Worldwide Survey of Fitness: Where the Fitness Industry is Headed

The fitness and wellness landscape is radically changing before our eyes. If fitness was once considered as a simple means to stay fit, lose weight and gain some muscles, nowadays this is clearly no longer the case. New technologies are sprawling, old-fashioned training techniques are getting revamped or updated with a completely different spin, and target audiences who once would not even dare say the word “fitness” have now become strong advocates for change.

With such a revolution taking place, it’s only natural to be interested in what the future of this industry has in store for us. Will the trends that we have witnessed in 2018 phase out as temporary fads, or will they become a staple of the fitness industry for years to come?

The answer to this question is not trivial, as understanding the magnitude of these new trends could lead to more sustainable revenues for health clubs, more impactful investments for community and corporate programmes and higher member retention and revenues for fitness clubs. Likewise, it gives the fitness industry a glimpse into the minds of its consumers, helping companies to reroute or confirm the business strategies they have set for the future.

In response to these needs, the 13th Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019, conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), highlights 20 of the most relevant fitness trends in the commercial, clinical, community and corporate sectors for the year to come. The survey, whose first edition dates back to 2006, has been compiled with information from more than 2000 respondents worldwide and has produced interesting results on a trend-by-trend basis, evidencing the decline of traditional fitness practices with respect to the new needs of the audience.

Furthermore, it has revealed the presence of four macro categories on the rise, with at least one trend per category occupying the first five positions on the ranking. The four macro categories are:

Wearables and Fitness Technology

Wearable technologies consist of fitness trackers, smart watches, HR monitors and GPS trackers. They appeared as a major trend on the Worldwide Survey in 2016, when they scored the first position. These trackers are extremely useful in their ability to track and store biometrics, prompting people to work on their results and improve them over time.

Wearables will become more common and powerful to facilitate positive behaviour change. Blaine Wilson, MS, senior director of Wellcoaches Corporation, Texas.

Furthermore, cross connection among devices and online capabilities spice up workouts with increased competition and engagement. Challenges, built-in games, connection with applications and increasing artificial intelligence features are creating a whole new digital environment that encourages users to give their best, improving their physical condition in the process.
Apps also deserve a special mention. Gaining 15 positions from the last survey, fitness apps nowadays are featuring audio and video prompts to help users in their exercise, giving them total independence during their workout sessions. Some of these apps, like Technogym’s mywellness app, can connect to a multitude of wearable devices and other apps, enabling the user multiple training experiences.

Lastly, this trend in the survey shows that technology is extremely popular on well-tested devices, while it still needs to catch on in more innovative fields – such as, virtual reality training.

Group Training Sessions

Group classes have many benefits and people clearly know it. First and foremost, people attending these classes are continually motivated, taught and led by their instructors. This sort of experience works miracles for group class users, who are motivated to perform in an engaging environment.

In group training sessions, the positive benefits of competition can be used, and this can stimulate exercisers to perform and engage. Florentina Hettinga, PhD, SFHEA, FECSS, FACSM, , head of the Sport Performance and Fatigue Research Unit, University of Essex, UK.

Additionally, people prefer larger group classes over smaller ones because they are an excellent way to socialize and compete with a broader audience. Healthy competition is in fact a boon to training frequency and class attendance. Finally, new training formats emerge every day, meaning that users can be engaged with something ever-changing.
From cardio-based classes to workouts inspired by military boot camps, from training sessions aimed at enhancing functional movements to SKILLATHLETIC TRAINING - an entire training format aimed to maximize the athletic performance of the user, the list of options is getting more and more targeted to the specific needs of the users.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

As the name suggests, this kind of training typically involves short periods of high intensity exercises followed by short breaks. The key element in high intensity training lies in the time efficiency of the workout, which due to the level of effort, can only be performed in short sessions.

Consumers are seeking less traditional environments to engage in their physical activity and exercise pursuits. Yuri Feito, PhD, MPH, FACSM, associate professor of Exercise Science at Wellstar College of Health & Human Services, Georgia.

Indeed people, given the option of a long training session or a short and more demanding one with more visible results, would most likely choose the latter.
This aspect, as pointed out by the Worldwide survey has been criticized by part of the scientific community, as hastened exercises may be done incorrectly or cause too much physical strain. This is why new HIIT training formats heavily rely on a solid theoretical framework and on stringent safety measures. For example, SKILLATHELTIC TRAINING is based on the premise of developing four determining pillars of athletic performance (POWER, SPEED, AGILITY and STAMINA) over time, through controlled load and intensity progression and using real time HR monitoring, in order to grant the user the most time efficient training session possible.
The wide array of training options available is indeed another winning element for HIIT: from functional training to bodyweight exercises, users can easily train everywhere, effectively, more rapidly and thus more frequently.

Medical Fitness and Fitness for Older Adults

The sun is setting on those training formats solely aimed at weight loss and on the infamous 7 days 7 kilos diets. Although the struggle to get thinner during swimsuit season will always be alive and kicking, people no longer feel the need to be slim just for the sake of being slim. Instead, they are focusing on feeling healthier and being more active. Therefore, they seek advice from certified fitness professionals, who can guide them in their pursuit of wellness with dietary and training recommendations.
Others don’t just stop at healthcare professionals, but also hire personal trainers, who can in turn direct them in the correct execution of their training routines and motivate them along the way. The role of personal trainers cannot be stressed enough: as reported by the survey, since its inception in 2006 this trend has firmly remained in the top 10.

Fitness programs for older adults is essential for this rapidly growing population in need of age-specific physical activity. Wayne L. Westcott, PhD, professor of Exercise Science at Quincy College, Massachusetts.

It is not just the traditional demographic that has become more interested in healthcare. Older generations who were once outsiders of the fitness industry have rediscovered the important role of physical exercise in a balanced life. After all, people are living and working longer; so, they also want to remain healthy and active longer.
In this regard, medical fitness, or the prescription of fitness exercises to improve and maintain one’s health, is becoming extremely popular. Medical fitness not only has been shown to improve overall life expectancy and the quality of life of patients, but it (as demonstrated by initiatives like Exercise is Medicine® or Let's Move for a Better World) has also slashed healthcare costs, becoming a must have topic on the agendas of health departments worldwide.

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