Kayla Effect

There’s a new kind of fitness celebrity: the kind born on Instagram, and who has millions of followers tracking their every healthy move. While you once needed to have a TV network behind you (Jillian Michaels), or buzzy fitness studios and a celeb business partner (Tracy Anderson) to become a household name, now all you need is access to the internet and the ability to make an old-school PDF.

Four million-plus fit-fanatics follow Kayla Itsines and her “personal training journey,” download Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide, and post Instagram photos of their progress using the hashtag  #KaylasArmy. Anna Victoria, another Instagram fitness star, is closing in on a million followers; Amanda Bisk has nearly half a million; and Sophie Gray is not too far behind (not to mention the lucrative world of Instagram yogis). Getting double-taps isn’t their only motivation—these trainers sell downloadable e-books, virtual coaching, one-off IRL workouts, and have created a powerful community who share their success stories with one another.

Thanks to social media, trainers now have a groundbreaking tool for becoming fitness brands. “I’ve always wanted to help as many women as possible, and social media has allowed me to reach women all over the world,” says Itsines, who just launched the Sweat With Kayla app to further her reach.

“With traditional trainers, clients work out and are told what to eat, then they don’t see their trainer for the other 23 hours of the day,” says Victoria, who estimates that she spends at least three hours a day just responding to questions left in her photos’ comments section. “I’m able to connect with people on a different level. They can see my everyday life and they can show me their everyday life.” We just might be seeing the next generation of trainers in the making—on our phones.

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No. 14

Oil will Become Your Cleanser of Choice

This hot new beauty practice has a lot in common with your grandmother’s evening cold cream ritual to remove dirt and makeup—only this modern technique uses natural plant oils. Dozens of beauty brands, from Tata Harper and Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics to Burt’s Bees, are launching buzzy cleansing oils. The super gentle concept of oil cleansing is based on the chemistry of “like dissolving like”—e.g., an oil cleanser effectively tackles the dirt and oil on your face—versus water-based cleansers that need surfactants to provide suds to get your skin clean. More women are giving the holistic practice a go: “You massage the oil in from chin to forehead in tiny circular motions for a few minutes,” explains CAP Beauty’s Kerrilynn Pamer. “The massaging action creates heat in the skin, which gently encourages the pores to open, making the cleansing ritual much more effective.”

Fans and formulators say with oil cleansing there’s no stripping of the skin’s acid mantle to the point of it feeling tight and dry, or interfering with your skin’s sebum production or pH levels. And it you choose a plant-based oil cleanser (versus mineral or petroleum-based one), “it will remove the emulsified oil, makeup, and pollution while leaving your skin balanced and nourished,” Pamer swears. “That oil causes breakouts is a myth.”

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No. 15

Mainstream Diet Brands Go Anti-Diet

Mainstream diet brands may not seem to have much relevance for the wellness-focused modern woman, but they’re going to try really hard to change that in 2016. This fall, Lean Cuisine introduced a campaign called #WeighThis that asked women to weigh their accomplishments instead of their bodies, and Weight Watchers introduced “Beyond The Scale,” a major revamp of its program that de-emphasizes weight loss to include other healthy lifestyle components like fitness for the sake of feeling good, and self-care components for “inner strength.”

Weight Watchers’ chief scientific officer Gary Foster says the changes were a direct response to feedback from consumers. “Rather than, ‘I’ve got to lose…some fixed number [of pounds]’,” he says, “it’s ‘I want to be healthier, I want to feel better, I want to look better, I want to be confident.” Both brands also revamped their plans or meals to focus more on whole foods and ingredient quality, and less on calorie counts. Is Jenny Craig going to start providing health coaches armed with motivational mantras and Vitamixes, next?

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No. 16

“It’s About the Brain, Not the A$$”

Lena Dunham’s now famous Instagram quote about her motivation for exercising epitomizes a growing Millennial philosophy about fitness—working out is not about chasing a dress size or for appearances. Dunham and co-star Jemima Kirke (as well as other celebs) are working out to ease anxiety and feel strong rather than just to lose weight. “The fact that Lena Dunham is so vocal about the mental health benefits of fitness really amplifies these two very important messages: fitness doesn’t equal skinny, and fitness isn’t about skinny,” Anti-Diet Project founder Kelsey Miller says. “When you brush aside all that get-skinny jargon, you’re able to go into a workout and experience how good it makes your body and brain feel.”

This marks a huge change in thinking about wellness as a holistic way to live that we’ve never seen before, and we’re entering an exciting era of using Instagram as a platform for people speaking out about this ethos and body politics.

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