The concern for the health of aging adults has been consistently at the top of the survey. The baby boom generation is now aging into retirement, and because they may have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts, fitness clubs should capitalize on this exponentially growing market. Fitness programs for older adults will remain a strong trend for 2013. It is assumed that people who are retired not only typically have greater sums of discretionary money but they also have a tendency to spend it more wisely and may have more time to engage in an exercise program. Health and fitness professionals can take advantage of this growing population of retired persons by providing age-appropriate exercise programs. The highly active older adult (the athletic old) also can be targeted by commercial and community-based organizations to participate in more rigorous exercise programs, including strength training and team sports. Even the frail elderly can improve his or her ability to perform activities of daily living when provided appropriate functional fitness activities. Health and fitness professionals should consider developing fitness programs for people of retirement age.
7. Personal Training
As more professional personal trainers are educated and become certified (see trend no. 1), they become more accessible to more people in all sectors of the health and fitness industry. Personal trainers are employed by community-based programs, in commercial settings, in corporate wellness programs, and in medical fitness programs. Personal training has been in the top 10 of this survey for the past 7 years. Recently, attention has been paid to the education (through third-party accreditation of CAAHEP) and certification (through third-party accreditation by NCCA) of personal trainers. In a growing number of states (California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, and several others), legislation has been introduced to license personal trainers, but none of which has yet passed. Although there have been some minor variations of personal training (e.g., small groups as opposed to one-on-one), respondents to this survey believe that personal trainers will continue to be an important part of the professional staff of health and fitness centers.
8. Functional Fitness
Functional fitness may be defined as using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to improve one’s ability to perform activities of daily living. Functional fitness programs reflect actual activities one might do as a function of daily living. Functional fitness first appeared on the survey in the no. 4 position in 2007 but fell to no. 8 in 2008 and no. 11 in 2009. It reappeared in the top 10 for 2010 at no. 7 and in 2011 at no. 9. In 2012, functional fitness was no. 10. Some of the survey respondents said that there is a relationship between functional fitness and fitness programs for older adults (see trend no. 6). Many exercise programs for the older age group are composed of functional fitness activities. Functional fitness is often used in clinical programs to imitate activities done around the home.
9. Core Training
Core training stresses strength and conditioning of the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax, and back. It typically includes exercises of the hips, lower back, and abdomen, all of which provide support for the spine and thorax. Exercising the core muscles improves overall stability of the trunk and transfers that to the extremities, enabling the individual to meet the demands of activities of daily living and for the performance of various sports that require strength, speed, and agility. Core training often uses stability balls, BOSU balls, wobble boards, foam rollers, and other pieces of equipment. Some respondents argued that core training may be losing some of its popularity as new forms of exercise are developed. This will be an interesting trend to watch in the next few years.
10. Group Personal Training
This trend allows the personal trainer to continue providing the personal service clients expect but now in a small group of two to four, offering potentially deep discounts to each member of the group. In 2007, group personal training was no. 19 on the list. In 2008, it rose slightly to no. 15 but dropped again in 2009 to no. 19 and improved to no. 10 in 2010. In 2011, group personal training was no. 14 on the survey and no. 8 in 2012. In these continuing challenging economic times when true personal income may be decreasing (and almost certainly discretionary spending), personal trainers must be more creative in the way they package personal training sessions. Training two or three people at the same time in a small group seems to make good economic sense for both the trainer and the client. Group personal training will continue to be popular in 2013.
11. Worksite Health Promotion
This is a trend for a range of programs and services designed to improve the health of workers and incorporate systems to evaluate their impact on health, health care costs, and worker productivity. Many of these programs are physically housed within the company or corporation building or on campus, whereas other programs may contract with independent commercial- or community-based programs. Within the context of health care reform in the United States and rising health care costs, health promotion programs may take on additional importance in the future.
12. Zumba and Other Dance Workouts
Combining Latin rhythms with interval-type exercise and resistance training, Zumba and other dance workouts first appeared on the list of potential trends in 2010 and ranked no. 31 of 37 potential trends; in 2011, it was ranked no. 24 out of a possible 31 choices. In 2012, it jumped into the top 10 (no. 9) and now appears on the list at no. 12. Zumba requires energy and enthusiasm from the instructor and the participants. It appeared as though the popularity of Zumba was growing, with a rapid escalation between 2010 and 2012. Future surveys will determine if this is a trend or a fad.
