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Wearables & Fitness for Older Adults among ACSM's Top 2023 Trends

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) publication ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal (HFJ) recently released its highly anticipated Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023. The annual survey was launched in 2006 to explore changes in the fitness industry. It is used by wellness facilities and independent sport and exercise professionals to direct investment and remain on the cutting edge of the market.

The 2023 survey comprised 42 possible trends and polled 125,940 people, including 30,000 ACSM certified professionals, receiving responses from across the globe—from Australia to Malawi and Sri Lanka to Sweden. Personal trainers and medical professionals, including M.D.s and physical therapists, made up the largest percentages of respondents.

According to the survey’s author, former ACSM president Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, “The results of this year’s survey could very well be titled ‘post-pandemic recovery impacts the fitness industry’ or ‘what happened to online training and home gyms?’”

Here are the top 10 trends:

  1. Wearable Technology. Think fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices, including tech that can monitor heart rate, calories, sitting time, sleep, and more.

  2. Strength Training with Free Weights. This activity incorporates the use of barbells, dumbbells, and/or kettlebells.

  3. Body Weight Training. Predictably, techniques that focus on body weight as the primary resistance are on trend. Body weight training uses minimal equipment and space, making it an inexpensive and functional way to exercise.

  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. Programming focused on the aging population and its unique needs are growing.

  5. Functional Fitness Training. Training to improve balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance is being utilized to improve daily living.

  6. Outdoor Activities. Pursuits like group walks, bicycle rides, or organized hiking led by health and fitness professionals are on the rise. Activities can be short events, day-long events, or planned multiday excursions.

  7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These exercise programs typically involve repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise combined with periods of rest.

  8. Exercise for Weight Loss. This trend incorporates weight-loss programs like dieting and cooking classes with an exercise routine.

  9. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals. Hiring certified health and fitness professionals who have completed educational programs and fully accredited health/fitness certifications is also trending.

  10. Personal Training. Personal training includes goal setting, fitness assessment, and exercise programming with a trainer in one-on-one settings.

Trends in online training have fluctuated along with pandemic. In 2020, Online Training came in at No. 26. In 2021, it was the No. 1 trend. In 2022, it dropped to No. 9, and in the 2023 results, it fell to No. 21.

Fitness facilities seem to have gone back to basics in the wake of the pandemic: Strength training with free weights was No. 2, Body weight training took the No. 3 spot, and core training and circuit training ranked Nos. 11 and 12, respectively.

Fitness for older adults experienced fluctuations that seemed to be caused both by the pandemic and other external factors. It was No. 9 in 2018, No. 4 for 2019, No. 8 in 2020, No. 9 again in 2021, No. 11 in 2022, and No. 4 once more in 2023.


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