Want the inside track on the latest fitness trends? Whether it’s the weighted hula hoop on TikTok or meteoric rise of wearable tech, there’s always something new in the industry. So, what’s hot in fitness and exercise right now?
In this article – we analyse the latest fitness and workout trends, along with what they mean for the industry.
Let’s start with a quick snapshot of the top 10 fitness trends for 2023 according to the ACSM…
- Wearable Technology ↔
- Strength training with free weights ↑
- Body weight training ↑
- Fitness programs for older adults ↑
- Functional fitness training ↑
- Outdoor activities ↓
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT) ↔
- Exercise for weight loss ↓
- Employing certified fitness professionals ↑
- Personal Training ↓
The arrows indicate how they’ve changed since last year (i.e. whether they’re trending upwards or downwards). Because the ACSM survey fitness professionals on this topic annually, their data is really helpful in analysing trends over several years (instead of what’s hot in a particular season).
#1 – Wearable Tech
As you can see, wearable tech is the #1 fitness trend for the second year in a row. It was also the top trend in 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020, so is pretty well-established.
It’s no surprise then that the fitness tracker market was worth $38bn in 2022 and is growing at 15-20% each year. The segment is forecast to reach $78.4bn in revenue by 2026.
#2 – Strength Training With Free Weights
This has been a staple workout method since the earliest days of fitness training. Prior to 2020 the category was described as ‘strength training’ but ACSM felt it was too broad to made it more specific. It’s a consistent trend that’s almost always in the top 10.
#3 – Body Weight Training
Body weight training is another regular in the top 10 since its introduction to the survey in 2013. It’s one of the trends on this list that was boosted by recent global events when more people were exercising at home, but has maintained its popularity.
#4 – Fitness Programs for Older Adults
We’ll be honest – this one surprised us. Although it’s hovered in the top 20 for the last few years, we wouldn’t have picked it as the fourth most popular trends. As people live longer and the global population ages, there’ll clearly be more demand in this area so it’s brilliant that fit pros and gym owners already recognise this.
#5 – Functional Fitness
Functional fitness has returned as a top 10 fitness trend, after a couple of years lower down the list. Exercises that benefit daily living may not be the most exciting elements of a fitness program, but they’re hugely beneficial. Growing awareness and public health campaigns on this theme may be supporting the increased popularity of this trend.
#6 – Outdoor Activities
Outdoor activities and HIIT are two other trends that were boosted by people exercising at home, but seem to have maintained their popularity. People crave nature, space, and a sense of freedom which outdoor workouts can tap into.
#7 – HIIT
With the ever increasing scientific evidence of HIIT’s health and weight loss benefits, it’s no surprise that it remains popular. Coupled with people’s busier lives, the fact that it provides maximal fitness results in minimal time positions it well for the future.
#8 – Exercise for weight loss
This is always a central theme in the fitness industry. Not really surprising given it’s a $26bn industry in itself. What is changing is the way society views and talks about excess weight – the fitness industry needs to take note of the body positivity and empowerment movement.
#9 – Employing certified fitness professionals
Call us cynical, but this one always raises an eyebrow for us. There is absolutely no question that fitness professionals should be highly trained and qualified. Anyone who influences the health and wellness of others should be rigourously certified. But of all the survey respondents, the largest proportion (22%+) aren’t currently certified, so something is amiss.
#10 – Personal Training
Another consistent staple of the top 10, personal training remains valued by clients and a popular career choice too. As people increasingly recognise that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to fitness rarely works, personal training looks set to endure.
What does it all mean?
The trends this year are positive reading for gyms, studios, and personal trainers. The shifts are unambiguous – according to these survey results, home gyms and online classes are out.
This could signal a much-needed return to normality for the industry. Many of the trends are ones that were consistently popular prior to 2020 and have now returned.
ClassPass trends report are both particularly good and can help you get ahead of the curve.
In previous years, we’ve highlighted the industry shift towards more minimalist fitness – something that remains evident in the latest survey.
Activities that don’t require any special equipment (such as HIIT, outdoor activities, and bodyweight training) all feature in the top 10. However equipment-based activities (like indoor cycling, stability ball workouts, and suspension training) are nowhere to be seen.
Despite the trend towards minimalism, wearables have maintained their top spot, so there’s clearly market appetite for personalisation, tracking, and tech.
The allure of stylish smartwatches and GPS trackers doesn’t seem to be fading, although questions remain over their effectiveness in supporting fitness goals.
So there you have a summarised version of the ACSM fitness trends survey results. Now let’s dive into some of the more detailed analysis…
Fitness Trends – Minimalism & Millennials
This overall trend wasn’t highlighted in the ACSM survey analysis but seems to mirror a larger cultural shift towards simpler living. The tiny house movement, minimalist product design, and preferences for real food over processed, all reflect our desire for a simpler lifestyle.
It also appears to reflect millennial preferences towards personalisation and experiences over material things – as demonstrated by the rise of boutique studios. This is hardly surprising given that fitness pros aged 22-34 were the biggest number of respondents to the survey.
So, you might now be wondering what didn’t make the top trends… Well, online training, Pilates, and aquatic exercise were all notably absent.
You might also like… our articles on Yoga Industry Insights, Growth Areas & Trends. and Nutrition Market Trends & Growth Segments.
Surprisingly, exercise programs for overweight and obese children dropped out of the top 20 a couple of years back and haven’t resurfaced. With childhood obesity on the increase, it’s a little concerning that the focus on supporting this area seems to be declining.
However, fitness programs for older adults and Exercise Is Medicine did make it into the top 10 and 20 respectively. This is promisingly as the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement and looking for ways to stay active.
One Last Note On Trends…
Despite the rigourous data analysis that these fitness trends are based on, there are three things to bear in mind when interpreting them…
- By their nature, trends go up and down. To quote the investment sector, historical data is not a guarantee of future performance.
- It’s sometimes hard to differentiate fads from trends until after they’ve plummeted in popularity.
- Some trends are ‘manufactured’ by equipment suppliers who want to shift more of their products, so take their predictions with a pinch of salt.
With those caveats in mind, we still hope you find this an interesting insight into the key trends in our industry. Benefiting from the collective wisdom of 3700+ fitness professionals is pretty awesome, so the trends they’ve highlighted are definitely worth paying attention to.
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What do you think about these fitness trends for 2023? Are any of them surprising? Is there anything you think is missing? Let us know your thoughts…