A new year symbolizes a fresh start—and the perfect chance to reboot your stale workouts with one of 2017's top fitness trends.
In the upcoming year, wearable tech, body weight training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) will be huge, according to an annual report published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The 11th annual report surveyed 1,801 fitness professionals, including personal trainers, wellness coaches, exercise physiologists, and college professors.
“We don’t consider items as trends for this list unless they’re sustained over many years,” says report author and ACSM president-elect Walter Thompson, PhD.
Read on to find out more about what's to come in the fitness world in 2017.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches have been hot holiday gifts for the last few years, and the ACSM says that trend won't be going anywhere in 2017—and in fact, it will only get bigger. Recent updates from brands like Garmin, Apple, and Fitbit have sent the trend to number one for the upcoming year. Thompson was surprised wearable tech remained at the top of the list this year. “In past years, there were questions about the accuracy of this technology,” he says. “But I think brands have upped their games and the especially accurate wearables have kept this trend around.”
Today’s wearables track distance, and also provide heart rate readings, GPS route tracking, move reminders, and so much more.
Want to hop on the wearable bandwagon? Read our fitness editor’s review of 2016’s best gadgets to find the right one for your needs.
Body weight training
It's easy to see why no-equipment workouts are so popular: They're relatively easy to learn, they can be modified to suit any ability level, and they can be done just about anywhere. Plus, body weight exercises are an efficient way to get fit for free. (That’s probably why the method has been ranked in the survey since 2013.) Pushups and pull-ups are classic bodyweight moves, but there are plenty more to choose from, like squats, lunges, and planks, just to name a few.
HIIT's helps you torch calories fast by alternating quick bursts of high-intensity exercise with short rest periods. It can be found in all types of workouts, from Pilates (Blogilates founder Cassey Ho incorporates the method into her YouTube workouts) to CrossFit and boot camp classes. “High profile fitness companies are huge proponents of this form of exercise,” says Thompson. “If they continue to advertise and support HIIT, I don’t see it leaving the trend list anytime soon.”
To try a high-intensity interval training workout yourself, spend 20 to 30 minutes total combining repeated shorts bursts of work with short break periods, like 45 seconds of burpees with 15 seconds of rest followed by 45 seconds of squats. A guided option, like this 20-minute HIIT workout video can burn around 190 calories per session and will keep your metabolism fired up long after you finish the routine.
Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals
The number of people who want to become personal trainers keeps growing, and they have more options than ever to earn accreditation. “Overall, people who work in the fitness industry are much more accountable and professional than previously,” says Thompson. He attributes this trend to clients becoming smarter about who they seek out for fitness-related help.
Not only is there continued growth in college and university programs, but there are more than 250 third-party certification organizations committed to teaching personal trainers best practices. As for the future of personal trainers and fitness professionals, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts these occupations to only increase in popularity, with employment of fitness professionals to rise 8% between 2014 and 2024.
Gone are the days when the biggest fitness buffs out there stuck to cardio. Today, they know they can't miss strength training's science-backed benefits, such as boosting longevity, building muscle mass, and protecting against diabetes, back pain, and more. Plus, a growing number of women, in particular, have come to realize that lifting weights won't necessarily make them bulky, and in fact will help them burn more fat and boost metabolism.
SoulCycle, PureBarre, Orangetheory, CrossFit—they're all forms of group training, a huge fitness trend that will continue to thrive in 2017. The current group training movement kicked off in 2008 in conjunction with the beginning of the Great Recession, when the expense of personal training became a luxury many Americans could no longer afford, says Thompson. With many people using services like ClassPass to replace a gym membership entirely, we don't see the group training trend dying down any time soon.
Exercise Is Medicine
Regular exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, and other chronic diseases, and serves as a powerful stress-reducer and mood-booster. That's why the ACSM and the American Medical Association co-launched Exercise Is Medicine, a global movement that encourages physicians to refer patients to fitness professionals in their communities, and likewise, encourages fitness professionals to make connections with physicians. With health care costs on the rise, and with the future of the U.S. health insurance industry uncertain, using exercise as a preventive health tool is perhaps more important than ever.
Your zenned-out yogi friend is onto something: this ancient mind-body practice can be practiced on the go and can boost your mood, improve your sex life, and strengthen your entire body. Yoga has been around for thousands of years and has been a modern fitness trend for at least a decade, so how does it continue to be so popular? ACSM notes that while traditional Ashtanga, Hatha, and Vinyasa classes are readily available, fitness pros are also constantly finding new ways to reinvent yoga—think aerial yoga, hot yoga, and rope wall yoga.
Personal training is a perennial trend (it's been on the ACSM's annual list since it launched in 2006) and not much has changed about it over the years—these professionals generally provide one-on-one sessions that provide a more immersive and personalized experience for fitness seekers. But one important shift is happening in the industry: More education. A growing number of fitness professionals are seeking out formal education in kinesiology and exercise science, and credentialing is becoming more important to the facilities that employ them. Quality of trainers has increased along with the sheer number of trainers available, says Thompson, because certifications and qualifications weed out the trainers who aren't top-notch in such a saturated market. (If you're not 100% happy with your own personal trainer, check out these signs it's time to break up.)
