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ACSM’s 2017 Fitness Trends Survey Has News for Planners of Sports Events

25 Jan, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

When is a fitness movement a fad, and when is it a trend, and what makes them something sports events will see as an influencer? The only real gauge is time, but for now, the news doesn’t look good for Zumba and boot camp programs. Which might, come to think of it, be a positive thing for owners and rights holders of sports events.

Each year since 2006, the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal have conducted a survey of thousands of fitness professionals worldwide to determine health and fitness trends. This year’s survey, conducted during 2016, is meant to represent trends for 2017. In the number one spot for next year is wearable fitness technology, a repeat from last year. (In 2016, wearable technology’s ascendance bumped body weight training out of 2015’s number one spot.)

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)’s annual fitness trend forecast has been on target in previous years. The results were released in the article “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017” published in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

Now in its eleventh year, the survey was completed by more than 1,800 health and fitness professionals worldwide, many certified by ACSM, and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Forty-two potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.

“Body weight training, high-intensity interval raining (HIIT) and educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals also remained highly ranked on the survey,” said Thompson. “These trends reflect continued strong consumer interest in strength training and functional fitness.”

Some fitness programs have fallen off the grid. Two of these are Zumba and boot camp activities, which in years past, had enjoyed strong participation. The decline in popularity among these programs may reflect a shift to other forms of fitness.

Something else that fell off the radar was sport-specific fitness training. This is defined as programs that involve exercise regiments designed to make the user a better athlete in a specific sport, such as tennis or golf. Unfortunately, exercise programs for youth also declined – bad news for those who want to help batter obesity and inactivity at this level.

Sports Event Planners can examine the list of what is popular, however, and decide how their events can harness the momentum of trends to drive participation and increase engagement among athletes and their families. In many cases, trends can assist with the entertainment of families and friends who have come along with the event. In most cases, it’s a case of looking at trends and seeing how they relate (or can be related) to existing events. Bearing that in mind, the top fitness trends for 2017 are projected as follows:

1. Wearable Technology: includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices. Bringing in fun ‘steps’ contests and other data-driven activities can increase engagement among not only athletes but spectators.

2. Body Weight Training: While not specifically a sports trend, this form of fitness is something that can provide enjoyable entertainment for spectators and family members. Push-up contests, pull-ups and more can add a level of interactive fun.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Another aspect that can be used to engage onlookers. HIIT, which involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery, these exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes. Mobile apps(mentioned further along in this article) have been a boon to HIIT, allowing individuals to work out at home.

4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. This is something event owners are seeing – a demand from athletes and parents to have professionals on the sidelines in case of injuries or emergencies.

5. Strength Training. Strength training, long a staple of health club workouts, is growing. Its presence will be seen in cross-fitness competitions, as well as powerlifting and weightlifting events.

6. Group Training: Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals though intentionally designed group exercise classes. Again, this is good news for event planners, since it can lead to groups taking part in everything from 5K runs to obstacle races to swimming and triathlons.

7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

8. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. Planners who respond to a demand from attendees at events, to have recreation for families and friends, are taking advantage of local yoga studios and instructors to feature a value-added component for their events.

9. Personal Training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them; as a result, event owners are beginning to request information on the qualifications of any individuals on staff at venues who will be caring for athletes.

10. Exercise and Weight Loss. It’s not just for New Year’s any more, and it’s driving tremendous growth in sports events. As individuals, particularly adults, return to fitness, they are seeking measurable results.

11. Fitness programs for older adults. Sports like pickleball, cycling and Masters Swimming are bringing in the 50-plus crowd and reaping the financial rewards. If planners aren’t aiming at this demographic, they’re missing out.

12. Functional fitness. Defined as using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living, functional fitness continues to grow. An offshoot of it is the ramped-up version used by cross-fitness competitors (another growth area in sports events).

13. Outdoor activities. Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and games or sports are examples of outdoor activities, but so are overnight activities such as camping and mountain climbing. Adventure racing events fall into this category as well.

From 14-20, trends expected to gather momentum include Group Personal Training, Wellness Coaching, Worksite Health Promotions, Smartphone Exercise Apps (often tied in with other trends such as HIIT), Outcome Measurements, Circuit Training and Flexibility and Mobility Rollers.

So what is the difference between a fad and a trend? A trend has staying power, whereas a fad comes and goes. However, the only true measure of which item belongs in which category is its staying power over time – and that is something that might have to wait for each successive year’s survey to evaluate. For event owners and rights holders, the right approach involves doing research, watching participation and sometimes even making a leap of faith and working to harness the momentum of a growing sport.

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