Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2013

Posted at 3:46 pm on 01/08/2013 by Daniel Sosa
This annual survey is now in its seventh consecutive year. The 2013 American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends supported previous trends and also reinforced the deletion of three trends that had previously appeared to be strong for 2 to 3 years but now have dropped off the list for the third year in a row… much to the disappointment of Pilates instructors all over the globe. Pilates, stability ball, and balance training again failed to appear on the list of top 20 trends in the health and fitness industry, supporting the theory that these were fads and not trends. Some survey respondents have argued that the still sluggish economy has influenced the results of this survey and that specialized training programs, such as Pilates, are not supported because of their increased costs. Others have said that Pilates and the stability ball have run their useful course. The results of this annual survey may help the health and fitness industry make some very important investment decisions for future growth and development. Business decisions should be based on emerging trends and not the latest exercise innovation peddled by late-night television infomercials or the hottest celebrity endorsing a product. Similar to previous ACSM fitness trend surveys, we asked respondents to first make the important distinction between a “fad” and a “trend.” A  trend  has been described as “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving” ( ). Using this definition, it would be predictable, then, to see the same trends appearing for multiple years in a trend survey. The definition of  trend  includes the phrase “general development” as opposed to  fad , which is described as “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period,” which is the definition of a fad ( ). During the last 7 years, the editors of  ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal ®  have developed and widely disseminated this electronic survey to thousands of professionals to determine trends in the health and fitness industry. The survey in this issue of the  Journal  will help guide programming efforts for 2013. The first survey ( 1 ), conducted in 2006 (for predictions in 2007), developed a systematic way to predict health and fitness trends, and surveys have been done each year since ( 2–6 ). These annual surveys of health and fitness trends in the commercial (typically for-profit), clinical (including medical fitness), community (not-for-profit), and corporate divisions of the industry have confirmed some trends appearing each year. Some of the trends first identified in 2007 have moved up and stayed at the top of the list since the first survey was published, whereas some new trends appear to be emerging in 2013 and others have dropped out of the top 20. Future surveys will either confirm these new trends or they will fall short of making an impact on the health and fitness industry and drop out of the survey, as did the stability ball, Pilates, and balance training in the past. Dropping out of the survey may indicate that what was once perceived to be a trend in the industry was actually a fad. One emerging trend (body weight training) appears in the top 20 for the first time. Future surveys will either confirm or reject this as an emerging trend. The ACSM survey makes no attempt to evaluate equipment, gym apparatus, tools, or other exercise devices that may materialize at clubs or recreation centers or appear during late-night television infomercials, often seen during the winter holidays or the week before and a few weeks into the New Year. The survey has been designed to confirm, reconfirm, or to introduce new trends (not fads) that have a perceived impact on the industry according to the international respondents. It is understandable that using this survey construct, some of the trends identified in earlier surveys would appear for several years (as is the case for many of the top 10 trends). The ACSM annual worldwide survey of health and fitness trends should not be confused with estimating the market impact potential of a piece of new equipment, exercise device, or program. As admonished in the past, the type of information provided by this survey is left to the readers to determine if it fits into their business model and how best to use the information. It is as important for the health and fitness industry to pay close attention to not only those trends appearing for the first time ( e.g.,  body weight training) but also for those that do not appear this year or have been replaced on the list by other trends ( e.g.,  Pilates and stability ball). As with past surveys, the health and fitness industry should consider applying this information to its own settings. The benefits to commercial health clubs (those that are for-profit) is the establishment (or maybe the justification) of new markets that may result in a potential for increased and sustainable revenue. Community-based programs (typically not-for-profit) could use the results to continue to justify an investment in their unique markets by providing expanded programs serving families and children. Corporate wellness programs and medical fitness centers may find these results useful through an increased service to their members and patients.

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