The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual fitness trend forecast ranked online training as the top fitness trend for 2021, moving up 25 spots from its number 26 rank in 2020.

The study, “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2021,” was published in the January/February issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. The findings are based on a survey of more than 4,000 health and fitness pros.

The year 2020 is the most memorable in many of our lives, especially those in the fitness industry. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Even as you read this, health clubs are closing, or at the very best restructuring their services.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every person and industry this year, especially those in health and fitness. It caused fitness facilities to close and restructure services. Plus, the challenges of engaging clients at a distance resulted in the use of some very strategic delivery systems,” said ACSM Past President Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, ACSM-CEP, lead author of the survey. “As we deal with the lasting effects of the pandemic, new systems like online and virtual training are critical to ensure the continued physical and mental well-being of people around the world.”

Now in its 15th year, ACSM’s annual survey this year assessed 41 potential trends. Notable trends include online training, outdoor activities and virtual training making top 10 debuts, all due to changes caused by the pandemic. Additionally, wearable tech (number one the past two years), high-intensity interval training (top five since 2014), bodyweight training (top 10 since 2013) and fitness programs for older adults (top 10 since 2007) maintained popularity for 2021.

ACSM also published a separate article comparing the top 20 fitness trends in North America, China, Spain, Europe, and Brazil. Two new countries, Australia and Mexico, were also added. This article reviews specific data to provide a global understanding of the health and fitness trends in different regions in the world.

“Gathering insights from various global regions provide industry stakeholders with a strategic advantage into future fitness offerings,” said Vanessa M. Kercher, Ph.D., ACSM-EP, co-author of the regional comparison article and a clinical assistant professor in the school of public health at Indiana University. “This is especially important during this time of global uncertainty, as a better understanding of consumer behavior can help stakeholders create a multi-faceted strategy to drive business growth.”

According to its 2021 forecast, the top 20 fitness trends are:

  1. Online Training
  2. Wearable Technology
  3. Body Weight Training
  4. Outdoor Activities
  5. HIIT
  6. Virtual Training
  7. Exercise is Medicine
  8. Strength Training – Free Weights
  9. Fitness Programs – Mature Athletes
  10. Personal Training
  11. Health/Wellness Coaching
  12. Mobile Exercise Apps
  13. Employing Certified Fitness Pros
  14. Functional Fitness Training
  15. Toga
  16. Exercise for Weight Loss
  17. Group Training
  18. Lifestyle Medicine
  19. Licensure for Fitness Pros
  20. Outcome Measurements

Responses to the survey were received from just about every continent, including the countries of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Serbia, United Kingdom, and the United States, among many others.

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