Every year, the American Collage of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey’s thousands of fitness professionals to forecast the trends that will likely influence the industry in the coming months.
This time last year, COVID-19 wasn’t even on the radar but the global pandemic has completely upended the way we live, work and exercise.
According to the ACSM, millions were affected by COVID-19-related fitness facility closures and were forced to find innovative ways to remain active at home.
READ MORE: #Gymlife in the time of coronavirus
Online training the big mover
Rather unsurprisingly, the result was that online training leaped 25 spots from its number 26 rank in 2020 to become the new top fitness trend for 2021.
While fitness professionals were already shifting towards engagement via digital channels, the pandemic accelerated that transition.
According to the ACSM survey, “the challenges of engaging clients at a distance resulted in the use of some very strategic delivery systems. Online training was developed for the at-home exercise experience. This trend uses digital streaming technology to deliver group, individual, or instructional exercise programs online. Online training is available 24/7 and can be a live class (live streaming workouts) or prerecorded.”
Tech still dominates
The more than 4,000 health and fit pros surveyed by the ACSM also identified other key trends for the year ahead.
Wearable tech retains its relevance in the our digitally-empowered world. Ranked as the top trend in 2020, wearables remain an important element in our data-driven modern lifestyles.
These devices now transcend the ranks of elite or serious athletes, with fitness or basic activity trackers worn by most health and fitness-conscious individuals who want greater insights into their sleep, steps, heart rates and more.
No gym? No problem
With more people training at home because gyms are closed, or due to concerns regarding infection risk, bodyweight training became far more prolific in 2020. And the trend is set to continue. The ACSM ranked bodyweight training at number 3 on its list of 2021 fitness trends.
“Since body weight training requires little to no equipment, it is an inexpensive and functional way to exercise effectively,” states the ACSM report.
Outdoor training ranked fourth this year, probably due to COVID-19’s impact on gyms and lockdown restrictions. More sedentary people also chose to get active after government eased lockdown restrictions to improve their health and enjoy the outdoors.
According to the ACSM, “small group walks, group rides, or organized hiking groups have become popular.”
READ MORE: Safety Tips For Outdoor Training
Intensity is so hot right now
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) remains the most popular way to train, according to the fit pros surveyed by ACSM.
HIIT was ranked first in the survey for 2014 and 2018. It dropped to third in 2016 and 2017, and has been in the top 5 between 2014 and 2020. It ranked second last year and maintains its impressive run in the top 5 this year.
HIIT remains popular because it is so effective, delivering metabolic, strength and fitness benefits from workouts as short as 20 minutes.
Other trends to watch
Virtual training was another trend that gained a boost due to COVID’s influence. It was ranked sixth in the 2021 trends list, ahead of:
7. Exercise is medicine
8. Training with free weights
9. Fitness programs for older adults
10. Personal training
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.