Fitness & Health

Top twenty fitness trends for 2016


Are you tracking your running mileage, calories burned or average heart rate using a wearable device? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced its annual fitness trend forecast and for the first time, exercise professionals say wearable technology will be the top trend in fitness next year. Now in its tenth year, the survey was completed by more than 2,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide.

The Top 10

1.Wearable technology.
Introduced just a few years ago, wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices. Examples include fitness and activity trackers like those from Misfit, Garmin, Jawbone and Fitbit. The newly released Apple Watch® is another example. Some business analysts have predicted that the Apple Watch® will sell more than 485 million devices by the year 2018. It seems as if the “back to basics” philosophy of the industry, driven by the weak economy, might be fading.

2. Body weight training.
Body weight training did not appear on the list before 2013 as it only became popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world during the last couple of years. This is not to say that body weight training had not been used previously; in fact, people have been using their own body weight for centuries as a form of resistance training. But new packaging, particularly by commercial clubs, has now made it popular in all kinds of gyms. Typical body weight training programmes use minimal equipment, which makes it a very inexpensive way to exercise effectively. Most people think of body weight training as being limited to push-ups and pull-ups, but it can be much more than that. As the number one position in the survey suggested last year, body weight training is a trend to watch for the future.

3. High-intensity interval training.
Falling from the top spot in the 2015 survey, high-intensity interval training typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform (although it is not uncommon for these programs to be much longer in duration). While being offered as a possible trend in previous surveys but not making the top 20, high-intensity interval training was no. 1 in the survey for 2014 despite the warnings of many survey respondents about potential dangers. Despite the warnings of potentially increased injury rates using high-intensity interval training, this form of exercise remains popular in gyms all over the world.

4. Strength training.
Strength training remains popular in all sectors of the health and fitness industry and for many different kinds of clients and has been a strong trend since the first year of this survey. Many younger clients of both community-based programmes and commercial clubs train exclusively using weights. Today, however, there are many other individuals (men and women, young and old, children, and patients with a stable chronic disease) whose main focus is on using weight training to improve or maintain strength. Many contemporary health and fitness professionals incorporate some form of strength training into a comprehensive exercise routine for their clients and patients. It is not uncommon at all for cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation or metabolic disease management programmes to include weight training in the exercise programmes for their patients.

5. Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals.
This is a trend that continues now that there are accreditations offered by national third-party accrediting organisations for health and fitness and clinical exercise programme professionals. As the economy continues to grow and as the market for fitness professionals becomes even more crowded and more competitive, interest in some degree of regulation either from within the industry or from external sources (i.e., government) seems to be expanding. The European Register of Exercise Professionals (EREPS) is an independent process for the registering of instructors, trainers and teachers working in the European health, fitness and physical activity sector. REPs fulfils a similar function in the UK and is an independent, public register which recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK.

6. Personal training.
As more professional personal trainers are educated and become certified, they are increasingly becoming more accessible in all sectors of the health and fitness industry. While there have been some minor variations of personal training such as small groups as opposed to one-on-one sessions, respondents to this survey believe that personal trainers will continue to be an important part of the professional staff of health and fitness centres. Personal trainers are employed by community-based programmes, in commercial settings, in corporate wellness programmes and in medical fitness programmes or are self-employed and work independently.

7. Functional fitness.
Replicating actual physical activities someone might perform as a function of their daily routine, functional fitness is defined as using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living. Some of the survey respondents said that they typically pair functional fitness with fitness programmes for older adults, depending on the needs of the client. Functional fitness also is used in clinical programmes to replicate activities done around the home.

8. Fitness programmes for older adults.
Health and fitness professionals should take advantage of this exponentially growing market by providing age-appropriate and safe exercise programmes for the aging sector of the population. The highly active older adult (the athletic old) can be targeted by commercial and community-based organisations to participate in more rigorous exercise programmes including strength training and team sports. Even the frail elderly can improve their balance and ability to perform activities of daily living when provided appropriate functional fitness activities. It is assumed that people who are retired not only have greater sums of discretionary money but also have a tendency to spend it more wisely and may have more time to engage in an exercise programme. The “baby boom generation” is now ageing into retirement and fitness clubs should capitalize on this exponentially growing market. Fitness programmes for older adults will remain a strong trend for 2016.

9. Exercise and weight loss.
The combination of exercise and weight loss is a trend toward incorporating weight loss programmes that emphasize caloric restriction with a sensible exercise programme. Exercise in weight loss programmes has been a trend since the survey began. Organisations, particularly those that are commercially based and are in the business of providing weight loss programmes, will continue to incorporate regular exercise as well as caloric restriction for weight control according to the 2016 survey. The combination of exercise and diet is essential for weight loss maintenance and can improve compliance to calorific restriction diets and in particular weight loss programmes. Most of the well-publicised diet plans integrate exercise in addition to the daily routine of providing prepared meals to their clients.

10. Yoga.
Moving slightly down the list for 2016 is yoga after occupying the no. 7 spot last year. Yoga comes in a variety of forms, including Power Yoga, Yogalates and Bikram Yoga (the one done in hot and humid environments). Other forms of yoga include Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Anuara Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Sivananda Yoga. Instructional tapes and books are abundant, as are the growing numbers of certifications for the many yoga formats. Yoga seems to reinvent and refresh itself every year, making it a more attractive form of exercise.

The next 10

11. Group personal training.
12. Worksite health promotion.
13. Wellness coaching.
14. Outdoor activities.
15. Sport-specific training.
16. Flexibility and mobility rollers.
17. Smart Phone Exercise Apps.
18. Circuit training.
19 Core training.
20 Outcome measurements.


Trends have been defined as a general development that takes some time and then stays for a period (usually described as a behaviour change), whereas a fad comes and goes. In the top 20 fitness trends for 2016, 17 have been on the list in previous years. Taking over the top spot from body weight training and high-intensity interval training is wearable technology. It will be very interesting to watch wearable technology during the next year to see if it is truly a trend or a fad. Pilates, indoor cycling, balance training, and use of the stability ball continue to exist in the health and fitness industry but with not as much popularity according to the ACSM trends survey.

Source: ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal


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