According to the 13th annual Fitness Trends survey from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), wearable technology is forecast to stand out as next year’s most popular trend.

The findings are based on a survey of more than 2,000 health and fitness pros surveyed by the ACSM. Wearable technology landed at third in 2017.

“Technology is a must-have in our daily lives, and wearable tech can be an invaluable tool for those looking to get and stay physically active,” 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. “We can easily monitor heart rate, count steps, track calories and create plans. The data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user and their health care team about important daily health metrics like physical activity, and it encourages healthier lifestyle choices.”

Besides expanding popularity, wearable’s rise to the top trend for 2019 may have been fueled by manufacturers correcting monitoring inaccuracies in the past. Thompson added, “From teenagers to seniors, the growing number of people using wearable technology has never been higher,” said Thompson. “That means more and more people have fingertip access to tools and resources that can help them stay active and healthy.”

ACSM’s survey provided 39 potential trends to choose from, including possible new trends like virtual reality, community interventionist and Access Pass. None of the possible new trends made the top 20 list.

Other notable trends include group training, which maintained the number two spot; the continued popularity of high-intensity interval training (HIIT); a growing emphasis on employing certified fitness professionals and increased interest in workplace health and wellness programs.

The top 20 fitness trends for 2019 are:

  1. Wearable Technology. Wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices. Examples include fitness and activity trackers like those made by Misfit, Garmin, and Apple. These devices can track heart rate, calories, sitting time, and much more. Wearable technology first appeared as a fitness trend in 2016. It was the #1 trend in 2016 and 2017 before dropping to #3 for 2018.
  2. Group Training. Group exercise instructors teach, lead, and motivate individuals through intentionally designed, larger, in-person group movement classes (more than five participants, or it would be group personal training). Group classes are designed to be effective, motivational sessions for different fitness levels with instructors having leadership techniques that help individuals in their class achieve fitness goals. There are many types of classes and equipment, from cardio-based classes and indoor cycling to dance-based classes to step classes. For the 2019 survey, the description of this trend was changed from large group training to group training. Group exercise training programs have been around for a long time and have appeared as a potential worldwide trend since this survey was originally constructed. However, it was only in 2017 that group exercise training made the top 20, appearing at #6, and #2 in the 2018 survey
  3. 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. Although there are several commercial examples of HIIT, all emphasize higher intensities (above 90%) of maximum during the higher intensity segments followed by periods of rest and recovery. Although offered as a possible trend in previous surveys, but not making the top 20, HIIT was #1 in the survey for 2014 and 2018 and has been in the top five every year since 2014. Despite the warnings by some fitness professionals of potentially increased injury rates using HIIT, this form of exercise has been popular in gyms all over the world.
  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. This is a trend that emphasizes and caters to 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 capitalize on this growing market. People are living longer, working longer, and remaining healthy and active much longer. This trend is making a strong return after being in the top 10 since 2007 (when it was the #2 trend) before dropping   to #11 for 2017. Last year, fitness programs for older adults was the #9 trend.
  5. Bodyweight Training. A combination of variable resistance bodyweight training and neuromotor movements using multiple planes of movement, this program is all about using bodyweight as the training modality. Bodyweight training often uses minimal equipment, which makes it an inexpensive functional way to exercise effectively. Bodyweight training appeared for the first time in the trends survey in 2013 (at #3) and was in the #2 position for 2017 and #4 for 2018. Bodyweight training did not appear as a survey trend option before 2013 because it only became popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world over the past few years.
  6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals. The importance of hiring certified health/fitness professionals through educational programs and certification programs that are fully accredited for health/fitness professionals is more important than ever. More certification programs have become accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and thus allow employers easy access to certification validation. Employing certified fitness professionals was a new survey item for 2019 replacing “educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals,” which was determined to be too broadly defined as a survey item.
  7. Yoga. Yoga has taken on a variety of forms within the past year (including Power Yoga, Yogilates, yoga in hot environments, and others). Instructional tapes and books also 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 (#14) and 2011 (#11) surveys. In 2012, Yoga was #11 on the list, falling to #14 in 2013, and up to #7 in 2015. In 2017, it ranked #8 after occupying the #7 spot in 2015 and #10 in Yoga was ranked #7 in last year’s survey.
  8. Personal Training. This trend continues 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 each client’s individual needs and goals. Since this survey was first published in 2006 (1), personal training has been a top 10 trend.
