From home gyms to air frying: Health trends for 2021

The start of a new year is the perfect time to incorporate different health and

The start of a new year is the perfect time to incorporate different health and wellness habits into your daily routine.

If you’re wondering where to start, some of 2021’s top health and wellness trends may help you find your new rhythm this time of year.

Below, local experts weighed in on some of the exercise and nutrition trends they think will be big in 2021 and shared how you can make these trends work for you.

Online training

The American College of Sports Medicine cited online training as the top fitness trend in 2021. This isn’t surprising, considering how much more time everyone is spending at home. It’s not uncommon these days for living rooms, garages and basements to double as personal gyms. According to ACSM, this trend “uses digital streaming technology to deliver group, individual or instructional exercise programs online.” One benefit to this type of training is that it’s available 24/7. People can fit the workout of their choosing in whenever and wherever is most convenient for them.

“At-home workouts are very popular right now due to the safety and freedom they allow. With some creativity and a few basic pieces of equipment, most people can get a pretty good workout,” said Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness in Schaumburg.

There’s no shortage of online platforms to choose from. From gyms and yoga studios livestreaming classes and creating video libraries to apps like Peloton delivering an abundance of classes for one low cost, fitness enthusiasts can easily find a workout out that matches the duration, intensity and type of exercise they’re looking for.



Building a home gym

Many people turned to working out at home in response to COVID-19 restrictions. As we head into the second winter of the pandemic, it looks like working out at home is here to stay, at least for the time being.

Two essential components of getting the most out of an at-home workout are getting the right equipment and making a plan regarding how you’ll use it. Steckler said a couple sets of dumbbells, a kettlebell, TRX strap, and a mat is enough equipment to put together an effective and challenging workout that allows for a lot of versatility and functionality.

“An effective workout should include at least three to five exercises that work different parts of the body and challenge your cardiovascular system,” said Steckler. “Exercises like squats, lunges, presses, rows, pushups and planks can all be done at home.”

Steckler recommended recording your exercises, reps and weight to track your weekly progress. To keep things interesting and your mind and body working hard, switch up your routine every four to six weeks.



Stuart Glenn, CEO of, recommended those building a home gym invest in a strength piece such as a gym, functional trainer or power rack and weights. He also suggested purchasing a piece of cardio equipment such as a treadmill, elliptical, bike or rower. Cardio equipment should be tailored to the individual. Those who enjoy running might opt for a treadmill, while those needing a low-impact workout might choose an elliptical or bike.

“For one of the toughest cardio exercises, the rower is king. It’s a full body workout with great cardio,” said Glenn.

In addition, Glenn said many other smaller pieces of equipment can enhance your home workouts, including a new bar that isolates a different muscle group, kettlebells and medicine balls. When searching for equipment, quality is key. Glenn recommended researching the equipment you’re interested in and buying from a reputable source. Poorly built equipment won’t move correctly, could come loose and have a negative impact on your workout.

“If the fit is right and it is built well, it becomes a joy to use and enhances your workout,” said Glenn.

Workout with a personal trainer remotely

Take your online training up a notch by working out with a personal trainer remotely each week. The personalized attention ensures you’re getting a workout specifically tailored to your needs, keeps motivation high and helps you connect with someone during this time of social distancing.

“Virtual training can be a great way to get some guidance and motivation from a personal trainer without leaving the comfort of your home,” said Steckler.

Remember that virtual training has its challenges and is a new experience for the both the client and trainer. Make sure you have good lighting, communication and your equipment set up in a way that helps the session flow from exercise to exercise,” said Steckler.

Steckler also recommended letting your trainer know ahead of time what pieces of equipment you have so they can plan accordingly.

“A big part of personal training is reading the client through body language and overall form, so make sure your trainer can see you and continually let them know how you feel throughout the workout,” Steckler said.

Plant-based protein

Incorporating plant-based proteins, such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, quinoa, leafy greens, whole grains, tempeh, seitan and meatless products (i.e. Impossible burgers) into your diet is trending in 2021 according to Pedro Leon, RDN, LDN, dietitian, at NCH Kildeer Outpatient Care Center.

“Studies show that people who choose plant protein more often are at a lower risk of certain diseases, including cancers, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease,” said Leon.

Choosing these items can also be cost effective. For example, Leon said chili can be made with a can of no-salt-added black beans or kidney beans that costs less than a dollar versus the roughly $6 it would cost for a pound of ground beef. There are many plant-based options on the market. Leon always encourages people to look at nutrition labels before purchasing to ensure they’re bringing quality food into their homes.

“Plant-based products created to mimic their animal protein counterparts can be equally as problematic for your health with high levels of fat, salt and calories,” said Leon. “Always look at the nutritional labels.”

Flexitarian eating

Leon said flexitarian eating is a common starting point for people who are looking to adopt a plant-based diet, but still want to include meat or fish on their weekly menu.

“Reducing meat consumption can positively impact the environment, improve energy levels and improve gut health thanks to the added fiber intake coming from more fruits and vegetables consumed,” said Leon.

Leon said meal planning is key, especially when first implementing a flexitarian diet.

“A lack of planning can easily contribute to the increased or excessive use of low-quality refined carbohydrates, along with the potential for vitamin and mineral deficiencies with the reduced use of animal-based foods,” said Leon.

Dietitians like Leon are available to consult with those interested in trying a new diet. When starting a new eating plan, it never hurts to enlist with an expert to ensure the diet is right for you and that your meals contain all the nutrients you need.

Air frying

An air fryer is a sought-after kitchen appliance that definitely increased in popularity in 2020. This appliance is a healthy alternative to deep fryers and one that can prove helpful in the kitchen.

“It’s simple to use, dramatically cuts cooking time, makes healthier versions of high-fat foods such as falafel, potato fries and chicken tenders,” said Leon.

While its addition might lead to a more crowded kitchen and potentially burned or dried out foods as you’re learning to cook with it, the benefits outweigh the cons.

If you’re looking to give your meals a boost in 2021, this might just be the appliance for you.


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