13. Outdoor Activities
This is a trend for health and fitness professionals to offer more outdoor activities to their clients. In 2010, outdoor activities ranked no. 25 in the annual survey, and in 2011, it ranked no. 27. In 2012, outdoor activities ranked no. 14. Outdoor activities can be done with family and with friends, with a group or by yourself. Outdoor activities typically include hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and games or sports. Outdoor activities also can include high-adventure programs such as overnight camping trips.
Yoga now comes in a variety of forms, including Power Yoga, Yogalates, and yoga done in hot and humid environments. Other forms of yoga include Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga, Bikram Yoga (the hot and humid one), 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 appeared in the top 10 in this survey in 2008 and seemed to make a comeback in the 2010 (no. 14) and 2011 surveys (no. 11). In 2012, yoga was no. 11 on the list, falling to no. 14 this year.
15. Worker Incentive Programs
Appearing for the first time in the survey top 20 in 2011, worker incentive programs stayed in the top 20 for 2012. It now appears at no. 15 for 2013. This is a trend toward creating incentive programs to stimulate positive healthy behavior change as part of employer-based health promotion programming and health care benefits. This trend represents a resurgence of corporate health promotion programs as a result of rising health care costs experienced by both small and large companies and corporations. It also may be a response to recent health care reform legislation in the United States. Worker incentive programs also are associated with the trend to provide worksite health promotion programs in an attempt to reduce health care costs.
16. Boot Camp
After first appearing in the 2008 survey at no. 26, boot camp was no. 23 in 2009, no. 16 in 2010, and no. 8 in 2011 but fell to no. 13 in 2012 and no. 16 for 2013. Boot camp is a high-intensity structured activity patterned after military-style training. Boot camp includes cardiovascular, strength, endurance, and flexibility drills and usually involves both indoor and outdoor exercises typically led by an enthusiastic instructor. Boot camps also can combine sport-type drills and calisthenics. Because of its climb in the survey rankings from 2008 to 2011, with a decrease in the trend analysis the past 2 years, it will be interesting to see if boot camp programs continue as a trend in the fitness industry.
17. Outcome Measurements
This is a trend toward accountability. There will be efforts to define and track outcomes to prove that a selected program actually works. Measurements are necessary to determine the benefits of health and fitness programs in disease management and to document success in changing negative lifestyle habits. The proliferation of technology will aid in data collection to support these efforts. This trend did not appear in the top 20 for the past couple of years. Accountability to owners and operators of health and fitness facilities will provide important metrics to determine if new programs are cost-effective and if old programs are actually working.
18. Circuit Training
Circuit training is a group of 6 to 10 exercises that are completed one after another and in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a set period before having a quick rest and moving on to the next exercise. Circuit training appears in 2013 for the first time in the top 20 trends.
19. Reaching New Markets
This is a trend that identifies new markets in all aspects of the health and fitness industry. With an estimated 80% of Americans not having a regular exercise program or a place to exercise, commercial, clinical, corporate, and community programs will reach out to tap into this huge market. Reaching new markets appeared in the top 20 in previous years of this survey but dropped out in 2010. In 2011, it reappeared as no. 19, moving up to no. 15 for 2012, and remaining in the top 20 for 2013. Health and fitness professionals and their employers will be searching for new ways to deliver their services to most people who are still not engaged in their programs.
20. Wellness Coaching
Falling from no. 13 in 2010 but remaining in the top 20 for 2011, 2012, and 2013 is wellness coaching. This is a trend that incorporates behavioral change science into health promotion and disease prevention programs. Wellness coaching often uses a one-on-one approach similar to a personal trainer, with the coach providing support, guidance, and encouragement. The wellness coach focuses on the client’s values, needs, vision, and goals. According to this trend survey (and results from past surveys), it seems as though wellness coaching and its principled techniques of behavior change have been adopted by personal trainers and other health and fitness professionals.
WHAT’S OUT FOR 2013?
