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Thompson, Walter R. Ph.D., FACSM

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ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 16(6):p 8-17, November/December 2012. | DOI: 10.1249/01.FIT.0000422568.47859.35
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This annual survey is now in its seventh consecutive year. The 2013 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends supported previous trends and also reinforced the deletion of three trends that had previously appeared to be strong for 2 to 3 years but now have dropped off the list for the third year in a row… much to the disappointment of Pilates instructors all over the globe. Pilates, stability ball, and balance training again failed to appear on the list of top 20 trends in the health and fitness industry, supporting the theory that these were fads and not trends. Some survey respondents have argued that the still sluggish economy has influenced the results of this survey and that specialized training programs, such as Pilates, are not supported because of their increased costs. Others have said that Pilates and the stability ball have run their useful course. The results of this annual survey may help the health and fitness industry make some very important investment decisions for future growth and development. Business decisions should be based on emerging trends and not the latest exercise innovation peddled by late-night television infomercials or the hottest celebrity endorsing a product.


Similar to previous ACSM fitness trend surveys, we asked respondents to first make the important distinction between a “fad” and a “trend.” A trend has been described as “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving” ( Using this definition, it would be predictable, then, to see the same trends appearing for multiple years in a trend survey. The definition of trend includes the phrase “general development” as opposed to fad, which is described as “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period,” which is the definition of a fad ( During the last 7 years, the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® have developed and widely disseminated this electronic survey to thousands of professionals to determine trends in the health and fitness industry. The survey in this issue of the Journal will help guide programming efforts for 2013. The first survey (1), conducted in 2006 (for predictions in 2007), developed a systematic way to predict health and fitness trends, and surveys have been done each year since (2–6).

These annual surveys of health and fitness trends in the commercial (typically for-profit), clinical (including medical fitness), community (not-for-profit), and corporate divisions of the industry have confirmed some trends appearing each year. Some of the trends first identified in 2007 have moved up and stayed at the top of the list since the first survey was published, whereas some new trends appear to be emerging in 2013 and others have dropped out of the top 20. Future surveys will either confirm these new trends or they will fall short of making an impact on the health and fitness industry and drop out of the survey, as did the stability ball, Pilates, and balance training in the past. Dropping out of the survey may indicate that what was once perceived to be a trend in the industry was actually a fad. One emerging trend (body weight training) appears in the top 20 for the first time. Future surveys will either confirm or reject this as an emerging trend.

The ACSM survey makes no attempt to evaluate equipment, gym apparatus, tools, or other exercise devices that may materialize at clubs or recreation centers or appear during late-night television infomercials, often seen during the winter holidays or the week before and a few weeks into the New Year. The survey has been designed to confirm, reconfirm, or to introduce new trends (not fads) that have a perceived impact on the industry according to the international respondents. It is understandable that using this survey construct, some of the trends identified in earlier surveys would appear for several years (as is the case for many of the top 10 trends). The ACSM annual worldwide survey of health and fitness trends should not be confused with estimating the market impact potential of a piece of new equipment, exercise device, or program. As admonished in the past, the type of information provided by this survey is left to the readers to determine if it fits into their business model and how best to use the information. It is as important for the health and fitness industry to pay close attention to not only those trends appearing for the first time (e.g., body weight training) but also for those that do not appear this year or have been replaced on the list by other trends (e.g., Pilates and stability ball).

As with past surveys, the health and fitness industry should consider applying this information to its own settings. The benefits to commercial health clubs (those that are for-profit) is the establishment (or maybe the justification) of new markets that may result in a potential for increased and sustainable revenue. Community-based programs (typically not-for-profit) could use the results to continue to justify an investment in their unique markets by providing expanded programs serving families and children. Corporate wellness programs and medical fitness centers may find these results useful through an increased service to their members and patients.


There were 37 possible trends in the 2013 survey. The top 25 trends from previous years were included in the survey, as were some potentially emerging trends identified by the staff and editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. To create a balance, the editors represent all four sectors of the health and fitness industry (corporate, clinical, community, commercial), as well as academia. In the survey, potential trends were first identified, and then short explanations were written to offer the respondent a few details without inconveniencing them with too much reading, analysis, or interpretation. The survey was designed to be completed in less than 15 minutes. As an incentive to complete the survey, the editors made available several ACSM books published by Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and Human Kinetics and a $100 American Express gift card. These incentives helped increase participation in the survey. (See the list of winners at the end of this article.)

