The Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019

fitness trends

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) releases its Top 10 Fitness Trends. With wearables, group training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) topping the list, it is sure to have an effect on campus recreation. Let’s take a look at the top 10 trends for 2019 and how they integrate with our campuses:

1. Wearable Technology

What is it?

Wearable technology first appeared on the Top 10 list in 2016 and hit the No.1 spot. After remaining No. 1 in 2017, it dropped to No. 3 in 2018; now it’s back in No. 1. Wearable technology includes any fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors and/or GPS tracking devices.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Our students, faculty/staff, and members are going to be more self-aware of their exercise behaviors and habits. They will also be more likely to be interested in programs that help them reach their desired goals. Use this as an opportunity to create incentive and activity programs that increase the engagement of your campus, including those members who may not even step foot into your facilities.

2. Group Training

What is it?

The term group training can be quite confusing. In 2019, ACSM did not separate large group training and small group training on the worldwide trends survey; therefore, in this case, group training is intentionally designed movement classes led by an instructor for groups of six or more participants. You could say group exercise and small group training programs together are the No. 2 trend in 2019.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Group exercise programs are not going away. The structural makeup of how we train our instructors and the type of schedules we offer should change to meet the industry recommendations, but we should still offer these programs. Campus Rec departments should be also striving to design and offer small group training programs. The most important note for us to consider is how we differentiate between group exercise and small group training programs so we do not create confusion for our members.

3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

What is it?

HIIT training is exercise programs that consist of short bursts of high-intensity efforts followed by short periods of rest. Although sustained efforts of more than 90 percent maximum effort can cause potential injuries or other hazardous effects, HIIT isn’t going anywhere. HIIT hit the trends report for the first time ever in 2014 at the No. 1 spot and hasn’t left the top five since.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

HIIT is commercialized and utilized as a marketing tactic. For those of you who have a degree in exercise science, who would’ve thought EPOC would ever become a “buzzword” used for marketing boutique studios and utilized by members. The people we serve may have an idea what HIIT is and will expect us to offer it. Keep in mind, in addition to offering HIIT programs, we need to offer education around the topic, too.

4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults

What is it?

This trend emphasizes the need for offering programs for baby boomers and the active aging generation. In general, people are living longer healthier/active lives, working longer and potentially have more discretionary funds to spend.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

We may see our faculty/staff work longer in their careers and see an increase in their membership and engagement with us. We could also see an increase in the “non-traditional” student which could increase the age diversity of our typical member. When creating programs for your campus rec department to offer, consider who your ideal member is for that program and ways to be inclusive of all age groups.

5. Body Weight Training (BWT)

What is it?

Body weight training hit the top 10 trends report in 2013 and hasn’t left yet. This training is a combination of variable resistance and neuromotor movements in all planes of movement utilizing the body as the machine. Body weight training uses minimal equipment and maximizes workout effectiveness.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Simply put: Less equipment, more open space.

6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals

What is it?

Employing certified fitness professionals replaced the broader term prior to 2019 which was “educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals.” The importance of hiring certified health/fitness professionals through accredited education programs and certifying bodies are more important than ever. The National Commission on Certifying Agencies (NCCA) allows employers to easily validate employees’ certifications along with the US Registry of Exercise Professionals.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Employers outside of campus recreation are going to require certifications and we should, too. We should be offering educational and certification programs on our campuses that prepare our students to sit for group fitness, personal training and/or health coach certification exams. Most educational partnerships are offered at no cost to the campus recreation department, and students receive extensive discounts to the certifications.

7. Yoga

What is it?

Yoga includes all variations of yoga practices – power, vinyasa, yogalates, hot, etc. Yoga first appeared in the top 10 list in 2008 and has bounced around within the top 20 for the last 10 years, making a few top 10 appearances within recent years.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Yoga is a staple program offering; it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Yoga can be a very personal practice for some, so as we think about renovating, repurposing or building new spaces, let’s strive for smaller, intimate yoga studios, and personal meditation and yoga spaces.

8. Personal Training

What is it?

Personal training is considered a one-on-one exercise program, and the trend continues as a large shift in personal training has moved online. The ACSM trends report began in 2006 and personal training has remained in the top 10 ever since.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Personal training is changing and so should we. Think about offering online programs, moving toward a membership model with personal training, and having more than one trainer work with a single client. You can read more about the changes in personal training by checking out my recent blog post.

9. Functional Fitness Training

What is it?

Functional fitness is using strength training and other activities/movements that improve balance, coordination, strength, and endurance to overall improve our quality of life and activities of daily living. This exercise regimen can be a replica of movements we do in daily life, such as bend and lift, single leg, push, pull, and rotation.

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Consumers are more aware and educated on the need for functional training, so they are going to expect we offer it. You should allocate a minimum of 200 square feet to functional training space, but depending on your overall facility size, you could offer more than 2,000 square feet of dedicated functional training space. This would be a great small group training format to offer.

10. Exercise is Medicine

What is it?

According to ACSM, “Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity assessment and associated treatment recommendations as part of every patient visit and referring their patients to exercise professionals. In addition, EIM recognizes fitness professionals as part of the health care team in their local communities.”

What does it mean for campus recreation?

Integrated well-being programs are going to continue to rise and be important. No matter what stage of implementation you may be in with integrated programming across your healthcare team on campus, keep the conversations moving forward as EIM is a global initiative that can have a tremendous local impact on your campus.

The ACSM Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends is always one of my favorite reports to read each year. It always sparks interesting discussion and often we will rebuttal, in many online social media platforms, why something popular in an area didn’t make the list. We have to remember regional popularity doesn’t always mean it’s an international trend. It is important for campus recreation departments to stay in the know of what’s happening around the world with movement trends as our ultimate goal is to prepare students for success beyond their collegiate career. We would be doing them a disservice by not preparing them for their careers to come. Global trends start with local impact; the power is in your hands.

Steven Trotter
Steven Trotter, MS, is a consultant, continuing education provider, adjunct faculty member in health and fitness science, and principal for Globetrotter Wellness Solutions. He also serves as the associate director for wellness and fitness at East Carolina University. His expertise is rooted in university rec programs with a repertoire in leadership and organizational development, fitness facility design and management, behavior change, and program management. Steven is a 2017 IDEA Program Director of the Year finalist and presents at numerous conferences across North America each year. He is a subject matter expert and blogger for the American Council on Exercise and previously served a 3.5-year term on the industry advisory panel. Steven has a master of science in health in physical education from Virginia Tech and bachelor of science in exercise science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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