Health trends to watch in 2021

What you’ll be eating, how you’ll be exercising, and the ways you’ll boost your mental wellbeing in the year ahead, as predicted by the experts.

A cruncky pickled vegetable salad

“Flexitarians” are scaling up their vegetable intake but continuing to eat meat.

1. Mindfulness goes mainstream

Whereas in the past, mindfulness was perceived as “nice to have”, in 2021, we’ll reframe it as a highly practical skillset to use on a daily basis. “It’s an evolution of mindfulness where people shift beyond thinking ‘I can’t meditate’, to asking ‘how can I bring some of these tools into my day?’ For instance, practising mindfulness while you go for a run or sweep the floor,” says psychologist and meditation teacher Sharee Johnson.

2. Getting “sober curious”

Despite the temporary impact #lockdownlife may have had on our alcohol intake, Roy Morgan data reveals the proportion of Australians who drink is declining.* Enter the sober curious trend, which has led to more low and no-alcohol beverages on the market. “A sober curious individual has made a choice to be mindful about how, when and why they might drink,” explains Catie Fry, founder of Clovendoe Distilling Co. “Pairing a well-crafted zero proof spirit with soda water, tonic or a delicate mixer, finished with a fresh garnish is where 2021 is at.”

3. Supergreens

This year, accredited practising dietitian Alice Bleathman predicts we’ll be hearing more about microgreens (seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs) and kelp. “Microgreens are cut at a younger stage and contain a higher amount of nutrients than mature greens,” she explains, up to 40 times more nutrients, according to one US study.** Kelp or dried seaweed, will also become increasingly mainstream. “It’s high in antioxidants, zinc and iodine,” says Bleathman.

4. Digital fitness

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many of us online to exercise, so it’s no surprise online training was number one in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal’s worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2021.*** Expect to see more fitness providers offering online training (via live streaming, virtual training and pre-recorded classes), subscription platforms and fitness apps. Fitness wearables will continue to trend, with innovations including blood pressure, oxygen saturation and electrocardiogram.****

5. Sleep is the new self-care

Sleep time will be the new “me time” according to the Pinterest Predicts 2021 report, which anticipates that we’ll be creating restful regimens with diffuser blends, “sleep yoga”, weighted blankets and rest-inducing supplements.***** “ResMed’s survey found that one in two people aren’t getting the sleep they require; seven to nine hours a night,” says ResMed's sleep expert Dr Carmel Harrington. “We’re feeling the consequences and increasingly wanting to put routines and rituals around our sleep.”

6. Back to nature

Post recent COVID-19 lockdowns saw a resurgence of outdoor activity and reminded us of the reviving power of time in nature. “More people will be switching off their devices and heading outdoors to clear their minds this year,” predicts Smiling Mind’s acting chief operating officer Kerrie Buhagiar. “We’ll likely see this manifest in activities such as hiking and camping as people continue to crave the healing power of nature well into 2021.”

7. Go “flexitarian”

Plant-based products are one of the top trends the global insights business FMCG Gurus predicts will impact the food, beverage and supplement markets in 2021. You don’t have to go “full vego” though, with flexitarianism (scaling up your vegetables but continuing to eat meat) increasing in popularity.

8. The gut-brain connection

Gut health has been trending for several years, but the spotlight will increasingly be on the relationship between your gut and brain, predicts accredited practising dietitian Geraldine Georgeou. “Neurotransmitters and other chemicals produced in your gut can affect your brain including cognition and mood,” she explains. Prebiotic-rich wholegrains, fibre-rich cereals, canned beans and legumes are brilliant for supporting gut health, notes Georgeou.

9. Intentional living

Recent world events forced us to re-evaluate what makes a meaningful life. More of us will be designing simpler, slower but richer lives going forward, predicts Sharee Johnson. With many of us now working from home, we’ll shift to a “work to live” attitude. “Last year, we had to figure out how to get workforces into homes,” she says. “This year we’ll be working out how to do that well – how to support wellbeing and performance.







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