2020 Fitness Trends — According to an exhaustive ACSM’s annual survey of worldwide fitness trends, now in its 14th year, fitness professionals conclude these trends are here to stay:
Wearable technology. Wearable technology was again the no. 1 trend as it has been since 2016 and includes fitness trackers, smart watches, HR monitors, and GPS tracking devices. Examples include fitness and activity trackers like those manufactured by Fitbit®, Samsung Gear Fit2®, Misfit®, Garmin®, and Apple®. These devices can track HR, calories, sitting time, and much more.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT). These exercise programs typically involve short bursts of high-intensity bouts of exercise followed by a short period of rest. While a part of the survey as a possible trend in previous years but not making the top 20, HIIT was no. 1 in the survey for 2014 and 2018 (dropped to no. 3 in 2016 and 2017) and has been in the top 5 between 2014 and 2020. Although there are several commercial club examples of HIIT, all emphasize higher intensities (above 90%) of maximum during the increased intensity segments followed by periods of rest and recovery.
Training with free weights. Previous surveys included a category described as “strength training.” Determined to be too broad a category, strength training was dropped in favor of the more specific free weight training. Free weights, barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, and medicine ball classes do not just incorporate barbells into another functional class or activity. Instructors start by teaching proper form for each exercise and then progressively increase the resistance once the correct form is accomplished.
Personal training. One-on-one training continues to be a trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, in the home, and in worksites that have fitness facilities. Personal training includes fitness testing and goal setting with the trainer working one on one with a client to prescribe workouts specific to clients’ individual needs and goals. Since this survey was first published in 2006, personal training has been a top 10 trend. Personal training was no. 9 in 2017 and was no. 8 in 2018 and 2019.
Body weight training. Using a combination of variable resistance body weight training and neuromotor movements employing multiple planes of movement, this program is all about using body weight as the training modality. Body weight training uses minimal equipment, which makes it an inexpensive way to exercise effectively.
Health/wellness coaching. This is a growing trend to integrate behavioral science into health promotion and lifestyle medicine programs. Health/Wellness coaching uses a one-on-one (and at times small group) approach with the coach providing support, goal setting, guidance, and encouragement. The health/wellness coach focuses on the client’s values, needs, vision, and short- and long-term goals using behavior change intervention strategies. Previous surveys included wellness coaching, but for the 2019 survey, the term “health” was added, which better describes the trend.
Functional fitness training. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance, coordination, muscular strength, and endurance to improve activities of daily living typically for older adults but also in clinical populations. Replicating actual physical activities someone might do as a function of their daily routine, 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 in 2010 at no. 7 and in 2011 at no. 9. Functional fitness was no. 10 in 2012, no. 8 in 2013 and 2014, no. 9 in 2015, no. 7 in 2016, no. 12 in 2017, no. 10 in 2018, and no. 9 in 2019.
Outdoor activities. More outdoor activities such as group walks, group rides, or organized hiking groups are becoming popular. They can be short events, daylong events, or planned weeklong hiking excursions. Participants often meet in a local park, hiking area, or on a bike trail typically with a leader. This trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010. In that year, the trend outdoor activities was no. 25 in the annual survey, and in 2011, it ranked no. 27. This trend was no. 14 in 2012, no. 13 in 2013, no. 14 in 2014, no. 12 in 2015, no. 14 in 2016, no. 13 in 2017, no. 14 in 2018, and no. 17 in 2019.
Yoga. Yoga has taken on a variety of forms in the past (including Power Yoga, Yogilates, yoga in hot environments, and many others). On-demand videos and books are plentiful, as are certifications in the many yoga formats. Yoga first appeared in the top 10 in this survey in 2008, fell out of the top 20 in 2009, but made a great comeback in the 2010 (no. 14) and 2011 surveys (no. 11). In 2012, yoga was no. 11 on the list, falling to no. 14 in 2013 and up to no. 7 in 2015. In 2017, it ranked no. 8 after occupying the no. 7 spot in 2015 and no. 10 in 2016. Yoga was ranked no. 7 in 2018 and 2019.
Lifestyle medicine. Lifestyle medicine is the evidence-based practice of helping individuals and families adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that affect health and quality of life. Examples of target patient behaviors include, but are not limited to, eliminating tobacco use, improving diet, increasing physical activity, and moderating alcohol consumption. Lifestyle medicine promotes healthy behaviors as the foundation to medical care, disease prevention, and health promotion. Lifestyle medicine debuts for the first time in the fitness trends survey at no. 16.
Circuit training. Circuit training appeared for the first time in the top 20 trends at no. 18 in 2013, and it occupied the no. 14 position in 2015, up from no. 15 in 2014. It was trend no. 18 in 2016 and no. 19 in 2017, improving to no. 17 in 2018 but dropping again to no. 21 in 2019. Some respondents pointed out that circuit training is similar to HIIT, but at a much lower or even moderate intensity (some have called this moderate intensity interval training). Circuit training is typically a group of about 10 exercises that are completed in succession and in a predetermined sequence.