As we wrap up year two of a global pandemic, many people are looking to break the unhealthy habits they developed during this stressful time or get back to the healthy habits they once had. While the true tenets of wellness are more or less the same—enjoy nutrient-dense foods, move your body, get enough sleep, and reduce your stress—there are always new trends emerging to improve our physical, mental, and emotional health.
We’ve been looking at market trends, and more importantly, paying close attention to the questions you’ve been asking us and what you’ve said you’re interested in learning about more.
We’re calling it now—these 12 trends will dominate the health and wellness industry in 2022:
- Coffee alternatives
- Non-alcoholic wines and spirits
- Functional beverages
- Foods for immunity and immune health
- The clean sleep movement
- Sustainable eating
- Home fitness technology innovations
- Focus on form and function
- Next level-health trackers with a greater focus on recovery
- Financial wellness
- Work boundaries and relational health
- Accessible mental health treatment
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Coffee alternatives
Over the past few years, more people have been sipping new, satisfying coffee alternatives, which offer more sustainable energy than their caffeinated counterparts. These drinks are here to address problems many people experience with coffee: the energy peak and crash, and the anxiety that comes along with the buzz. Some of the newer alternatives we’ve seen emerge this past year include Everyday DOSE, which does contains a small amount of coffee (a perfect choice if you love the taste of coffee); MUD/WTR, whose small caffeine content comes from chai tea (an earthy flavor that lends itself well to a morning ritual); and Rasa, a caffeine-free powder that delivers energy from chicory root and dozens of other natural sources (great if you’re looking to nix caffeine entirely). At Noom, we know that replacing an existing habit with a healthier habit is a lot easier than nixing a habit altogether. For this reason alone, we believe that the coffee alternative trend will continue to gain popularity over the next few years, as more people look for ways to enjoy the comfort and energy of their morning cup, minus the jitters.
2. Non-alcoholic wines and spirits
During the pandemic, studies showed that American adults were drinking more heavily and more often than they were pre-COVID. Now, as people are looking to cut back on booze— whether for weight-loss reasons, mental health benefits, or for overall health—more and more zero-proof spirits and alcohol-free wines and beers have hit the market. Seedlip’s sugar-free, non-alcoholic spirits have made their way into trendy bars to mix up full-flavor (and low-calorie) mocktails, and Surely has released alcohol-removed sparkling rosé, brut, and spirits in cans, for convenient drinking without the hangover. As zero-proof booze continues to evolve, we also anticipate seeing more spirits and tonics that promise other mood-boosting benefits without the buzz this year—Kin Euphorics started the trend with non-alcoholic, functional beverages that claim to enhance creativity, clarity, and energy. At Noom we believe in making healthier choices by adding healthier-for-you alternatives to your diet rather than eliminating less healthy optins (what we call the addition mindset). Non-alcohlic drinks can be a great way to find a healthy, sustainable balance.
3. Functional beverages
Functional beverages contain ingredients you don’t commonly find in most drinks including antioxidants, dietary fibers, prebiotics, proteins, peptides, unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. These nutrients are typically added for their genera health benefits, or to address specific health concerns. Functional beverages have been popping up everywhere over the past few years, so much so that the functional beverage market was worth $102 billion in 2020. Brands like Recess, blk., and heywell, tout the health benefits of their beverages with catchy copy and beautiful packaging. Recess, for example, is a sparkling water infused with hemp and adaptogens, promising to calm the mind and body, boost vitality and focus, ease tension, and support overall balance. With a greater collective attention on optimizing our physical, mental, and emotional health, we think this trend will continue to dominate the health and wellness space in 2022. At this point though, we’d argue that most products on the market need research to support their specific health claims—while adaptogens have properties that can help counteract your body’s stress response, a drink containing adaptogens won’t inherently reduce your stress levels.
