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INTERNATIONAL COMMENTARY OF THE WORLDWIDE SURVEY OF FITNESS TRENDS

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: 11/12 2019 - Volume 23 - Issue 6 - p 49-51
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000527
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Lyndsey M. Hornbuckle, Ph.D., R.D., FACSM, is an assistant professor at the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Wearable technology, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and group training have dominated the top three survey rankings since 2018. Wearable technology remaining at no. 1 this year is not surprising given the ever-present technological advances and ongoing research to validate and improve activity monitors. The current popularity of activity monitors suggests many individuals are interested in physical activity. I consider this a success for health and fitness professionals as we continue to promote daily physical activity. Although group exercise training is not new to the fitness industry, I suspect that the growth of boutique-style group fitness facilities, specializing in everything from indoor cycling to barre workouts, may have contributed this trend’s top three ranking in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Given the suggested benefits of social support for exercise adherence, I hope to see group training persist as a top trend in years to come. For seven consecutive years, HIIT has ranked in this survey’s top five, establishing its position as a sought-after method used in various exercise modalities. Although some have questioned the appropriateness of HIIT for the general population, I would argue that there are several safe approaches that will allow most individuals to adopt some level of HIIT to add variety and challenges to a traditional, steady-state exercise routine. This annual report is always an exciting read, as well as an important means for sharing timely information that both industry leaders and researchers can use to make a positive impact on the health and fitness of our communities.”

Mauro Guiselini, Ph.D., is the author of 36 books related to physical education in health and wellness promotion, multifunctional training, weight loss, and child physical education. “As a writer and teacher of postgraduate courses, I have been privileged to receive this important information about fitness trends for 2020 in Brazil and Argentina. We understand that the physical education professional’s main mission is to take care of students and clients with competence and, in particular, to encourage them to practice physical exercise with a focus on health promotion and well-being. Studies have shown that although most are aware of the widespread benefits of regular exercise, there are still many sedentary people around the world. Most of the world’s population does not do the minimum physical activity recommended by ACSM. The information about the trends is somewhat encouraging, as it demonstrates the concern of the population with body weight loss and its association with physical exercise. Also interesting to note is the association of lifestyle as a medicine in second place with personal training in third place. Regular exercise is essential to healthy longevity — which is reflected in the fourth trend of fitness programs for older adults. Functional training, increasingly due to its methodological characteristics, becomes an excellent alternative, alongside high intensity training and small group training. There is also the enhancement of professional training, certified professionals with strong scientific basis to assist the population interested in physical exercise. It is with great joy that, as I look at the trends as a whole, I see the solidification of exercise practice for children and the association with technological and physical space changes.”

Yu Liu, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at the Institute of Scientific Research, Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China. “Wearable technology (WT) was ranked no. 13 in the China Fitness Survey for 2020. This is a promising trend to achieve this higher ranking in a future China Survey, as there is a huge space for the improvement of WT. Specifically, the accuracy and the interpretation of the data collected by WT are two main domains for enhancement at this stage. Compared with the number of WT wrist bands and watches in the market, the investment on the accuracy of WT data is insufficient. One possible solution is to use a third-party independent authority to evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the data obtained from WT. Each WT should be evaluated before it can be sold in the market. This will build up trust in consumers, especially health and fitness professionals, since they then can use accurate and reliable data to make decisions on fitness program design and execution. The second issue is appropriate interpretation of the information provided by WT, which is even more important than the data. Health and fitness professionals may need professional development education in the interpretation of WT information and for the general population users, WT companies should provide detailed guidelines for self-interpretation of the data. In summary, more investment and research on the improvement of data accuracy and interpretation for WT is needed. I expect WT can play a more important role in health/fitness industry in the upcoming year.”

Ioannis G. Fatouros, Ph.D., is a professor of Biochemistry of Exercise at the School of Physical Education, Sports Science and Dietetics at the University of Thessaly in Trikala, Greece. “The results of this year’s ACSM’s Worldwide Survey for the 2020 top fitness trends are informative for the fitness industry. It appears that results from different regions around the globe share some common characteristics. Wearable technology is again a prevalent trend worldwide further supporting its role in motivating people toward a more active and healthy lifestyle and promoting adherence. Consumers are still interested in alternative exercise programs since HIIT, circuit training, yoga, group training, personal training, and outdoor activities remain top fitness trends for one more year. Another strong trend is the demand for programs promoting musculoskeletal conditioning as evidenced by the presence of training with free weights, bodyweight training, circuit training, functional fitness training, core training, and circuit training in the top 20 list. Health-related fitness targeting prevention, obesity, and emotional well-being remains strong since Exercise is Medicine®, health/wellness coaching, exercise for weight loss, lifestyle medicine, and worksite health promotion are very highly rated. Age-related fitness is coming up strong since fitness programs for older adults and children and exercise are included in the top 20 trends worldwide suggesting that the fitness industry must invest in this area with more educated professionals and safe and effective programs. This year’s survey revealed the persistent demand for qualified and certified fitness personnel, especially in Europe and the United States, who will guarantee training safety and efficiency. Interestingly, boutique fitness studios, mobile apps, and clinical fitness remain popular in Europe, China, and South America but not in the United States.”

Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., MPH, FACSM, is assistant professor of Medicine, Pew Foundation Scholar in Metabolism at the University of Maryland (Baltimore, MD). “A close examination of the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020 reveals an undercurrent of a growing revolution in the way we live. The achievement of an optimal health span now supersedes a focus on building brawn or shedding weight. None of these 2020 trends stands alone. Instead, they are interconnected, supporting a more integrative approach to healthy living. Debuting at no. 16, lifestyle medicine provides the groundbreaking blueprint for the practice of lifelong health-promoting behaviors. The overarching goal of attaining robust longevity is highlighted by intergenerational fitness trends for children as well as older adults. Health/wellness coaching is an essential and rising trend, critical to the support of a client’s habit and behavioral change strategies. No longer limited to gyms and exercise equipment, people of all ages are using their in-home and outdoor living environments to practice body weight training, yoga, and functional fitness while enjoying walking, hiking, and biking excursions in natural surroundings. Wearable technology — from smart watches to posture sensors and heart rate monitors — is now a fact of healthy lifestyle tracking, as evidenced by its status as the number one fitness trend. Integral to the process of messaging fitness as well as healthy lifestyle habits to consumers are certified fitness professionals capable of creating individualized or group activity plans that can now be accessed in-person or on multimedia platforms. Finally, encouraged by the global Exercise is Medicine® platform, primary care providers are welcoming the opportunity to team with fitness professional networks to help people achieve and enjoy a vibrant health and life span. The healthy lifestyle revolution is in full swing!”

Waldyr Soares is the founder of Fitness Brasil and a wellness specialist. “This study, conducted by Professors Paulo Amaral and Deborah Palma, with the support of Fitness Brasil, is focused on the national fitness market and is relevant to everyone who works in the fitness and wellness business ecosystem. For the first time in Brazil, research of this nature has been carried out. It will undoubtedly be instrumental in generating new business opportunities, as well as assisting students and physical education professionals in career planning. This research also has an important impact on Brazilian professional life involved with physical activity. The result of trends in Brazil confirms the interests of the population and, more than that, signals and strengthens the country that is already recognized as one of the most active in the fitness field. Hence, trends such as exercise for weight loss, lifestyle medicine, personal training, fitness programs for older adults, and certified fitness professionals can be translated as ‘Brazilians, including older adults, like to do exercises, pay certified professionals, because this is the way that they love to be.’ Thus, this Brazilian way of life is walking for wellness. Be part of the wellness revolution: the new era of physical education. The hope cannot come out of the chest, nor even in the purpose of the heart. Be more human; respect your family, your friends, colleagues, and customers. We are all responsible for transforming people’s lives. Together we are stronger!”

Julian Berriman, M.A., is the director of the Professionals Standards Committee at EuropeActive in Brussels, Belgium. “The results of the European survey underline the continued prominence of the personal trainer (PT) occupation. The no. 1 rating of this role is mirrored by the number of European training providers delivering EuropeActive’s PT educational standards, which far outstrips other fitness roles. It also shows how important the development of this occupation will be to the evolution of the industry. The high rating of small group PT in Europe, HIIT, body weight training, and functional fitness indicates a number of these evolutions and the need for PTs to ensure they update their skill sets through ongoing lifelong learning. Survey results also highlight an increasing health-related trend. More than one in three of top European fitness trends is strongly related to exercise training for health. This is supported by EuropeActive’s own surveys of European employers and in our skills foresight work, which identifies health and demographics as a main driver for change in the fitness industry. We cannot ignore the increasing prevalence of poor health, and our industry must play a key role in its prevention and management. We will only be trusted partners in the battle to save lives if we can establish our workforce as credible and respected health and fitness professionals. Education and training will be at the heart of the further professionalization of our exciting and health-enhancing industry. It is hugely encouraging to see employing certified fitness professionals and licensure for fitness professionals as top 20 trends — the need for competent exercise professionals has never been greater.”

Peijie Chen, Ph.D., is a professor and president of Shanghai University of Sport, Shanghai, China. “For more than a decade, ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends has provided important information for professionals working in the fitness industry. This year, I am pleased to see the China Survey of Fitness Trends published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. It is clear that the China survey has brought us interesting country-specific (and regional) information in addition to the worldwide survey. The top three trends in the China Survey — exercise for weight loss, exercise and sport for children and adolescents, and Exercise is Medicine® — are all closely related to public health issues. This result suggests that Chinese fitness professionals have become more aware of the important roles that exercise and sport play in promoting public health. In addition, professionals in the fitness industry have identified some specific populations programs such as for adolescents (nos. 2 and 14) and for women (no. 20). In this sense, I expect to see more attention given to the rapidly growing aging population in China, as evidence has suggested that appropriate physical activity can effectively improve function, participation, and quality of life for older adults, especially for those with chronic noncommunicable diseases. Not only can older people personally benefit from physical activity, it also helps the government save health care costs. I expect that the China trends will cover a variety of specific populations across the life span in the upcoming year.”

Copyright © 2019 by American College of Sports Medicine.