  9. Functional Fitness Training. This is a trend toward using strength training and other activities/movements to improve balance, coordination, strength, and endurance to improve activities of daily living. Replicating actual physical activities someone might do as a function of their daily routine, functional fitness first appeared on the survey in the #4 position in 2007 but fell to #8 in 2008 and #11 in 2009. It reappeared in the top 10 for 2010 at #7 and in 2011 at #9. In 2012, functional fitness was #10 and in 2013 and 2014 it was #8, #9 for 2015, #7 in 2016, #12 in 2017, and #10 for Some of the survey respondents said they typically pair functional fitness with fitness programs for older adults (see trend #4) depending on the needs of the client. Functional fitness also is used in clinical programs to replicate activities done around the home.
  10. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity assessment and associated treatment recommendations as part of every patient visit, and referring their patients to exercise professionals. In addition, EIM recognizes fitness professionals as part of the health care team in their local communities. EIM was the #7 trend in 2017 and #12 for 2018.
  11. Health/Wellness Coaching. This is a trend to incorporate behavioral science into health promotion and lifestyle medicine programs for individuals. 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 to better describe the trend. Wellness coaching has been in the top 20 since 2010. Wellness coaching was listed at #17 in 2014, #13 in 2015, #13 for 2016, #15 in 2017, and #18 for 2018.
  12. Exercise for Weight Loss. This is a trend toward incorporating all weight loss programs with a sensible exercise program. Most sensationalized diet programs incorporate some kind of exercise program into the daily routine. However, in 2019, the coupling of diets, diet pills, and cooking classes with exercise will become more important. Exercise in weight loss programs has been a top 20 trend since the survey began. In 2009, exercise and weight loss was ranked #18, moving to #12 in 2010, #7 in 2011, and #4 in 2012, and in 2013 the #5 spot. In 2014, this trend was ranked #6 and remained at #6 for 2015. Exercise and weight loss was #9 in the 2016 survey and #10 in the 2017 survey. In 2018, exercise for weight loss was the #11 trend.
  13. Mobile Exercise Apps. Now available for mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPad, and Android, apps like Nike Run Club and MapMyRun or Ride include both audio and visual prompts to begin and end exercise and cues to move on. Other apps include Endomondo Pro and Yoga with Janet Stone among many others. Some of these apps can track progress over time as well as hundreds of other functionalities. Previous surveys restricted this trend to mobile phone apps. Smartphone apps was ranked #26 for 2018.
  14. Mobility/Myofascial Devices. These devices include the deep tissue roller, myofascial release, and trigger point relief and are designed to massage, relieve muscle tightness and muscle spasms, increase circulation, ease muscular discomfort, and assist in the return to normal activity. Rollers have been designed for the low back, the hips, and larger muscle groups, such as the hamstrings and the gluteals. Some rollers are made of foam, whereas others are hard rubber, to achieve the desired effect. Flexibility rollers were the #16 trend in 2016, #20 in 2017, and #15 for 2018.
  15. Worksite Health Promotion and Workplace Well-being Programs. This is a trend toward a range of programs and services provided by employers to improve the health and wellness of workers and is integrated with systems to support the evaluation of and reporting on the impact on health, costs, and productivity. Programs are generally on-site or programmed with a local gym. Previous surveys restricted this trend to worksite health promotion. For the 2019 survey, workplace well-being programs was added to the description. Worksite health promotion was the #16 trend in 2017 before dropping out of the top 20 for 2018.
  16. Outcome Measurements. This is a trend toward accountability. There will be efforts to define, track, and report outcomes. 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. Outcome measurements was the #21 trend for 2018.     .
  17. Outdoor Activities. This is a trend for health and fitness professionals to offer more outdoor activities such as group walks, group rides, or organized hiking groups. They can be short events, daylong events, or planned week hiking excursions. Participants may meet in a local park, hiking area, or on a bike trail with a leader. The trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010. In that year, outdoor activities was #25 in the annual survey and in 2011 it ranked #27. In 2012, outdoor activities was #14, and in 2013, outdoor activities were ranked #13, in 2014 it was #14, in 2015 it was #12, in 2016 it was ranked #14 and #13 in 2017. In 2018, outdoor activities was ranked #14.
  18. Licensure for Fitness Professionals. Some professions in the United States and around the world are regulated by licensure. For example, someone cannot call themselves a medical doctor or nurse, and in most states, a physical therapist or dietitian, without holding a license. This is a trend in the fitness industry for more regulations of fitness professionals such as personal trainers. Licensure for fitness professionals first appeared as a fitness trend in 2018 when it was ranked #16.
  19. Small Group Personal Training. This trend expands the personal trainer’s role from strictly one-on-one training to small group training. The personal trainer works with two or more people (but in a small group of less than five) and offers discounts for the group. In 2007, group personal training was #19 on the list but in 2008 it rose to #15 but dropped again in 2009 to #19 and improved to #10 in 2010. In 2011, group personal training was #14 on the survey, #8 in 2012, #10 in 2013, #9 in 2014, #10 in 2015, #11 in 2016, #14 in 2017, and #13 for 2018.
  20. Post-rehabilitation Classes. These are exercise programs specifically designed for patients with chronic health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke recovery, which are generally outside of a medical referral; also could include post-traumatic disorders seen in soldiers coming back from military combat. Post-rehabilitation classes was ranked #27 for 2018.

Image courtesy Garmin