The clear message from the results of the recent ACSM Health and Fitness Journal worldwide survey is that the fitness industry is going back to the future.
This year’s hottest fitness trends are very much about rebuilding bodies, returning to some traditional areas of the gym, but also, making the most of the latest in wearable tech to monitor health and fitness progress.
The impact of Covid-19, lockdowns, isolation and a move to home fitness have been reflected in the survey results of the past few years.
But many of these trends have declined. Online training dropped from number one in 2021 to number nine on this year’s list, while home gyms fell from number two on last year’s list, to number 13 this year.
As the survey authors stated, this year’s findings are very much a reflection on how the world is tackling their fitness goals in a post-pandemic world. Gym owners and facility managers take note.
Number 1: Wearable Technology
One trend that has remained a constant throughout the pandemic, wearable technology, continues to dominate the market. Wearable tech has finished top three in the ACSM fitness trends since 2016. It shows no signs of abating, as competing companies continue to invest heavily in wearables R&D.
Of the most used features, step counter, calorie counter, sleep monitor, heart rate and general activity tracking, and blood pressure continue to draw customers to these products. According to research, just possessing a fitness tracker can motivate people to walk up to 40 minutes extra a day. If nothing else, that’s a powerful psychological tool. And the data that is being collected is powerful.
“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 ACSM Past President and lead author of the survey, Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM.
As a result, it’s critical that gyms continue to invest in equipment that offers seamless Apple and Samsung connectivity with wearables, to ensure member satisfaction.
Number 2: Strength Training with Free Weights
Strength training with free weights is back at the top of people’s workout lists. In 2019, strength training wasn’t even in the top 20. In 2021, it sat in eighth position. Last year it broke back into the top five, and in 2023, fitness enthusiasts are returning to the weight rack and looking to rebuild their bodies.
As the author’s state, previous surveys included a broader strength training category. This was changed up to target free weight strength training — that is, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and medicine balls.
Part of this renewed interest in free weights is also driven by group fitness trainers incorporating more of this kind of work into group training sessions. Gym goers are loving it.
Number 3: Body Weight Training
Number three sees body weight training continue to be an important and popular approach to chasing fitness goals, particularly for those new to fitness, as well as the aging trainee.
It is a relatively inexpensive mode of training, with minimal equipment and the ability to execute a workout anywhere, any time. It stands to reason that it has remained popular through the pandemic years.
One of the benefits of bodyweight training is it can be easily modified to suit a person’s fitness level. There are ways to increase the intensity of the workout and ensure that you progress and continue to overload.
The inclusion of some simple training accessories can really help to enhance a trainee’s ability to stay engaged with their bodyweight-centric workouts and progress with their fitness goals.
Number 4: Fitness for Older Adults
The list sees fitness for older adults rise up to number four. Hovering around or just inside the top 10 for a few years, the authors of the survey have identified that the baby boomer generation is moving into the latter stages of life and are committed to maintaining strength and fitness, to maintain lifestyles.
And this is a market with a budget! As a result, they indicated that gyms would be wise to start thinking about spaces and specialised group training programs for this demographic.
Research has shown that a commitment to exercise and training attenuates age associated declines in health and functioning. and prevents chronic diseases. We know that resistance training helps us to maintain muscle mass and bone density as we age, as well as the importance of cardiovascular training for heart health.
Therefore, well-rounded fitness programs, and appealing training spaces for this market could be somewhere that commercial gyms decide to invest and develop in the coming year.
Number 5: Functional Fitness
And rounding out the top five is functional fitness training. That is, exercise that focuses on training the body to perform everyday activities more efficiently and with greater ease.
This type of training typically involves using exercises that mimic the movement patterns and muscle groups in real world activities. These include lifting, pushing, pulling, and twisting, with the goal of functional training to improve overall fitness.
For gym owners who have invested heavily in functional spaces, with the Life Fitness Synrgy Training System, they understand the power of this mode of training. For those that haven’t, this is an area of the market not to be ignored.
Rounding out the top 10…
6. Outdoor Activities
7. High Intensity Interval Training
8. Exercise for weight loss
9. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals
10. Personal Training