As in all of the previous ACSM surveys, the 37 potential items were constructed using a Likert-type scale ranging from a low score of 1 (least likely to be a trend) to a high score of 10 (most likely to be a trend). After each scoring opportunity, space was allowed for the respondent to add comments. At the conclusion of the survey, space was left for the respondent to add comments or potential fitness trends left off the list to be considered for future surveys. This year’s survey also included some valuable demographic information that will help guide the construction of subsequent surveys. The next step was to send the survey electronically to a defined list of health and fitness professionals. Using Survey Monkey (, the online survey was sent to 29,630 health and fitness professionals (11,156 more than last year). This list included all currently certified ACSM Certified Personal TrainersSM, ACSM Health/Fitness Instructors® (presently known as ACSM Health Fitness Specialists), ACSM Exercise Specialists® (now ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialists), ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologists®, ACSM Health/Fitness Directors®, ACSM Program DirectorsSM, ACSM Alliance members, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® nonmember subscribers, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® Editorial Board, and Associate Editors. In addition, it was posted on ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® Web site, a tweet was placed on Twitter, and it was posted on Facebook.

After the 3-week window of opportunity had been completed, 3,346 responses were received, which represent an excellent return rate of 11%. Responses were received from just about every continent, including Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, North America, and South America. Some specific countries included the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, and Russia. Demographics of the survey respondents included 67% female across a wide variability in ages (Figure 1) and 48% having more than 10 years of experience in the industry (Figure 2). Almost 37% of the survey respondents earned more than $50,000 annually, which included 5% who earned more than $100,000 a year (Figure 3). Respondents were asked to identify their occupations (Table 1), and 24% indicated that they were full-time or part-time personal trainers, and only seven people reported to be unemployed.

Respondents’ Occupation
Figure 1:
Age (in years) of survey respondents.
Figure 2:
Years of experience reported by the survey respondents.
Figure 3:
Annual salary of survey respondents.


The first step in the analysis was to collate all of the responses and then to rank order them from highest (most popular trend) to lowest (least popular trend). Only the top 20 for 2013 are described in this report. After rank ordering the responses, we asked four internationally recognized experts representing all sectors in the health and fitness industry to comment on the findings. Their analysis and commentary are included at the end of this report. For a comparison of the top 10 trends from the past 6 years’ surveys (1–6), please see the comprehensive comparison table online (available at The same top trends identified in 2008 to 2012 appeared as top trends for 2013, just in a different order, with educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals maintaining the no. 1 spot, fitness programs for older adults dropping to no. 6, and strength training remaining at no. 2. Introduced for 2013 for the first time is body weight training, which landed at no. 3 in this year’s survey. The 2013 survey (Table 2) seems to reinforce the findings of previous years, which was expected when tracking trends and not fads. Dropping out of the top 20 trends for 2013 were spinning, sport-specific training, and physician referrals. Outcome measurements (no. 17) and circuit training (no. 18) made the top 20 list in 2013.

Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2013

1. Educated, Certified, and Experienced Fitness Professionals

Holding on to the no. 1 spot for the last 6 years, this is a trend that continues and drives the need for education and certification programs that are fully accredited by national third-party accrediting organizations for health and fitness and clinical exercise program professionals. There seems to be an exponential growth of educational programs at community colleges, undergraduate programs, and graduate programs at colleges and universities, which have become accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP; through the Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences ( and more certification programs accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA); According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “…jobs for fitness workers are expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations [through 2020]” (, cited on July 27, 2012). They go on to say “As businesses and insurance organizations continue to recognize the benefits of health and fitness programs for their employees, incentives to join gyms or other fitness facilities will increase the need for workers in these areas.” The BLS defines “much faster than average” (their highest rating) as an increase of 20% or more, with the health and fitness profession expected to increase by 24%. The BLS estimated that, in 2010, there were approximately 251,400 fitness trainers employed and projects that, by 2020, that number will increase to 311,800 (a difference of 60,400 workers, a 29% increase in the workforce in just 10 years). It has become clear that in this still sluggish economy, as the market for fitness professionals becomes even more crowded and more competitive, some degree of regulation either from within the industry or from external sources (i.e., government) seems to be growing as several states and the District of Columbia have considered legislation to regulate personal trainers just as it does physicians, lawyers, and pharmacists. CAAHEP and NCCA are both third-party accrediting agencies; CAAHEP for academic programs and NCCA for certification programs. Because of their independence, neither organization is directly influenced by the health and fitness industry. In 2007, CAAHEP added a Personal Fitness Trainer accreditation for certificate (1 year) and associate (2 years) degree programs. The accreditation for the academic training of the Personal Fitness Trainer joined academic program accreditation for exercise science (baccalaureate) and exercise physiology (graduate programs in either applied exercise physiology or clinical exercise physiology). Collaboration also has started within the fitness industry to address the issue of standardized facility practices. Coordinated by NSF International (, this collaboration (known as the NSF Joint Committee on Health Fitness Facilities Standards) brings various sectors of the industry and the public together to resolve the issues of facility standards (i.e., the characteristics of a health and fitness facility). Look for these standards to be adopted by the joint committee soon, with a voluntary certification program to follow.

