The annual survey of worldwide fitness trends is now in its 13th year. Although we know that no one can accurately predict the future, this survey can help us fitness nerds keep an eye on what the rest of the world is up to, and glean some insight into what is a worthwhile trend and what is a passing fad.
Over the past 13 years, the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® (FIT) have circulated an electronic survey to thousands of wellness professionals around the world to determine the current year’s health and fitness trends. The first survey was conducted in 2006 and it introduced what was meant to be a systematic way of predicting health and fitness trends. The survey has been conducted annually since that time, using the same methodology.
Since this is a survey that is solely about trends, the participants of the survey were asked to make the very important distinction between what they thought was a “fad” and what was a “trend.” These are the definitions they were given as a guideline:
Trend: a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving.
Fad: a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period.
Responses were received from just about every continent and included the countries of United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United States.
Top 12 Fitness Trends
So, without further delay, here are the top 12 (of 20) trends from the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019. You can take a deeper look if you visit the ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal website.
Trend #1: Wearable Technology
Wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices like those made by Misfit®, Garmin, and Apple. These devices can track heart rate, calories, sitting time, and much more. As angry as my Apple Watch makes me from time to time, it is undeniable that wearables are here to stay.
Wearable technology first appeared as a fitness trend in 2016. It was the #1 trend in 2016 and 2017 before dropping to #3 for 2018 but it is back on top in 2019.
Trend #2: Group Training
Group exercise instructors teach, lead, and motivate individuals through intentionally designed, in-person movement classes of five participants or more. There are many types of classes using various equipment, from cardio-based classes and indoor cycling, to dance and step classes. If you are a fan of my Undercover Get-Fit Guy episodes, you will be familiar with a few of these, including BodyPump, SoulCycle, PureBarre, 9Round, and OrangeTheory.
Group exercise training programs have been around for a long time and have appeared as a potential worldwide trend since this survey was originally constructed. However, it was only in 2017 that group exercise training made the top 20, appearing at #6, and #2 in the 2018 survey.
Trend #3: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
These exercise programs typically involve short bursts of high-intensity bouts of exercise followed by a brief rest period. Although there are several commercial examples of HIIT, all emphasize higher intensities (above 90%) of maximum during the higher intensity segments followed by periods of rest and recovery. Despite the warnings by some fitness professionals of potentially increased injury rates using HIIT, this style of exercise is popular all over the world.
If you do a search for HIIT on the Quick and Dirty Tips website, you will find a ton of info on this topic going all the way back to 2012. Although it was offered as a possible trend in previous surveys, HIIT didn’t hit number one until 2014 and 2018 but it has been in the top five since 2014.