Is Your Favorite Workout on Trend? The Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2018

What will the hottest workouts be in 2018?  And, more importantly, will you be doing them?

Every year the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) releases a survey of thousands of fitness professionals and I report on them.  The survey authored by Walter Thompson, PhD., FACSM asks a sample of fitness professionals to choose their top picks for the biggest fitness trends for the following year.  This year’s survey had a record number of respondents at 4,000.  See if your favorite workouts make the list.

HIITs, Functional Workouts and Body Weight Training require little to no equipment.
HIITs, Functional Workouts and Body Weight Training require little to no equipment.

Here are the top 10

1.  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  HIITs have reclaimed the no. 1 spot.  It was in the top spot back in 2014.  But then in 2015 and 2016 it moved down to the 2nd and 3rd   Flying into the top spot for the last 2 years was wearable technology as Fitbits became the UGGs of fitness accessories and everyone got fired up to move more with the help of trackers and apps.

Dr. Thompson said he was surprised HIITs moved back to top spot.  “Typically, as a trend starts to fall on the list it continues to fall, like Pilates and Zumba a few years ago, until it no longer trends.”

But HIIT workouts are just so damn good!  Every study shows how beneficial they are for everyone from the obese to older adults.  Plus, they’re  convenient because they can be done in a short amount of time and with little to no equipment. Dr. Thompson says, “our research shows that, with proper precautions like working with a certified personal trainer, HIIT is a safe, effective and fun way to exercise.”

2. Group Training.  Whether it’s because sweating is more fun and motivating with friends, or the music and energy gets you pumped, Group Fitness Training has moved back up the list.  (it was #6 last year).   I know some of you readers love to be the lone wolf.  Headphones on, going on a solo run or hopping on a cardio machine with the rest of the world tuned out, is great.  I get it and know how it clears the head.  But the energy that comes in a group is a very different animal.  There’s laughter, camaraderie, sometimes fun competition and fitness goals being accomplished.  And, just when you thought there was no other workout that can be done in a group, a new one emerges.  Have you seen a SUP Yoga workout in your area yet?  “Like Yoga has consistently done over the last decade, group training seems to be re-inventing itself,” according to Dr. ThompsonPlus, every fitness level can be accommodated, meaning no one gets left out.

3. Wearable Technology: including fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices. Bumped from its #1 spot 2 years in a row, are wearables heading out to pasture? I still haven’t bought my bio-feedback clothing with sensors built into the fibers yet so I think there’s hope for a resurgence or at least for it to stick around the top 10 for a few more years.

4.  Body Weight Training.  Back to basics is always in style. Push ups, pull ups, planks, Burpees… they’ll never die.  Plus, no equipment needed, except maybe the chin up bar.

5.  Strength Training.  It’s a crucial component for Every Body.  I predict this will never leave the top 10.  Men, women, older adults, post rehab, post-surgery, people with many chronic diseases, all benefit from building strength.  And know this:  people with the most muscle mass have been shown to live the longest.

6.  Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. There are more and more organizations offering health and fitness certifications (it’s a big money making business). So it’s important that to choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).  When you take a class or work with a coach or a trainer, check their credentials and number of years of experience.

7.  Yoga. The trend of all trends… for what?  2000 years?  Yes, it’s here to stay.  Like group training, there’s a method for everybody.  Whether you want physical and mental relaxation, or something more intense like Power Yoga or Bikram (Hot) Yoga, your desire can be easily met.  Some methods focus on breathing and meditation, others challenge physical stamina and balance, and everything in between.  There are many styles to choose from:  Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and plenty of others.

8.  Personal Training.  Kinesiology is one hot topic at the universities which tells us more and more young people want to work in the fitness field.

9.  Fitness Programs for Older Adults.  If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve heard the fastest growing market is the baby boom generation. As people age into retirement, there are those with extra cash on hand to spend on themselves.  By this age, they know that health is the most important asset, so they spend it on improving their fitness.  Where there’s a market, there are fitness trainers to fill the need.

10.  Functional Fitness.  My personal favorite trend these days. I even have a specific certification in Functional Strength Training.  The name sounds so blasé, but trust me, a good Functional workout will kick your ass!  Literally, my butt looks better after adding a few great functional moves to most of my workouts. It’s all about using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living… and making you look damn good too!

Didn’t see your pick for top fitness trend on the top 10?  Here’s the rest of the list:

11.  Exercise and weight loss.  The combination of exercise and diet is essential to lose weight and maintain it.  If you want to trim down and stay that way, you frankly need a program that incorporates both.

12.  Exercise is Medicine.  This is a global health initiative that encourages primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to fitness professionals.

13.  Group personal training. Not exactly the same as Group Fitness.  This is where a trainer will work with two or three people at the same time.  It makes good financial sense for both.

14.  Outdoor activities. Getting out of the gym for fitness is appealing to a lot of people who don’t like the idea of being stuck inside during their free time.  Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, biking tours, adventure programs that include camping trips and mountain climbing are all on trend.

15.  Flexibility and mobility rollers. I’ve blogged about this before - SMR (Self Myofascial Release).  It’s a must to have some kind of recovery program.  Now, there are so many kinds to choose from.  Get yourself a collection of balls, rollers, massagers and give your body some love!

16.  Licensure for fitness professionals.  There have always been advocates in the fitness industry for more regulations of fitness professionals such as personal trainers. Licensure for any profession is done at the state level so any legislative action would be taken up locally.  It's not much of a fitness trend, but more of a debate within the industry.

17.  Circuit training.  This has been around for a long time.  It’s still on the list, because it simply works. Circuit training is typically a group of about ~10 exercises completed in succession.  They can either be performed for time or reps.

18.  Wellness coaching.  I’m a big advocate of this trend which is why I got certified in this area 7 years ago.  It’s the integration of behavioral change science with health promotion, disease prevention, and rehabilitation.  The coach focuses on the client’s values, needs, vision, aspirations, and goals.  Working with  wellness coach encompasses support, guidance, encouragement, and confirmation when reaching short- and long-term goals.

19.  Core training.  It isn't about doing thousands of crunches.  Core training strengthens and conditions the stabilizing muscles of the abdomen, thorax, and back. It includes exercises that provide support for the spine and thorax.

20.  Sport-specific training.  If you’re trying to up your ball game, you need it!

Not making the list this year is children’s fitness.  That is unfortunate considering the obesity crisis afflicting U.S. kids has not been improving.

I asked Dr. Thompson what he would add to the top 10 list if it were up to him.  Three of his picks are:

  1. “Getting doctors involved and directly referring their patients (well and with chronic medical conditions) to neighborhood assets like experienced and trained fitness professionals.”
  2. Making better use of the USREPS (United States Registry of Exercise Professionals). Never heard of it? Exactly why there needs to be more awareness.  It’s a resource for both doctors and people looking for the best fitness professionals in their area (www.usreps.org).
  3. Wellness coaches who have a fitness (exercise) certification who can help create both short-term and long-term goals for individuals.
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