Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) surveys industry professionals to identify the top trends in fitness we should expect to see in the coming year. Their list of top 20 trends for 2017 has been released and can be found in its entirety in the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal.
We would like to take a moment to discuss some of these trends in the fitness industry and make note of our own thoughts on the fitness trends of 2017.
While the survey puts wearable technology at the top of the trends, there is another real life trend associated with wearable technology that should be noted: exercising without a tracker. Fitbit is expected to report less than expected fourth quarter 2016 earnings on February 22nd and is blaming a sluggish wearables market. We see a trend in people trading their device for the pure joy of simply walking. Will wearable activity trackers go away? We don’t think so, especially as employers link their use to insurance discounts and other incentives, however, there is something to be said for once in a while taking a deep breath and stepping out your door device (and worry) free.
No surprise, differing forms of training make up the bulk of the top ten trends with exercise and weight loss rounding it off. What is of note on the list is the first time entry of the ACSM’s global health initiative which they have coined Exercise is Medicine®. Aimed at integrating physical exercise into the prevention and treatment of disease, it hopes to have exercise professionals seen as part of the continuum of care for patients.
The ACSM and EIM are not the only advocates for fitness as a means of preventing disease. In this scientific statement, the American Heart Association also purports cardiorespiratory fitness “is a potentially stronger predictor of mortality than established risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes mellitus”. They also recommend we should have our aerobic fitness assessed as part of a medical exam and then be advised on how to exercise more if found to be lacking.
They raise a good point. When you visit a doctor, lots of things get measured: your temperature, your blood pressure, the content of your blood. Rarely though does a physician measure your aerobic fitness. Shouldn’t doctors note if you are able to climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath and more importantly, if the answer is no, point you in the direction of exercise as a first step towards preventing disease? Exercise is a powerful tool in our quest for good health. If exercise prescription isn’t trending in 2017, it should be.
A lifestyle trend extrapolating to a fitness trend we notice is that of Millennials preferring to live in urban centers and shy away from owning cars. Whether they are doing it to save the planet or need a cheaper way to get around, commuting as exercise will gain more popularity in 2017. Instead of spending time in a gym or corporate fitness center, more employees will walk, run or cycle their way to work. It’s the hip (and sustainable) thing to do and will be a great way to get moving this year.
That said, the fitness centers will not remain empty as large number of baby boomers will look to fitness to extend and improve their lives (see #11 and #19 in the ACSM survey). Ten thousand of them turn 65 every day. While exercise trends like high intensity interval training will continue to stay at the top of the list, they may not be accessible to older adults lacking the functional strength and mobility required for these workouts. Weight machines and circuit training provide a safe way for older adults to reap the benefits of strength training. Circuit training as a trend hit its high note in the 1980’s so most baby boomers will feel comfortable returning to it in 2017.
Movement and mobility is the new exercise. Standing desks had a moment in the sun as the hot trend in workspace wellness but standing all day is no better for you than sitting all day. The enemy of the human form is stillness. Human bodies are meant for motion and that should be reflected in our daily lives. Instead of focusing on getting 30 minutes of exercise per day in one isolated, precise session, we predict the focus will shift towards staying in motion whenever possible during your work day: stand for a bit, shift to seated, walk around the block to take a phone call, take mid-meeting stretch breaks. This also means moving with a full range of motion to keep muscles loose and joints open. Maybe stash a yoga mat in your office and perform some stretches through your workday to keep energy and creativity up. Objects in motion tend (and need) to stay in motion in 2017.
Rest and recovery were big trends in 2016 and will continue to be in 2017. As HIIT and strength training ramp up, so does the need to power down. The human body simply cannot operate at that intensity day in and day out without resulting in injury. Thus, a focus on recovery by way of mindful meditation and ever needed (but always lacking) sleep will continue to trend. Look for company nap rooms, workplace meditation classes and foam rollers at a fitness center near you.
As wellness professionals in the trenches, what trends do you predict for your organization? We would love to hear them!