What Can We Learn from Fitness Trend Predictions for 2024 if There Aren’t Many Sports? | Sports Destination Management

What Can We Learn from Fitness Trend Predictions for 2024 if There Aren’t Many Sports?

Jan 05, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

How does the sports business industry respond when, among the top trends for fitness predictions in 2024, very few identify a specific sport? The American College of Sports Medicine recently released its predictions.

As a whole, these are largely driven by forces and events beyond the world of sports business; for example, coming out of the pandemic, online classes and outdoor activities skyrocketed in popularity. But with business as usual these days, it is up to event owners and destinations to learn how to drive engagement by tying in promotions at championships. Here are the predictions and here are the suggestions.

Note: Some trends, such as reimbursement for qualified exercise professionals (no. 5) and a few others may not be as relevant to event owners; therefore, they are not listed below. However, the article in the link above provides information on all of the top 20 trends identified by ACSM.

1-Wearable Technology. Wearable technology is the #1 trend and has been a mainstay in the top 3 trends since 2016. Wearable technology includes a variety of devices that a person can wear or attach to themselves and are commonly connected to a smartphone. This technology provides real-time information such as heart rate, step counts, active minutes, and sleep time. Wearable technology allows exercise professionals to further individualize day-to-day physical activity for their clients, tracking patterns, performance, and progress over time

Suggestions: Tie into the wearable trend by implementing “step contests” and other promotions.

2-Worksite Health Promotion. Worksite health promotion is new to the trends list at #2. This seems to further support an increased interest in health and quality of life, which impacts many areas, including workplace productivity. Some examples of worksite health promotion include access to fitness facilities, employee athletic leagues, and health education classes.

Suggestions: Who has reached out to corporations, and who has worked on trying to start up adult leagues or competitions? SDM has heard that small-sided soccer, for example, is an excellent offering that is picking up popularity among adults, and as flag football continues its growth trajectory, it offers another avenue for activity – and an additional revenue stream.

3-Fitness Programs for Older Adults. Increasing fitness program options for older adults moves up to #3. The 2021 Profile of Older Americans reports a 38% increase in Americans aged 65 and older since 2010, with approximately 27% of this population living independently (13). The older adult population of Americans is projected to continue its growth through 2040.

Suggestions: Older adults are some of the most brand-loyal and event-loyal athletes. By marketing to them, offering special categories and working to engage this population, growth opportunities are almost unlimited.

4-Exercise for Weight Loss. Exercise for weight loss comes in at #4 (#8 for 2023).

ACSM Fitness PredictionsSuggestions: Despite a preponderance of weight loss drugs on the market, exercise remains the least expensive and most enjoyable method of losing weight and of developing the habits to keep weight under control. Already, multiple magazines and websites serving the population of specific sports (running is one example but there are plenty of others) are promoting feel-good articles about athletes who unlocked healthier habits, and who continue to enjoy them.

Interestingly enough, LifeTime Fitness conducted a survey of its members and found that 36 percent would give up social media in exchange for losing 10 pounds. Nearly 6 percent of respondents would give up sex.

7-Mobile Exercise Apps. Mobile exercise apps break into the top 10 trends list at #7. It is a part of the digital technology trend category. This trend first appeared in the top 20 at number 17 in 2016, under the name Smart phone exercise apps. The use of mobile exercise apps allows for flexibility in program delivery.

Suggestions: Events and destinations tend to get an app or get left behind. Whether they are custom-made (more expensive) or built from a template, apps can serve to drive engagement in sports events. They can also promote sponsors, allow for communication among athletes and families, serve as a messaging center with reminders about scheduling, hold maps of sports facilities and even allow for emergency communication. More information on mobile apps, and the decisions involved, is available here.

9-Youth Athletic Development. The #9 trend represents an approach to youth training that focuses on developing motor skills, strength, and coordination. There is a rise in training facilities and programs such as KidStrong® designed to improve confidence, develop social skills, and enhance sports performance. Children and adolescents learn basic movement patterns and prepare for skill acquisition.

Suggestions: Youth sports took a beating in the pandemic but are finally rebounding. Event owners need to ascertain that offerings remain fresh and interesting to both youth athletes and their parents.

12-Outdoor Fitness Activities. Outdoor fitness activities lands at #12 for 2024. While this trend debuted as #25 in 2010, outdoor fitness activities jumped to higher ranking spots in the last several years (#4 for 2021, #3 for 2022, and #6 for 2023) due to COVID-19–related restrictions. Even as the industry finds a “new normal,” participation in fitness activities outdoors seems to be a mainstay for many brands and exercise professionals. Activities occur in public parks, plazas, or hiking trails and are led by exercise professionals. This trend supports single-day or multiday events involving running, biking, or leisure sports and encourages community engagement and social well-being.

Suggestions: Take a cue from the last sentence above, and note also that sports like archery, kayaking, SUP and bass fishing are growing among youth, and that event owners in outdoor sports like triathlon have created promotions to welcome in youth athletes.

14-Functional Fitness Training. Falling to #14 for 2024 (#5 for 2023) is functional fitness training. This trend is a training modality that improves balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance to enhance activities of daily living.

Suggestions: Events like the CrossFit Games (coming to Fort Worth this summer) continue to draw in athletes, as well as crowds and, of course, economic impact. Destinations can partner with event owners, as well as with specialty gyms to host events; one of these is profiled at this link.

15-Yoga. Yoga lands at the #15 spot in the 2024 trends list. Mindfulness practice is a great way to reduce feelings of stress, improve mental wellness, and promote self-awareness. As a training modality, yoga is scalable for many fitness levels and safe for special populations. Most commonly done in group class settings with a live instructor, traditional yoga includes styles such as Hatha, Vinyasa, and Bikram

Suggestions: Yoga has become known as a fitness trend, a way to relax – and as a competitive sport. Savvy event owners can add yoga sessions to the mornings for parents (or athletes) and destinations can also investigate hosting competitive events.

17-Traditional Strength Training. This trend is a fundamental component of ACSM's exercise guidelines but has declined considerably since 2020, coming in at #17 for the 2024 survey (#4 for 2022 and #2 for 2023). Focusing on proper movement and lifting technique, traditional strength training incorporates barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells to improve or maintain muscular fitness by manipulating repetitions, sets, tempo, load, and exercise selection to reach different muscular fitness goals.

Note: This dovetails with data from LifeTime Fitness, which indicated that building muscle was club users’ top goal in 2024.

Suggestions: USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting both offer robust competitive programs, with plenty of opportunities for destinations to host their own. Additionally, women’s participations in both sports is growing.

The full list of fitness trends as compiled by ACSM can be found at this link.

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