Falling out of the top 20 fitness trends this year was spinning (indoor cycling), sport-specific training, and physician referrals. Spinning was no. 16 in the survey for 2012. As an instructor explains the terrain and provides the motivation, this group fitness program has been described as pedaling outdoors without temperature, humidity, or other environmental changes. The pedal tension on the stationary bike can be varied to simulate riding uphill or through valleys. Upbeat background music motivates people through this relatively high-intensity workout. Falling from a top 10 spot (no. 8) in 2010, sport-specific training dropped to no. 16 for 2011 and no. 17 for 2012. This trend incorporates sport-specific training for sports such as baseball and tennis, designed especially for young athletes. Breaking into the top 10 for the first time in the survey in 2009 (no. 9), sport-specific training jumped from no. 13 in 2008 after falling from no. 11 in 2007. This will still be an interesting trend for the health and fitness industry to watch during the next few years because of the fall to no. 17 in 2012 from its relative popularity in 2010. Jumping from no. 17 in 2010 and rounding out the top 10 for 2011 was physician referrals. In the 2012 survey, physician referrals fell to no. 20 and is now out of the top 20 trends. This is a trend toward an emergent emphasis being placed on partnerships with the medical community resulting in seamless referrals to a health and fitness facility and health and fitness professionals. It is always interesting to see what fell out of the top 20 list on this survey for the next year and what seems to be supported by this year’s survey.
As in the previous seven ACSM worldwide surveys, some trends were once again embraced (e.g., educated and certified health fitness professionals), whereas others fell out of the top 20, and still others were not supported at all (whole-body vibration, gravity training, activity-based video games, sandbells, kickboxing, and unsupervised and unmonitored fitness facilities). Trends have been defined as a general development that takes some time and then stays for a period (usually described as a behavior change), whereas a fad comes and goes. In the top 10 fitness trends for 2013, nine have been on the list in previous years. Appearing for the first time is body weight training. Falling out of the top 10 was Zumba (now no. 12). It will be very interesting to watch these two trends (Zumba and body weight training) during the next year to see if these truly are trends or fads. Pilates, 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 trend survey.
INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS COMMENT ON 2012 TRENDS
Osnat Fliess Douer, Ph.D. A hydrotherapist and the owner of Multipool Aquatic Therapy Center in Israel (http://www.multipool.co.il/About-Us), Dr. Fliess Douer is a lecturer and director of hydrotherapy courses at Wingate College Israel and a certified international Jahara® teacher (www.jahara.com/QualifiedTeachers.htm). Dr. Douer is a member of the Sport Science Committee of the International Paralympic Committee. “As the director of hydrotherapy and adapted swimming courses, the consistent importance of the educational level and experience of health fitness professionals is encouraging and demanding to us, who are in-charge of putting these programs in place, to be responsible for providing high-level programs. It is fascinating to see the direct link between courses’ content and the survey outcome. One example is the growing focus on implementation of inclusion policies for people with special needs through community-based sport activities. The variety and flexibility of the top 20 worldwide fitness trends for 2013 (i.e., strength training, body weight training, yoga, etc.) make it an excellent showcase for strategies of inclusion and adaptation. The continuous appearance of functional fitness in the top 10, where strength training applies to improve activities of daily living, goes hand-in-hand with the continued endorsement of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health framework (ICF, WHO). It would be safe to predict that in the next years, functional fitness will maintain its high ranking. My last comment is about core training (no. 9). It will be interesting to further investigate the reason for the seemingly decline of core training. Since strengthening the core muscles is a key component in reducing back pain and preventing reoccurrence of back injuries, it is an inseparable element in many mind-body-fitness methods, such as Alexander, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Jahara aquatic technique, and more, which emphasize the importance of core strengthening training. It could be that a program named ‘Core Strength Training’ might lose popularity, but not core training itself, which will be continuously integrated into health and fitness programs.”
Paul Sorace, M.S., RCEP, CSCS, Clinical Exercise Physiologist, Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation, Hackensack University Medical Center. “As a clinical exercise physiologist, I am encouraged to see strength training remains a strong and popular trend. Working daily with persons with controlled diseases, I am fully aware of the benefits strength training has on the physical and mental well-being of patients. More and more research is being conducted, examining how muscle-strengthening exercises help prevent or manage common chronic diseases, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and overweight/obesity. Strength training provides muscular fitness benefits that are not obtained through aerobic exercise, so any comprehensive exercise program should incorporate some strength training. I also found bodyweight training to be an interesting new addition to the trend list. Bodyweight training is a form of strength training and, as mentioned by Dr. Thompson, returning to the basics is an option for individuals of all fitness levels. There are bodyweight exercises that can be performed by many novice or decondtioned persons (e.g., wall push-ups), and there are bodyweight exercises that can be challenging for more advanced exercisers (e.g., burpee or squat thrust). Finally, children and obesity and exercise and weight loss are extremely important trends. Childhood obesity is a real threat to the future health and wellness of the United States and the world. There needs to be a continued and concerted effort to keep children physically active. Although caloric restriction is essential for a substantial weight loss program, exercise is critically important to maximize a caloric deficit. Perhaps even more importantly, exercise is essential for weight loss to be permanent or for the prevention of weight regain.”
