22 Sep 2023 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2023 issue 1

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Insight: ACSM Top Ten 2023

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The ACSM has published its fitness trends survey results for the 18th year running, as Frances Marcellin reports

Wearables have been in the number one slot for six of the last eight years Photo: Shutterstock / Yelizaveta Tomashevska

Wearable technology is the number one worldwide fitness trend for 2023 according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which has released a list of 20 industry trends taken from its annual survey.

Launched in 2006 and designed to help sector stakeholders make informed business decisions, this year’s survey was sent to 125,940 people, including more than 32,000 ACSM-certified fitness professionals, with 3,735 (58 per cent women and 41 per cent men) responding from almost every continent.

The results were released in the article Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023, penned by ACSM’s past president, Walter Thompson, the lead author of the survey, and published in the ACSM Health & Fitness Journal.

Top ten trends are: wearable technology, strength training with free weights, body weight training, fitness programmes for older adults, functional fitness training, outdoor activities HIIT, exercise for weight loss, employing certified exercise professionals and personal training, as detailed in this HCM report, while trends making up the rest of the top 20 are: core training; circuit training; home exercise gyms; group training; exercise is medicine; lifestyle medicine; yoga; licensure for fitness professionals; health/wellbeing coaching; and mobile exercise apps.

Thompson says trends that have disappeared from the top 20 for 2023 include online live and on-demand exercises classes (number nine in 2022) and online personal training which moves from 17 to 26.

New entries include balance and stabilisation training (in at number 23), stretch-based training (debuting at 36) and virtual reality exercise training (in at number 41).

ACSM also released a 2023 Fitness Trends from Around the Globe, highlighting the top 20 fitness trends for Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

The number one trend for Australia is fitness programmes for older adults; for Brazil, it’s personal training; for Europe, body weight training; for Mexico, exercise and weight loss programmes; Portugal has licensure for fitness professionals in the top spot; Spain puts functional fitness in first position; and the US has wearable technology as its number one trend.


1. Wearable tech

This includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices and trackers that monitor sitting time, sleep and so forth. Wearables have been in the number one spot since they were introduced to the survey in 2016, except for 2018 (when they were third) and 2021 (when they came second).

“Wearables are certainly not going anywhere,” said Thompson. “Not only are these devices becoming more affordable, but wearable data is increasingly being used in clinical decision-making so they’re continuing to hold their appeal.”

2. Strength training with free weights

This includes the use of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells to improve or maintain muscular fitness. It dropped to number eight last year, but has become more popular over the last 12 months, bouncing back to the number two slot, so they are continuing to hold their appeal.”

Strength training is a major trend globally says ACSM / Photo: Shutterstock / ALL best fitness is HERE
3. Body weight training

This activity uses bodyweight resistance to weight train. It first appeared on ACSM’s trends survey in 2013 at number three and dipped to seven in 2020 and eight in 2022, but was in third position in 2021.

Body weight training is one of the most enduring categories / Photo: Shutterstock / BAZA Production
4. Fitness programmes for older adults

his trend is coming back after being number two in 2007 and falling to 11 in 2017 and 2022. “People are living longer, working longer and desiring to remain healthy and physically active throughout their lifespan,” commented Thompson.

He suggests older generations have more discretionary money, so fitness clubs can capitalise on this growing market. “Changing the atmosphere of gyms by adjusting the lighting and music to be more ‘older generation friendly’ during traditional slow times of day is the type of practice that seems to be catching on in commercial clubs,” he wrote.

Operators can welcome older people by making thoughtful adjustments / Photo: Shutterstock / Alex Brylov
5. Functional fitness training

This is defined as training to improve balance, coordination, functional strength and endurance to improve activities of daily living. Functional fitness first appeared in 2007 at number four and fell to number fourteen in 2021, so is making a comeback this year.

Preparing the body for what life throws at it is driving the growth of functional fitness / Photo: Shutterstock / Lithiumphoto
6. Outdoor activities

Activities can include group walks, rides, paddle boarding, mountain biking and organised hikes, and can be day-long or multi-day events. “Perhaps because of pandemic restrictions, outdoor activities have become more popular,” said Thompson. In 2021 this trend ranked in fourth place and in 2022 it was number three. It first appeared in 2010 in position 25.

Pandemic lockdowns have brought a new appreciation of the outdoors / Photo: Shutterstock / GROGL
7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Last year HIIT dropped out of the top five for the first time, coming in at number seven. It was first between 2014 and 2018 and is still in this position. Sessions vary in format, but can include training with dumbbells and bodyweight, as well as cycling, stair climbing and other cardio options.

HIIT, in all its variety, retains its popularity / Photo: Shutterstock / shevtsovy
8. Exercise for weight loss

Combined weight loss and exercise programmes have been a top 20 trend since the survey began in 2006. It was number five in 2022, but has dropped to eighth position for 2023.

“Perhaps because of the lockdowns imposed by COVID-19 and resulting perceived (or real) weight gain, exercise for weight loss made a comeback in 2022,” wrote Thompson. “Most diet programmes recommend including some form of exercise.”

Keeping a positive mental attitude to body shape is vital to mental health / Photo: Shutterstock / zhukovvvlad
9. Employing certified fitness professionals

“The importance of hiring certified health and fitness professionals through educational programmes and accredited certification programmes has remained a steady trend,” said Thompson. “More certification programmes have become accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, allowing employers easy access to certification.”

This trend first appeared in 2019 in sixth position, but was thirteenth in 2021 and 2022 before bouncing back this year.

Developing the professionalism of the sector is a major priority / Photo: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com Yuri A
10. Personal training

Having been a top ten trend since the survey was first released, personal training continues to be popular, however, once at number three (in 2008 and 2009) it has dropped to ten.

“One-on-one training continues to be a strong trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, in the home and in the workplace,” wrote Thompson.

PT is of enduring importance in spite of the emergence of other priorities / Photo: Shutterstock / PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek
ACSM top 20 2023

1. Wearable tech

2. Strength training with free weights

3. Body weight training

4. Fitness programmes for older adults

5. Functional fitness training

6. Outdoor activities


8. Exercise for weight loss

9. Employing certified exercise professionals

10. Personal training

11. Core training

12. Circuit training

13. Home exercise gyms

14. Group training

15. Exercise is medicine

16. Lifestyle medicine

17. Yoga

18. Licensure for fitness professionals

19. Health/wellbeing coaching

20. Mobile exercise apps

Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 1

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