4. Foods for immunity and immune health
With the onset (and multiple resurgences) of COVID, many people looked not only to vaccines but to everyday solutions to support their immune systems. Many common strategies involve supporting the bacteria in your gut since it plays a significant role in supporting the immune system and thus, our ability to fight disease. The surest way to support a healthy gut bacteria is with a high-fiber diet which includes whole, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and whole grains. Fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut also offer probiotics for additional support. Incorporating these foods into your meals is one way to support a healthier gut, and in turn a healthy immune system. Since gut health also affects our mental health and mood, we’re particularly excited to see how this focus might benefit people’s overall well-being over time.
5. The clean sleep movement
It’s recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but the CDC reports that more than one-third of adults don’t get enough. Aside from not waking up cranky, adequate sleep can help with memory and focus, immune support, and even weight loss. Since sleep is so vital to overall health, more people are turning to a range of remedies to help them get quality shut-eye, under a movement coined as “clean sleep”. In the past few years we’ve seen everything from high-tech white noise machines and sunrise alarms to sleep-inducing apps like Calm and relaxing essential oil diffusers gain momentum. In the next year, we predict more of an emphasis on clean, high-quality sleep with the help of more smart meditation machines and lamps like Hatch Restore, weighted eye masks like Nodpod, and apps like Flipd to wind down and reduce screen time before bed (along with a huge effort to stop doom-scrolling until 2 a.m). At Noom, sleep has always been one of our key pillars of health and we’re excited to see it become a bigger part of the health and wellness conversation. As more people reap the benefits of better sleep quality and notice the impact that it can have on their nutrition, exercise, and more, we believe more people will start making sleep a bigger focus area in their wellness journey (and we’ll continue to be there to help).
6. Sustainable eating
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in choosing foods that are good for your body and Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in people choosing foods that are good for their body and the environment. This has been especially apparent when it comes to animal protein alternatives like the Impossible burgers, JUST Egg, and Chick’N and Turk’y. This year, we’ll continue to see plant-based foods diversify, and we predict a growing interest in reducing food waste and upcycling (the practice of using by-products or extra ingredients that might have otherwise been wasted). Pulp Pantry chips, for example, are made using the fiber leftover from juicing fruits and vegetables that’s typically discarded afterward. We’ll also see this practice in kitchens across the country, with individuals repurposing and re-growing their store bought ingredients. (Pro tip: put green onion bulbs in water and they’ll regrow.) Another trend we see gaining momentum is the use of eco-friendly and sustainable packaging, with more companies starting to use compostable, recycled, or biodegradable materials. Alter Eco is a brand at the forefront of this movement, launching the world’s first compostable chocolate wrappers, made from eucalyptus and birch with non-toxic ink. Not only is more sustainable eating better for the environment, but we think it may also support more mindful eating habits overall. We’re on board.
7. Innovation in home fitness technology
Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of innovation in home fitness technology, beyond the standard stationary bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines. And now the routines that dominated boutique studio classes or upscale gyms are being made available for homes and small spaces. CityRow Go, for example, is a rowing machine that simulates the feeling of paddling down a river, and its big-screen connects you to hundreds of live and on-demand classes. There’s also Liteboxer, a unique set of light-up panels that guide your boxing workout with an on-screen trainer. One of the most innovative technologies we’ve seen is Tonal, a versatile set of cables that attaches to your wall, and its dynamic “digital weight” technology that replaces clunky plates, weights, and resistance bands. You can change your resistance on a screen, and its smart technology learns from your every move to adjust your resistance for a more efficient and personalized workout. With time and access as two of the biggest barriers to exercise, we think this trend will be a great step toward helping more people make movement a habit.
8. Focus on form and function
Gone are the days of working out just to “look good” (whatever that even means). Fitness isn’t just for aesthetics, and more people are turning to functional training to gain strength for everyday life and longevity. With an increased focus on function, we’re seeing an increased emphasis on core strength, weight lifting, and improving balance and flexibility. We predict more of an emphasis on functional health and fitness with workouts tailored to overall strength and coordination (think: Pilates for more core stability, stretching classes for imporved flexibility, and resistance training for increased strength). We also predict a greater focus on movement for mental wellbeing in holistic programs like Noom Mood, which are meant to reduce stress and improve mood. Noom knows that there are so many physical, mental, and emotional health benefits to movement, and a focus on function is a great step toward allowing people to experience the true impact of movement.
