ACSM Unveils Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2020

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The American College of Sports Medicine circulates a survey to professionals around the globe to compile an annual list of fitness industry trends published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal

This year’s list includes trends identified by survey respondents in previous years, but also includes new additions that could shape the industry throughout the new year and beyond.

Wearable technology topped the trend list for the second consecutive year, marking the fourth time in the past five surveys that respondents gave it the top spot. According to the ACSM, wearable tech is already a $95 billion industry, encompassing such monitors as Apple Watches, Samsung Gear devices, Fitbit and more. These wearables continue to be compelling to users, despite some concerns over accuracy that have been noted in years past.

High-intensity interval training was identified as the No. 2 trend on the 2020 list, supplanting group training in that spot from the previous year. Gyms the world over are deploying some form of HIIT programming, despite some concerns of increased injury risk. 

Group training, defined as an activity led by an instructor including more than five participants, fell to No. 3 in 2020. Despite being available as an option since the ACSM launched its survey 14 years ago, group training first cracked the top 20 trends list in 2017.

Training with free weights was identified as the fourth most popular fitness trend for 2020. Prior surveys simply asked survey respondents to consider strength training as an option, but that was considered to be too broad of a category, so this year’s survey broke out free weight training as its own option. Free weights, barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells and medicine balls all fall under the category, with instructors teaching correct form first and progressing to greater resistance. 

The No. 5 trend on the 2020 list was personal training. This kind of one-on-one coaching is more accessible than ever, with personal trainers available not just on premise at the health club, but also online. 

The rest of the top 20 fitness trends as measured by survey responses were as follows:

  • 6) Exercise is Medicine®️
  • 7) Body weight training
  • 8) Fitness programs for older adults
  • 9) Health/wellness coaching
  • 10) Employing certified fitness professionals
  • 11) Exercise for weight loss
  • 12) Functional fitness training
  • 13) Outdoor activities
  • 14) Yoga
  • 15) Licensure for fitness professionals
  • 16) Lifestyle medicine
  • 17) Circuit training
  • 18) Worksite health promotion and workplace well-being programs
  • 19) Outcome measurements
  • 20) Children and exercise

Notable categories that fell out of the top 20 from last year include: mobile exercise apps, mobility/myofascial devices, small group personal training and post-rehabilitation classes. The trends were broken down in detail in the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal.

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