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It’s easy to focus on the health risks (and there have been plenty), but in the new normal of life in a pandemic, we’ve been monitoring trends in the way we shop, eat, exercise and socialise, and they are signalling a healthier way of living we might not want to lose as we get Covid under control and things back to normal. Here’s 10 for your attention. 

1. Food-as-medicine has become more mainstream. Watch as branding moves away from a focus on what’s not in a product towards what it offers to keep you healthy. In other words, delicious foods that promote immunity (the vitamin Ds and probiotics for example) and foods offering support in areas like brain health and wellbeing.

2. We’re shopping local, and shopping healthy. While a walk to the grocers has been the social excursion of the day (helped by people wanting to avoid supermarket crowds) there has been a discovery of farm and/or local shops surprising those new-through-their-doors with their quality and value (and the joy of a local shop and social experience). In fact, we may see local shops grouping together on digital platforms to compete with other online grocers. According to some reports (including Future Laboratory’s latest predictions) big supermarkets may square up to this competition via curated orders or personal shoppers to help us pick from the offer on the virtual shelf.

3. We’re cooking more. Have you seen how pantries have become celebrities’ photos of the day? Even if you don’t have a posh pantry to show off online, the desire to eat healthily and some freedom in the day to dust off old recipe books has seen a trend towards home-cooked healthy stews, soups, smoothies and more, making those store cupboards and leftovers work harder than ever before.

4. It seems number 3 and a compulsion to stock up has boosted freezer sales and helped the frozen food aisle continue to cast off its unhealthy pizza and chips image. Generation Y takes some credit for transformations here, with a call for minimally processed, easily-accessed nutritious food that generates minimum waste. Notice more frozen fruit, veg and herbs (in classier, storable packaging) rising to the challenge.

5. We’re eating together more often, too, as families and bubble-group friends. There is, after all, only so much TV you can watch.

6. And talking of eating together, Future Laboratories signpost the influence of platforms like Instagram and the potential of media kitchens bringing popular dishes from a magazine or podcast or Instagram feed to the door. Keep your eye on those take-away menus...

7. Thrown into this mix, notice other family time trends, like an increase in families playing board games, doing puzzles and even learning online together. One UK survey of 2000 plus parents showed that more than two thirds of people believed lockdown had brought their family closer as a result of those play and dinner time routines.

8. It seems disruption to the daily routines (and a reduction in other social activities that have been off limits) has also helped trigger some positive thinking about daily exercise and the power of a walk, cycle or jog. This has of course been helped by messages stressing its value in keeping us healthy and boosting immunity. Whatever the reason, we are hoping to see a lasting change and exercise and you using January for stunning winter walks.

9. We’re also welcoming the national spotlight on the value of leisure centres like ours and the trends to sign up! We know that not everyone can exercise outside, or has room to safely exercise indoors, even if they have more time in the day. And health leaders are signposting the role gyms play in preventing more serious conditions like heart disease or falls or even Covid-19 itself (so easing the pressure on the NHS). We know last year that some 2000 people were referred to Halo Leisure by the NHS, and that the preventative exercise and support improved their life and saved the health service time and money. With the arrival of the vaccination programme, ukactive have noted that physical activity plays an important role in increasing the effectiveness of vaccines as well as helping people recover the longer-term negative impacts of Covid-19.

10. Same goes for the increasing priority of mental health and wellbeing. There have been reports that at the height of the lockdown surveys suggested a third of people felt their mental health had got worse (particularly in the 18 – 24-year age group), and yet too many were failing to get the exercise that could help promote their feelings of wellbeing. Like others we want to see the impact on mental health factored into future planning around lockdowns and support for our industry.  Gyms have not only proved to be incredibly safe during the pandemic, but incredibly important, too, in offering people a safe place to work out, while enjoying the social contact and support of others – all crucial for mental health. There’s no going back now.

  

With thanks to British Journal of Sports Medicine, Nuffield Health, ukactive, chilcare.co.uk, thefuturelaboratory.com