2. Strength Training

Strength training remains at the no. 2 position for the second year in a row but has been a strong trend since the first year of this survey. This trend calls for both men and women to incorporate strength training into their exercise routines or to use it as the primary form of exercise. Historically, many clients of both community-based programs and commercial clubs trained exclusively using weights, and there are still those who lift weights for body building. However, today, there are many other individuals (both men and women, young and old, and children) whose main focus is on using weight training to improve or maintain strength. Most health and fitness professionals today incorporate some form of strength training into a comprehensive exercise routine for their clients and for patients with stable diseases. It is not uncommon for cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehabilitation, or metabolic disease management programs to include weight training in the exercise prescription. Strength training remains popular in commercial, community, clinical, and corporate health fitness facilities for many different kinds of clients.


3. Body Weight Training

Appearing for the first time in the trend survey is body weight training. Body weight training did not appear as an option in previous surveys because it has only now become popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world; this is not to say that body weight training has not been used previously. On the contrary, people have been using their own body weights for centuries as a form of resistance training. Packaging it as an exercise program has now made it popular in all kinds of gyms. Body weight training often uses minimal equipment, which makes it an 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. Body weight training may be a trend to watch as more people get “back to the basics.”

4. Children and Obesity

Retaining a spot in the top 10 in this year’s survey is exercise programs aimed specifically at the problem of childhood obesity. The problem with childhood and adolescent obesity continues to be a major health issue in most developed and developing nations. As public school systems continue to face the reality of cutting programs such as physical education and recess to spend more time preparing for standardized testing in a challenging economy, this is a trend toward more programs and a potential new market for commercial and community-based organizations. Health and fitness practitioners see the problem of childhood obesity and its associated comorbidities as an opportunity to positively influence a health issue that not only immediately impacts the health care industry but has an even greater effect on the health of these children as they mature into adults and have families of their own. The health and fitness industry should recognize this chronic health issue and start new programs targeted specifically at these children. Corporate and clinical programs also may see this as an opportunity to develop specialized physical activity programs for children of their staff and clients. Commercial- and community-based programs may find a receptive partner within public and private schools.

5. Exercise and Weight Loss

For many years, weight loss programs have been trying to infuse a regular exercise program into the caloric restriction diets of many popular commercial programs. Most well-publicized diet plans incorporate exercise into their daily routine of providing meals to their clients. The combination of exercise and weight loss is a trend toward incorporating all weight loss programs with a sensible exercise program. This has been a growing trend since the survey began. In 2009, exercise and weight loss ranked no. 18, moving to no. 12 in 2010, no. 7 in 2011, and no. 4 in 2012, and now sits in the no. 5 spot. It appears as though people who are in the business of providing weight loss programs will incorporate regular exercise as well as caloric restriction for weight control. The combination of exercise and diet is essential for weight loss maintenance and can improve compliance to caloric restriction diets and in particular weight loss programs.

6. Fitness Programs for Older Adults


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.

14. Yoga

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.


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.



Osnat Fliess Douer, Ph.D. A hydrotherapist and the owner of Multipool Aquatic Therapy Center in Israel (, Dr. Fliess Douer is a lecturer and director of hydrotherapy courses at Wingate College Israel and a certified international Jahara® teacher ( 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 “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.”


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.


1. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2007. ACSM HealthFitness J. 2006; 10 (6): 8–14.
2. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2008. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2007; 11 (6): 7–13.
3. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2009. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2008; 12 (6): 7–14.
4. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2010. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2009; 13 (6): 9–16.
5. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2011. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2010; 14 (6): 8–17.
6. Thompson WR. Worldwide survey reveals fitness trends for 2012. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2011; 15 (6): 9–18.

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