Health

Low intensity living: how slowing down could make you healthier

January 8th 2017 / Anna Hunter

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The trend for ‘slow living’ is influencing everything from our fitness regimes to our workplace and diet. Here’s why extreme HIIT is going out of the window and R&R is taking over…

From punishing workouts to office all-nighters and resultant caffeine binges, life in the fast lane used to convey a kind of kudos. The ‘lunch is for wimps’ attitude prevailed for far longer than Gordon Gekko lasted on Wall Street (fully aware he’s a fictional character), but 2017 sees the dawn of a new approach to our pace of life, be we at work, play or somewhere in between.

In truth, the slow revolution has been rumbling along for a while, with the pro work-life balance seed planted by Arianna Huffington in Thrive, not to mention the recent obsession with all things hygge and Scandinavian, namely the manner by which our Northern cousins prioritise nesting, appreciate the simple things, eat cake mindfully and leave work bang on time, if not before. This year sees a quiet revolt across the health, fitness and social scenes in particular, with booze-free gatherings, sleep-promoting superfoods and gym classes focused on recovery, rather than ruthless drills, all coming to the fore. If you’re on team tortoise, you’re going to love the way things are going…

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Mindful movement

Working up a sweat is still on the agenda, but thrashing yourself day-in, day-out is not. Leading the enlightened exercise charge are global fitness chains such as Virgin Active and Fitness First, who are both introducing programmes to encourage gym-goers to slow down and take stock of both their workouts and their state of mind.

Virgin Active’s new Beyond Movement suites, open to members and non-members, will offer reformer Pilates, physiotherapy and sports massage in a bid to encourage pro-athlete style recovery and a 360º approach to fitness and wellbeing, rather than a ‘go hard or go home’ mentality. In fact, mentality is where the shift needs to happen according to Virgin Active’s new yoga ambassador Patrick Beach:

“2017 is going to be the year when people become truly aware of the power of mindful exercise- the positive effect of exercise on mental as well as physical wellbeing. I think we’ll see people beginning to have a deeper understanding of the connection between their mind and their body, and appreciate the importance of taking care of both.”

“Through my workshops and the practices that I have helped shape with the experts at Virgin Active, I want to show people that yoga doesn’t just have function fitness benefits to improve performance, but can have real mental benefits too. I have clients all over the world who started yoga to improve their strength, stability and body control but fall in love with it for the clarity and relaxation that it brings to their minds.”

Clarity in movement is also key to attaining long-lasting results from any fitness regime, as Andy Birch, Head of Fitness at Virgin Active emphasises:

“In 2017 we are going to see a huge shift towards people taking a more scientific approach to understanding their bodies and how they work best in order to perform to their greatest potential, this includes a much greater knowledge of how a full range of movement can play a valuable role in injury prevention and maintenance. We will see ‘everyday athletes’ having a greater understanding of the marginal gains and maintenance techniques that contribute to both optimum physical performance in and out of the gym.”

Virgin Active are also expanding their offering of low-impact water workouts, while Fitness First are predicting ‘a greater focus on form’ and a concentration on functional fitness for mind and body in addition to strength, endurance and agility training. Fitness First’s Pro Athlete classes, launching this month, will focus on mobility and efficient movement in addition to improving fitness levels, and classes such as BodyBalance™ combine elements of yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates to promote flexibility, controlled breathwork and overall wellbeing.

On the boutique end of the fitness spectrum, London based reformer Pilates specialist Heartcore has recently launched a dedicated ‘variety’ focused space in Notting Hill, where you can drop by and join a candlelit dynamic flow yoga class or hybrid Ride 2 Tone session, depending on how you’re feeling, or simply hang out and enjoy the free tea and fruit on tap. If that’s not holistic fitness I’m not sure what is.

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Meanwhile another Notting Hill based fitness launch, Biofit, aims to ‘bring the outside world’ into the traditional gym space, with handcrafted kit made of natural materials, acoustic playlists, plants, aromatherapy and an ethos that prioritises mental fitness as much as physical gains.