Exercise and weight loss
Achieving a healthy weight will never go out of style, and a healthy diet combined with regular exercise is the best way to reach your weight loss goal. In fact, using fitness as a way to shed fat has appeared on the ACSM's annual list since the survey’s inaugural year in 2006. “Most of the well-publicized diet plans integrate exercise in addition to the daily routine of providing prepared meals to their clients,” says the survey.
Fitness programs for older adults
Baby Boomers ushered in an unprecedented fitness revolution back in the '80s, and now, they're reaching retirement age and still enjoying the perks of physical activity, the survey suggests. More businesses are tailoring classes to better serve this aging population. “Even the frail elderly can improve their balance and ability to perform activities of daily living when given appropriate functional fitness program activities,” the survey says.
Although Thompson is happy to see this group targeted by the industry, he is disappointed another group has been forgotten: overweight and obese kids and teens. “The industry seems to be giving up on this population because they aren’t profitable,” he says. Programs for overweight and obese youth ranked in the top 20 of last year’s survey, but was kicked off the list for 2017, despite the fact the youth obesity rate has yet to decrease in recent years. He hopes fitness professionals and businesses reconsider this population in future years, as they have with older adults.
Functional training gives you the type of strength that really matters: the kind that lets you move furniture, lift a suitcase into an overhead bin, or carry your toddler. In other words, it improves your coordination, balance, force, power, and endurance and helps enhance your ability to perform normal daily activities. This trend has moved up and down on the survey ranking since 2007. In addition to being a big part of CrossFit programs, functional fitness is often used in clinical programs to help with rehabilitation and independent living for older adults.
Think a personal trainer will only have you working out in a gym? Not so much—these days, they're recommending all kinds of outdoor activities to clients as a way to enhance their overall fitness, the ACSM survey says. The survey considers outdoor activity as anything from kayaking to pick-up basketball to high-adventure excursions like camping and rock climbing. Experts say you can burn upward of 530 calories an hour when hiking, and even more if the wind resistance is high. Outdoor excursions have mental benefits too: greenery elicits a mood-boosting response after just five minutes. Plus, doesn’t a breathtaking mountain view sound much more exhilarating than your gym’s television screen?
Group personal training
This trend mixes the effectiveness of a one-on-one personal trainer with the economic sensibilities of a group class. Between two and four people can elect to use a group personal trainer, who can focus on this small group while not charging the same high prices they would for a purely individual session. “In these challenging economic times, personal trainers are being more creative in the way they package personal training sessions and how they market themselves to small groups,” says the survey. That explains why this trend has made the list since 2007 and remained through 2017.
As opposed to personal training, health and wellness coaching focuses on the more mental aspects of wellness, like goal-setting. These coaches provide support and encouragement for clients who want to meet certain goals in their health, like participating in rehabilitation or disease prevention. Recently, personal trainers have implemented the techniques of wellness coaches into their fitness practices, blending the two trends into one.
Worksite health promotion
Companies are beginning to realize that a healthy employee is a happy, more productive employee—and that creating programs and services that promote positive behaviors like working out, quitting smoking, and losing weight ultimately controls rising health care costs. If your company already offers things on-site yoga, gym reimbursement, or Weight Watchers, ACSM predicts you'll see more of that in 2017.
Smartphone exercise apps
At this point, who hasn't tried MyFitnessPal or Nike+ Training Club? Fitness smartphone apps will continue to be trendy in 2017. Whether you're looking for meal planning help or programs that let you work out in your own home, there's probably an app out there for you. Similar to wearables, these apps have been questioned for their accuracy, but younger gym-goers and fitness lovers don’t seem to mind. It’s projected that as these apps become more accurate, usage will rise too.
You may have never heard of this trend before, but there’s a chance you’ve used it. “It’s quite literally using numbers to measure your progress,” says Thompson. “It’s a way to hold your instructor or personal trainer or yourself accountable when trying to meet fitness goals.” For example, weight can act as an outcome measurement if your goal is to shed a few pounds. If your personal trainer says he can help you to lose 30 pounds in 3 months and you fall short, it’s a way to check your trainer’s ability to help as well as your own habits. These measurements are another trend professionalizing the fitness industry, says Thompson.
While similar to HIIT, the survey defines circuit training as a lower-intensity option when compared to its non-stop work counterpart. Typically, 10 exercises are chosen and completed one after another in a circuit with rest between each exercise. Then, the circuit is repeated. For beginners who want to get in a workout but find high-intensity interval training intimidating, circuit training could be the answer. This form of training, which has been around since 1953 according to the survey, can be done on your own or at gyms with more specialized equipment.
Flexibility and mobility rollers
Stretching before and after a workout has been considered useful for some time now, but foam rollers, which offer more deep-tissue massage action, have become popular in the last few years. These tools, which come in smooth or raised-bump cylinders, improve circulation and relieve muscle tension. To test out this trendy piece of fitness equipment, try these foam roller exercises.