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Now in its ninth consecutive year, the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2015 has published key insights to help fitness professionals determine which factors are causing particular fitness trends to increase or decrease in popularity.

Topping the fitness trends

The survey reports, “High-intensity interval training took over the number one spot in 2014, previously held by educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals, which was in that position since 2008 and now appears at number three. However, bodyweight training has now taken the number one spot for 2015.”

Bodyweight training was first in the spotlight when it was highlighted in the trends survey in 2013 at number three. The reason behind its slow climb to popularity is due to it only becoming a defined trend within gyms in the last couple of years. However, despite finally only reaching the top spot in 2015, individuals have used their bodyweight for centuries as a form of resistance training.  This method of training appears an inexpensive option for gyms due to minimal equipment use – the supposed limitations of the push-up and pull-up certainly appear to be a belief of the past. So, take note, bodyweight training is a trend to watch for the future.

The survey provides a detailed study of specific trends that have appeared dominant for many years in the industry but have now dropped off the top trends list. By way of example, Zumba was recorded in the top 10 (at number nine) in 2012 but dropped off the top 20 list last year (reaching number 28 in 2014 and number 34 in the 2015 list). In accordance with the published results from the ACSM survey, Pilates, indoor cycling, stability ball and balance training “failed to appear on the list of top 20 trends in the health and fitness industry, which supports the theory that these were fads and not trends.”

The survey’s respondents (of which there were 3,403 in total) argued that the “persistent, sluggish economy has influenced the results of this survey”. An important note is that the above training programmes require both technical instruction and expensive equipment, thus resulting in an increase in cost. Trend watching for 2015 indeed, the survey respondents took the view that “indoor cycling and Zumba have run their course”.

Retaining a high position in the chart, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was recorded at number two in the survey, proving there is still a demand for HIIT. Despite the continued growth of HIIT training, however, survey respondents did raise concern over high injury levels when carrying out a short, intensive burst of exercise.

PT remains high

With many younger clients training exclusively with weights, strength training continues to be popular within the industry. “It is not uncommon at all for cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation or metabolic disease management programmes to include weight training in the exercise programmes for patients,” the survey reports. Personal training has remained in the top 10 ranking for the past nine years and exercise and weight loss has continued to be a trend since the survey first began.

Finally, yoga has taken a leap forwards, appearing at number seven in the 2015 trends list, which is no surprise considering the diversity of yoga in recent times and the increasingly popular yoga forms, such as power yoga and Bikram.

Brad A Roy, executive director at the Summit Medical Fitness Center, Kalispell Regional Medical Center, said, “Within the rapidly increasing number of older adults, prevention of falls and maintenance of mobility will be key strategies.”

He added, “As such, various forms of mobility and strength training, such as yoga, bodyweight training, functional training and various forms of interval training, will continue to be used. From the perspective of medically integrated fitness facilities, I was a bit surprised that physician referral programmes remain out of the top 20. Such partnerships are an important strategy towards engaging the large percentage of inactive individuals and certainly a strong focus of the worldwide Exercise is Medicine (EIM) initiative that continues to expand.”

Delve deeper into the trends

For the full report, read Thompson WR (2014), Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2015: What’s Driving the Market, ACSM.