Health trends get back to basics, ahead with technology

Diet, exercise and technology are key to wellness in 2012.

Each year flashy trends in health and wellness emerge — from celebrity detox diets to the cure-alls for belly fat. University of Alabama at Birmingham experts weigh in with their recommendations for 2012.

wellness_storyPut down that stick of butter, y’all. News that celebrity chef Paula Deen has Type 2 diabetes will put prevention and management of the illness in the spotlight, says Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., UAB assistant professor of nutrition sciences.

“When it comes to diabetes, prevention is of utmost importance; so I think dietary behavior changes will become of interest now,” Kitchin says.

Deen’s new role as pharmaceutical spokeswoman also may lead to backlash against expensive treatments. “If you had to pay out of pocket for the drug she is endorsing, it would set you back $500 per month,” Kitchin says.

Back away from the fads and get back to basics. Healthier foods will be in more kitchens and on more plates, Kitchin says, and more people will be interested in learning to cook.

“I think the interest in fad diets is fading. No one weight-loss diet is best for everybody, but the best diets are those that are nutritionally sound,” Kitchin says. “Getting bigger celebrity spokespeople for good diets like Weight Watchers will help.”

Get out of that desk chair and get moving. When did movement become a thing of the past? Retta Evans, Ph.D., UAB associate professor of health education, says we have become too sedentary.

“Daily activity is important,” says Evans. “It simply could be walking around your floor after eating lunch or strolling through the neighborhood after dinner. Adding just a little movement can help you tremendously.”

Evans says some of last year’s exercise fads are waning, but others will climb in popularity.

“I don’t think the kettle bell craze will last. Most people and health clubs are familiar with the classic free-weights instead of these trendy pieces of equipment,” Evans says.

“On the other hand, Zumba is big, and I think it will continue to grow. This Latin-style dance class is easy to follow even for those who cannot dance, making it a perfect choice for people of all abilities,” Evans says.

Log those workouts. There’s a health app for that. Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Wellness coordinator, says it’s one of the best trends yet in wellness.

“Using technology to track, educate and motivate health-behavior change makes it easier,” Whitt says.

“There are excellent apps for smart phones that enable you to track the calories you consume daily, the exercises you log and even the number steps you take,” Whitt says.

And social media is center stage in the wellness arena.

“The ability to go online and connect with information, motivation and strategies for healthier living is a great way to learn new things,” says Whitt. “The UAB Wellness program uses Facebook and Twitter to share daily health tips, sponsored activities and encouraging stories.”