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Smart watch wearable technology is the new fitness trend

Fitness Trends for 2016: Best and New, Tried and True

The annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends is out with its 2016 edition, and No. 1 on the list of trends for 2016 is wearable technology.

Surprised? Yeah, me neither. As the survey notes, the wearable technology industry is exploding — expected to reach $6 billion next year with fitness trackers, smart glasses, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices, and interactive textiles all filling people’s pockets (literally and figuratively). 

Other top fitness trends for 2016

No. 2 on the list of fitness trends for 2016 was body weight training, which means using one’s own weight — and gravity — to do exercises, a move away from weight training. It’s oddly old school though it’s considered a new trend in gyms. It’s also ripe for some wearable technology to come along and make results more translatable to participants.

No. 3 on the list of trends is high-intensity interval training, which was the No. 1 trend last year. This type of training involves “short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery” and typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Survey respondents said they are a bit hesitant about the future of this trend in that it could achieve the same fate as the activity itself, meaning they’re seeing the potential for short bursts of interest in high-intensity interval training followed by disinterest or possible injury from this activity ending up sidelining this activity.

No. 4. Strength training using weights is a consistent winner in the annual trends list, in part because all kinds of clients or patients can do it. It’s the opposite of the No. 2 trend, which relies on one’s own weight to build strength. It’s also considered a great alternative exercise for people with cardiovascular, pulmonary, or metabolic diseases. Dumbbell makers can rest easy tonight.

No. 5. in the trends list is educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals. Also a long-time member of the trends club, and remember, many of the survey’s respondents are fitness professionals so no surprise here. The emphasis in this trend, though, is on accreditation, and educational programs at the college and university level.

What is a fitness trend?

The survey’s sponsors note that the challenge of coming up with a trends list is differentiating between what’s a fad and what’s a trend. Add to that designation that some trends outlive their “popularity” and just become ways of life. So while Zumba, indoor cycling, Pilates, and boot camp are all off the list, the question is were they just fads that never really deserved to be on the trends list in the first place, or have they been so regularly incorporated into our lifestyles that they are not trends anymore, but merely lifestyle choices?

It’s like Facebook. My (elderly) mother now is on Facebook and she takes Pilates classes. If you ask me, these two activities are neither fads nor trends, but permanent facets of our culture, for better or worse.

The survey by the American College of Sports Medicine, now in its 10th year, provided the list of 40 possible trends, including 25 from the previous nine years the study has been conducted. It notes that its definition of a trend is the “perceived impact on the industry according to the international respondents.”

ACSM notes that it’s not the Consumer Reports of fitness trends, however, the survey is aimed at helping the health and fitness industry learn what’s developing and what trends possibly can be monetized in the future. Investment and business decisions do not include evaluating what is the best new equipment or exercise machines, but whether companies or community programs can sustain themselves as the market changes.

At the same time, the survey’s sponsors note that changes in trends may be due to economic reasons or the power of marketing. If the economy is in a slump, does wearable technology make more economic sense than training programs with expensive instructors or equipment? Or is it a mark of an improving economy that wearable technology is now so popular it makes it to the top of the trends list (because it isn’t cheap)?

Perhaps, wearable technology is a trend not due to the economy so much as due to the culture of gratification and instant results, which would account for the rise of other trends, including smart phone exercise apps, which was making its trends debut lower down the list. In that case, however, instant gratification is the trend that needs to die away so society can return to concentrating on long-term goals rather than short-term satisfaction. Just a personal preference, but would probably benefit mankind overall.

The survey was sent to 26,933 fitness professionals in various fields, including commercial (generally for-profit companies), clinical (like medical fitness programs), community (not-for-profit), corporate, and academia. It got an 11 percent response rate, or 2,833 responses. (The ACSM acknowledged that it incentivized results with rewards for participating).

A full 40 percent of respondents are in their first job, which makes you wonder, does that make them cutting edge or too new to determine a trend?

ACSM offers a comparison of the top 10 trends from the past nine years’ surveys.

Here’s the rest of the top 20 worldwide fitness trends for 2016

6. Personal training.

7. Functional fitness.

8. Fitness programs for older adults.

9. Exercise and weight loss.

10. Yoga.

11. Group personal training.

12. Worksite health promotion.

13. Wellness coaching.

14. Outdoor activities.

15. Sport-specific training.

16. Flexibility and mobility rollers.

17. Smart Phone Exercise Apps.

18. Circuit training.

19. Core training.

20. Outcome measurements.

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