Desirée Nathanson, M.S., DTR, is a CNN contributor, former NBA dancer, dietetic technician, AFAA-certified group exercise instructor, NESTA-certified personal trainer and sport yoga instructor, Spencer Institute–certified wellness coach, dance instructor, and FUP/FAP fitness competitor.www.fitdesiree.com. “As a group exercise/dance instructor, personal trainer, and dietetic technician, I see, first hand, the implementation of these top 20 fitness trends every day. My most popular exercise classes are dance fitness and circuit training classes, which are both in the top 20 trends. It seems that adults are becoming interested in finding fun ways to get themselves moving, returning to activities they may have participated in when they were younger. I believe this is why dance workouts remain in the top 20, and I believe they will stay in the top 20 as more studies are done showing the benefits of dancing in regard to chronic health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. As consumers become more educated and involved in their health and wellness, it is no wonder educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals is at the top of the list. It is encouraging to know that many fitness professionals value education while providing quality exercise programs to their clients; and those clients are searching for well-qualified fitness professionals to guide them. It is unfortunate children and obesity is also on the top 20 list of trends. Children are faced with unnecessary stress dealing with standardized testing, sedentary school days, and multiple after-school activities. While it is the responsibility of the health and fitness industry to design programs geared toward children, this problem would be easily reduced by incorporating daily physical activity back into schools. I hope that by 2015, children and obesity and exercise and weight loss drop lower on the list and things like dance workouts and circuit training only continue to get more popular.”
Trudy Moore-Harrison, Ph.D., Lecturer and Graduate Practicum Supervisor, Department of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “With the exponential growth in the older adult population worldwide, it is not surprising to see that fitness programs for older adults remain in the top 10 fitness trends for the last 7 years. Lifelong exercisers have been able to manage and prevent chronic diseases better than nonexercisers. I expect the trend to continue for years to come since individuals are now living longer and are seeking ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle in their retirement years. Additionally, I also believe there is a relationship between functional fitness and fitness programs for older adults. The trend of functional fitness has the potential to assist older adults with maintaining their independence longer, which is an important added value. Many fitness programs are including functional exercises that can be done at home rather than at a gym. It is imperative that health professionals address the needs of older adults especially since they can experience significant barriers throughout their activities of daily living. Next, it is encouraging to see outcome measurements in the top 20 since we are a data-driven society. Outcome measurements can be used as a promotional tool to persuade individuals to exercise and to have an impact on the health care system. The evidence-based approach is being endorsed by health professionals worldwide. Lastly, I am pleased to see that educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals remains at the top of the list because individuals have to be informed of the impact that exercise can make on society. Fitness professionals have to continue to lead the way by encouraging physical activity every day.”
CONDENSED VERSION AND BOTTOM LINE
The 2013 worldwide survey of fitness trends is now in its seventh year. It assists the health and fitness industry when making critical programming and business decisions. The results are applicable to all four sectors of the health fitness industry (commercial for-profit clubs, clinical or medical fitness programs, corporate wellness programs, and community not-for-profit fitness programs). Although no one can accurately predict the future of any industry, this survey helps track trends in the field that can assist owners, operators, program directors, and personal trainers with making important business decisions.
The author thanks past Editor-in-Chief Ed Howley, Ph.D., FACSM, for considering this project important enough to include in the year-end edition of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal and to current Editor-in-Chief Steven Keteyian, Ph.D., FACSM, for continuing the tradition. The author also thanks the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® editorial team, especially those who contributed to the original survey in 2006, Paul Couzelis, Ph.D.; John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM; Nico Pronk, Ph.D., FACSM; Mike Spezzano, M.S.; Neal Pire, M.A., FACSM; Jim Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM; Melinda Manore, Ph.D., R.D., FACSM; Cary Wing, Ed.D.; Reed Humphrey, Ph.D., P.T., FACSM; and Steve Tharrett, M.S., for their very important input into the construction of the original and subsequent surveys. Finally, the author is indebted to the ACSM staff that supported this study by assisting in the construction, formatting, and delivery of it to thousands of fitness professionals around the world. In particular, the author recognizes the important contributions of Dick Cotton, Traci Rush, Kela Webster, and especially Lori Tish who has tirelessly worked on this survey since it started in 2006.
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