The ACSM’s annual survey shows emerging trends and the fitness activities that are weakening as the world recovers from Covid-19 pandemic.
Now in its 17th year, the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends is designed to help the global health and fitness industry make critical programming and business decisions. For example, commercial health clubs (the largest sector of the industry) can use the results to establish potential new markets, which may result in increased and more sustainable revenue drivers. Corporate wellness programmes and medical fitness centres will find the results useful through potential increases in service to their members and to their patients. Community-based programmes can use the findings to justify investments in their markets by providing expanded programmes typically serving families and children.
An electronic survey was sent to thousands of health and fitness professionals around the world to predict trends in the industry. Responses were received from almost every continent. Fitness professionals and healthcare providers made up the largest percentage of respondents to this year’s survey. Fifty-five per cent had more than 10 years of industry experience, while 29 per cent had more than 20. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents were female and 41 per cent were male, and those surveyed represented a wide range of ages. The results reflect the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. In 2020, online training came in at number 26. In 2021, it was the number one trend. In 2022, it dropped to place nine, and in the 2023 results it fell to number 21 as people return to the gym and in many cases abandon their home gyms. This year’s survey assessed 42 potential trends with the top 20 listed on P25. So, what do 4,500 health and fitness professionals predict that we’ll see in fitness this year?
Wearable technology has again taken the number one spot in the global rankings, the same as 2019 and 2020. Wearable technology, which includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices, has been estimated to be a $100bn industry. New innovations include blood pressure, oxygen saturation and electrocardiogram. “Wearables are certainly not going anywhere. Not only are these devices becoming more affordable, but wearable data is increasingly being used in clinical decision making so they are continuing to hold their appeal,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, lead author of the survey and past president of the and ACSM.
Strength Training With Free Weights
Previous surveys included a strength training category. Determined to be too broad a category, this was dropped in favour of the more specific free weight training. This activity incorporates the use of barbells, dumbbells and/or kettlebells. Instructors start by teaching proper form for each exercise and then progressively increase the resistance once the correct form is accomplished. New exercises are added periodically and those begin at the form or movement level.
Body Weight Training
Body weight training programmes are all about using the weight of the body as the training modality through a combination of variable resistance and neuromotor movements through multiple planes. Since body weight training requires little to no equipment, it is an inexpensive and functional way to exercise effectively.
Fitness Programmes For Older Adults
This is a trend that emphasizes and caters to the fitness needs of the baby boomer and older generations. People are living longer, working longer and desiring to remain healthy and physically active throughout their life span. This demographic tends to have more discretionary spend than their younger counterparts, and operators may be able to capitalise on this growing market. Changing the atmosphere of gyms to be more older generation friendly during the traditional slow times of the day is the type of trend that seems to be catching on in commercial clubs.
Functional Fitness Training
This trend typically focuses on using strength training to improve essential balance, coordination, muscular strength and endurance to improve activities of daily living typically for older adults but also in clinical populations. Exercise programmes reflect actual activities someone might do during the day.
Activities like group walks, bicycle rides or organised hiking led by health and fitness professionals. Activities can be short events, day-long events, or planned multiday excursions. Outdoor activities have become increasingly popular since the pandemic.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
These exercise programmes typically involve repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise (>80 per cent of maximum heart rate), combined with periods of rest. There are a variety of HIIT formats including dumbbells, barbells, sprinting, cycling, bodyweight and stair-climbing.
Exercise For Weight Loss
This trend incorporates weight loss programmes with an exercise programme. The coupling of physical activity and exercise training with diets and cooking classes may prove to have additional benefits. Perhaps because of the quarantine imposed by Covid- 19 and resulting perceived (or real) weight gain, exercise for weight loss made a comeback in 2022 (ranking number 5). Exercise for weight loss programmes has been a top 20 trend since the survey began.
Employing Certified Fitness Professionals
This trend debuted in 2019 and reflects the growing emphasis on recruiting qualified health and fitness professionals who have completed educational programmes and fully accredited health/fitness certifications.
One-on-one training continues to be a strong trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, at home and in the workplace. Personal training includes goal setting, fitness assessment and exercise programming with a trainer in one-on-one settings. It has been a top 10 trend since the survey was first published in 2006.