9. Next level-health trackers (with a greater focus on recovery)
When it comes to exercise, the general rallying cry of “more” or “harder” is starting to fade. The fitness world has seen a growing focus on working smarter (not harder) and focusing on rest and recovery to achieve greater results. That’s why some next-level fitness trackers are putting rest front-and-center. The wearable WHOOP, for instance, uses metrics like your respiratory rate, blood oxygen level, resting heart rate, and heart rate variability to tell you exactly how long you should wait—and how much to sleep—before your next workout. As a result, you’re encouraged to prioritize recovery and discouraged from pushing your body to do more than it can handle. We believe that attention to rest and recovery will also be an important part of making exercise habits more enjoyable and sustainable for people, reducing the risk of burning out or getting into routines they can’t keep up with long term.
10. Financial wellness
As many as 30% of people withdrew from their retirement savings during the pandemic. But even without COVID, money worries are the number one self-reported cause of lost sleep, and they can also manifest as muscle tension, high cortisol levels, and high blood pressure. Financial wellness is defined not only as the health of your finances, but also the healthiness of the relationship between your finances and your physical and emotional health. Enter MetLife’s Upwise, an app whose Money Mood function helps you understand the link between your financial practices and your emotions, to help you build better financial habits and support your money goals. Other apps include Digit, which tells you exactly how much to save every single day based on your spending habits and its AI can also help you save more; and Ellevest, which offers financial coaching and investment guidance tailored for women. The links between financial health and physical wellbeing are well-documented. We think that such holistic financial wellness tools will only grow in popularity as people start to expand their definition of health and healthy habits.
11. Work and life boundary-setting
Burnout has been a collective phenomenon in 2020 and 2021, with more than 50% of adults surveyed reporting feeling burned out. This has led to increased stress, depression, insomnia, and workers leaving their jobs in droves; dubbed the Great Resignation. People have started to realize that work-life balance is essential, and that protecting personal boundaries and energy is key to leading an overall healthy, happy life. People are starting to put their mental health and wellbeing first: taking vacation days, logging off at 5 p.m., saying “no” to social events when they’re feeling depleted, and spending more weekends relaxing and recharging. At Noom, we’re excited to see boundary-setting and work-life balance take center stage because they are key in reducing stress, which is a main pillar of health.
12. Accessible mental health treatment
Since COVID changed the state of the world, depression, anxiety, and PTSD have been on the rise. Over the past year, we’ve seen an increased demand for virtual 1:1 therapy and platforms providing this support including betterhelp and Talkspace, as well as programs that empower people to prevent and cope with stress using psychology-backed tools like Noom Mood. As COVID continues to pose a threat and people become more open to talking about mental health, we’ll see new types of virtual therapy support like psious, a virtual reality platform that creates VR tools for mental health professionals to use on their patients, and Quartet, a platform that connects you to the right care and monitors your care journey. In addition, we expect psychedelic-assisted therapy to make waves. There are several clinical trials exploring the uses and benefits of multiple psychedelics (including psilocybin) but currently, ketamine is the only legal psychedelic available—Field Trip Health and Mindbloom are two of the companies currently offering it. Mental health is essential in overall health, and we believe that more accessible mental health services will allow people to create healthier mental wellness practices and habits.
These times have been called uncertain, unprecedented, and challenging. Even when many of us had no choice but to slow down, our tastes, preferences, and goals are still evolving quickly, and the health and wellness industry is continuing to evolve alongside them. What our trends bring to the forefront is human resilience: how we’ve adapted to changing times and the futures we’re making the space to imagine for ourselves. With innovations helping turn goals into commitments and making healthy behaviors more accessible, more and more people will be in a position to face whatever life throws our way as our healthiest selves yet.