Top Fitness Trend for 2021 is Wearable Technology

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Won’t leave home without your fitness tracker?

If so, you’re part of a rapidly growing segment of consumers using technology to collect daily health metrics. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has announced its annual fitness trend forecast and, unsurprisingly, exercise pros say wearable technology will again be the top fitness trend in the coming year. The results were released in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends ” published in the most recent issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

“Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives. Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smart phone,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices.”

Now in its 15th year, the survey was completed by more than 1,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide, many certified by ACSM, and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Forty-two potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.

Body weight training, high-intensity interval raining (HIIT) and educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals also remained highly ranked on the survey,” said Thompson. “These trends reflect continued strong consumer interest in strength training and functional fitness.”

The top 10 fitness trends are:

1. Online training 

Virtual online training was first introduced on the annual survey in 2019 and debuted at no. 3 before dropping to no. 26 in 2020 when the “virtual” was dropped from the title in favor of the more specific online training. The big changes within the health fitness industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of clubs around the world forcing innovative delivery of classes. The challenges of engaging clients at a distance resulted in the use of some very strategic delivery systems. Online training was developed for the at-home exercise experience. This trend uses digital streaming technology to deliver group, individual, or instructional exercise programs online. Online training is available 24/7 and can be a live class (live streaming workouts) or prerecorded.

2. Wearable Technology

Includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.

3. Body Weight Training

Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.

4. Outdoor activities

Perhaps because of the COVID-19 pandemic, more outdoor activities such as small group walks, group rides, or organized hiking groups have become popular. They can be short events, daylong events, or planned weeklong hiking excursions. Participants can meet in a local park, hiking area, or on a bike trail typically with a designated leader. This trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010.

5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.

6. Virtual training

This is the first time that virtual training has appeared separately from virtual online training. For the purpose of the survey, virtual training was defined as the fusion of group exercise with technology offering workouts designed for ease and convenience to suit schedules and needs. Typically, virtual workouts are played in gyms on the big screen attracting smaller number of clients compared with live classes while providing clients of all levels and ages with a different group fitness experience. Virtual classes are often a gateway for live group fitness classes. Virtual workouts typically attract smaller numbers, and clients can go at their own pace, which makes it ideal if training a novice looking to learn the moves. As with online training, virtual training in the top 10 may be an industry reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

7. Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

8. Strength Training

Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility.)

9. Fitness programs for older adults

This trend is making a return after being in the top 10 since 2007 (when it was the no. 2 trend) and dropping to no. 11 in 2017. Fitness programs for older adults were the no. 9 trend in 2018, no. 4 in 2019, and no. 8 in 2020. This trend continues to stress the fitness needs of the Baby Boom and older generations. These individuals in general have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts, and fitness clubs may be able to capitalize on this growing market. People are living longer, working longer, and remaining healthy and active well into their retirement from work.

10. Personal training 

One-on-one training continues to be a strong 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 their individual needs and goals.

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