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Health Crazes

Whether you get out your mat for a weekly yoga class or load up on the eggs and bacon for the Atkins® diet, most of us have tried at least one of the health crazes that have captured the United States’ attention.

In order to gain a better understanding of the variety of these national health crazes, we surveyed 2,000 Americans and asked them about 75 of the most prominent health trends of the last 20 years.

Of all the modern fitness and health trends, survey participants are most familiar with Fitbit®—the wearable technology that tracks your exercise and vitals—as well as yoga, apple cider vinegar, sushi, weightlifting, CrossFit® and, a millennial favorite, avocado. Participants are also highly familiar with smoothies, coconut oil and the gluten-free movement—all staples of a modern healthy lifestyle.

The health and fitness trends that are least familiar to our respondents include more obscure crazes such as aquafaba (the water in which legume seeds have been cooked to replace egg whites), “Barry’s Bootcamp®” (a fitness class that was popular in West Hollywood in 1998), FODMAP (the trend where you avoid “short-chain carbohydrates” to alleviate common digestive disorders), and IIFYM, or “If it Fits Your Macros” dieting (a system that revolves around meeting macro nutritional targets).

Although many fitness and health trends tend to come and go quickly, some have stood the test of time. Weightlifting, fat-free foods, tofu, whole grains, egg whites, smoothies, green tea, avocado, ginger and kale have had a bit more longevity than the average health fad, and are the trends that have been familiar to our respondents the longest.

When we conducted the survey, we also wanted to get some insight into when all of these popular exercise and diet crazes swept the nation. We asked participants to identify the year they had first heard of each trend and learned that, while Jenny Craig® and Lean Cuisine® now represent crazes of the past, our most modern routines are more centered on diets like Paleo and Whole30®, and group workouts such as SoulCycle® and Barry’s Bootcamp®.

In addition to testing our respondents’ knowledge about health and fitness trends, we also asked them which ones they’ve tried and which they perceive as the healthiest.

Among the top-10 least tried trends were the extremely difficult Tough Mudder® competition, the celebrity-endorsed diet plan Jenny Craig®, and surprisingly, SoulCycle®, which is popular with Los Angeles and New York urbanites.

When asked what they thought were the healthiest trends, our respondents endorsed yoga, weightlifting, avocado, whole grains, ginger, kale, cauliflower rice, green tea, flax and quinoa.

When reviewing respondents’ knowledge of these health crazes, we noticed a distinction in the amount of terms they were able to identify based on geographic region. The most “in-the-know” region was Mountain, followed in order by Pacific, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast and Southeast.

Exercise and healthy eating trends make their way through the country at one point or another, and understanding how we use them and feel about them gives us a deeper understanding into both their staying power, and their value to our health.