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05 Jan 2024

ACSM publishes its 2024 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends
BY Kath Hudson

ACSM identified exercise as medicine for older adults as a major trend

ACSM identified exercise as medicine for older adults as a major trend
photo: Shutterstock/Liderina

The fitness industry is gearing up to engage with the medical profession according to the results of the American College of Sport’s Medicine (ACSM) trends list for 2024.

Now in its 18th year, the annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends gathers data from thousands of respondents to predict the trends which will impact the fitness industry.

While trends vary across the globe, exercise for improved health outcomes is prevalent everywhere, including exercise for weight loss in response to the obesity epidemic, exercise for older adults and exercise as medicine.

ACSM says: “Trends relating to health and special populations seem strong, suggesting a promising collaboration between the medical and fitness communities to support public health through physical activity and exercise.”

Results of the main survey are as follows:

1.
Wearable technology has been at the top of the table since 2016, with the exception of being third in 2018 and second in 2021. Since technology is accessible, keeps evolving and is increasingly being used to personalise programmes and track progress, it’s no surprise it is enduringly popular.

2.
Worksite health promotion came second, which suggests an increased awareness of the benefits of supporting the health of the workforce.

Ill health among working-age people is increasing dramatically with an associated economic cost: in the UK, The Health Foundation estimates around 7.4m people are struggling with a health condition which limits their work and earning potential. Providing health-promoting opportunities at work, such as fitness facilities or preventative screenings, can lower insurance costs, increase workplace productivity and improve mental health.

3. Fitness programmes for older adults: the Western world has an ageing population and old age leads to an increased risk of chronic illness, cognitive impairment, stroke and falls. Regular aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity can maintain independence and quality of life for longer, so this is an obvious space for the fitness industry to step into.

4. Exercise for weight loss is up from eighth in 2023 and recognises the role regular exercise can play in improving metabolic function and reducing body fat, as well as how obesity and its comorbidities are on the rise.

5. Reimbursement for Qualified Exercise Professionals (QEPs) is testament to the part qualified exercise professionals can play in the health care continuum. An ACSM Task Force was formed in 2021 to advocate for policy change to allow insurance billing for patient services performed by QEPs to improve physical activity outcomes and quality of life.

6. Employing Certified Exercise Professionals is a consistent top 10 trend and reflects the increasing professionalisation of the industry with health and fitness providers hiring trained professionals to lead fitness programmes.

7. Mobile exercise apps are in the top ten for the first time. This trend reflects the proliferation of smart phone apps now available to support individuals in their training programmes, to track progress, acquire skills and be part of a supportive online community.

8. Exercise for mental health is number eight and acknowledges the increasing awareness, in both the industry and consumers, that movement can improve mental health, cognition and mood.

9. Youth athletic development: it’s easier to learn and develop skills when young – which is the basis of the recently launched Physical Literacy Consensus Statement for England – as well as a rise in training facilities and programmes aimed at young people in the US. ACSM recommends exercise professionals considering speciality training to work with this population.

10. Personal training has been a popular trend throughout the lifespan of the survey and indicates that one-to-one training still has major appeal.

Further down the list from 11 to 20 are:

11. Lifestyle medicine (promoting healthy behaviours);

12. Outdoor fitness activities (less popular since the pandemic);

13. Health and wellness coaching (health promotion and lifestyle medicine programmes);

14. Functional fitness training, yoga, exercise is medicine (encouraging health care providers to use exercise as part of a recovery plan);

15. Traditional strength training (surprise drop from second last year);

16. Data-driven training technology (using real time feedback during a workout);

17. Online personal training and HIIT.

In the European report, personal training is top of the ranks, followed by HIIT and small group training, with wearable technology coming in at number 15. Other notable differences include rehabilitation classes at number 11; walking, running, jogging and cycling clubs at number 17; boutique fitness studios at 18 and Pilates at 19.

In Australia, exercise for mental health was top of the leaderboard, followed by fitness programmes for older adults and group training. Inclusive exercise services were number 10.

Exercise for weight loss was number one in Mexico; in Brazil it was fitness programmes for older adults. Like the rest of Europe, personal training came out top in Portugal and in Spain it was functional fitness training.

In the UAE exercise for weight loss was the top trend, followed by personal training and strength training. Boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts were number five.

This year 22 per cent of respondents were either full-time or part-time personal trainers, 51 per cent were men with an average age of 39.2 years. Dieticians, gym owners and medical professionals were also among the cohort questioned.

Specific reports are also available for Australia, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Portugal, Spain. For the first time individual reports have been prepared for Chile, Italy and UAE.




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