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Working out mindfully at home, hygge style, is also on the up, with more and more dynamic and mood enhancing methods making their way to your living room. Make the most of our current offer with 50% off annual subscription offer with yoga experts Movement for Modern Life, who also host tailored routines for pretty much any mental and physical state you may find yourself in, from heartbreak to hangovers to cold and even job interviews. For psyching up and calming down, you’ll be equipped with all of the moves you need.

Barre style workouts can also work wonders for frame of mind as well as your actual frame, as the slow, concentrated movements become almost meditative after a while (I promise you), and barre can be adapted to suit your goals, schedule and disposition on the day. Barrecore’s online offering is consistently high quality, with new destressing and lean-making stretch classes added, while Sleek Technique schedules regular live classes in addition to online streaming of a diverse range of barre workouts, from stretch focused sessions to cardio and toning. If your recovery requirements are particularly urgent and you need to melt away DOMs before you can even think about winding down/ walking, Roll & Release at Third Space will release tightness by way of foam rolling.

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Slow sustenance

We all know that ‘fast food’ isn’t normally healthy in any sense of the word, whether we’re eating junk or gobbling down lunch at our desks, and it seems that the food and drinks industry are gradually digesting the ‘conscious consumption’ message.

As fundamental as it seems, home cooking is ‘cool’ once more, and Pinterest is reporting a 35% rise in the search term ‘girls night in’, indicating that we may actually be using all of those cookbooks we buy. If we’re not deciding on the menu ourselves, chances are we’re increasingly ordering in nutritious recipe boxes from the likes of Mindful Chef, Abel & Cole and Riverford, saving time on a supermarket schlep and food sourcing but lovingly preparing meals ourselves.

On the cheaper end of the slow food stick, Fitness First’s UK Fitness and Marketing Director Lee Matthews predicts that the meal prep mania proliferated by the likes of Joe Wicks and Clean Eating Alice isn’t going anywhere:

“We’re finding a new passion for food preparation. Once an embarrassment to take into the office, people are now unabashed to turn up at a meeting with specifically prepared meals and preparing a week’s worth of food on a Sunday has now become the norm. This year, as people’s interest in nutrition looks set to grow, so will their sets of Tupperware!”

Not only is our food preparation becoming more organic in most senses of the word, but food for recuperation as well as energy is becoming a focal point, as highlighted in Mintel’s 2017 food and drinks report:

“Expect to see a rise in both “slow” claims as well as more products designed to help people calm down before bedtime, sleep better and restore the body while they rest. Opportunities will exist for more products to leverage the reputation of the tea category and use chamomile, lavender and other herbs in formulations as a way to achieve a sense of calm before bedtime.”

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A case in point is Pukka’s Night Time range, incorporating calming ayurvedic herbs in tea and capsule form, while Welleco’s The Super Elixir™ new Sleep Welle Set, £72, incorporates a valerian and hops based tea blend with a calming space mist. In addition to meals, teas and supplements to mellow us out, fast food has met its match in the form of more resourceful foodie innovations and practices:

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“In 2017 and beyond, expect to see more of the unexpected, including fruit snacks made with ugly fruit and mayonnaise made with the liquid from draining chickpeas, which has been dubbed aquafaba.”

Veganuary’s impact also looks set to last well beyond the first month of year, with more and more of us adopting a heavily plant-based approach:

“The preference for natural, simple and flexible diets will drive further expansion of vegetarian, vegan and other plant-focused formulations.”

It’s not just animal products we’re progressively taking a break from either…

Sober socialising

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The dryathlon isn’t exclusive to January; last year the Office of National Statistics revealed a 40% rise in teetotalism. Perhaps it’s all that staying in, working out or simply a national self-care drive (the term has seen a 121% rise in searches on Pinterest), but booze doesn’t seem to be quite the social crutch it once was, with dry bars such as London’s Redemption serving up creative mocktails with the tagline ‘spoil yourself without spoiling yourself’, and founder of ‘Now Age’ platform The Numinous Ruby Warrington hosting hip events and talks for the ‘sober curious’. The popularity of pre-work Morning Gloryville raves (think coffee, smoothies and dance based motivation for the day ahead) and ‘night out’ style workouts makes getting in the party spirit, without the spirits, all the more exhilarating.

Still feel like you’re on an energy rollercoaster? Here’s how to get off…

Follow me on Instagram @annyhunter and Twitter @AnnaMaryHunter


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