Top 2021 Fitness Trends

2021 Fitness Trends

The 2021 Fitness Trends are here! Steven Trotter dives into what they are and what each trend means for the industry of Campus Recreation.

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a worldwide survey to collect data on trends in the fitness industry. After analyzing the data, ACSM releases its prediction for the top trends for the following year. It’s safe to say COVID-19 shaped consumer behavior this year around health and well-being and it shows in this year’s report.

It’s time for us to take a look at the top 2021 fitness trends and their effect on the world of campus recreation.

1. Online Training

What is it?

Online Training is an exercise experience that can be completed from anywhere and anytime. Using various digital streaming platforms, both synchronous and asynchronous exercise programs can be completed by individuals and groups through written, audio or video instructions.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

2020 has served as a wake-up call to higher education to start meeting folks where they are. We need to think about who it is we are truly serving and how we can best meet their needs and wants. Online training gives us an opportunity to reach people who may have not participated in our programs previously and increase our financial sustainability moving forward. 

2. Wearable Technology

What is it?

Wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors and/or GPS tracking devices that track steps, sleep, breathing, caloric burn, heart rate, sitting time and much more. Debuting at No. 1 in 2016, it has remained in the top three since then. Wearable technology is estimated to be a U.S. $100 billion industry. 

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

More and more of our students, faculty and staff, and members are taking their health and well-being into their own hands, literally. It’s time for us to start taking the advice of “do what you do best and outsource the rest.” Our focus should be on how we can integrate our programs and services into the existing wearable technology instead of using energy to try to create something different.

3. Body Weight Training

What is it?

Since 2013, body weight training has maintained its place in the top 10 list. Simply put, body weight training utilizes the body as the machine, and therefore requires minimal equipment and maximizes workout effectiveness. This was more important than ever this year because the quarantines due to COVID-19 increased the number of people exercising at home and caused a national shortage of weight equipment.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Less is more. People want less equipment and more open floor space.

4. Outdoor Activities

What is it?

Outdoor activities including hiking, biking and walking/jogging in the beautiful outdoors. Whether folks participate individually or in small groups, we’ve seen an increase in people getting outside. These activities include casual meetups to weekend-long excursions. Appearing on the trends list in 2010 at No. 25, it has floated mostly in the teens in the last 10 years but made a jump from No. 13 to No. 4 for the 2021 fitness trends.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

More integration of our campus with our community. This gives an opportunity for our outdoor programs to simplify offerings and lead our students and members through local excursions to explore our own towns and cities.

5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

What is it?

HIIT training is exercise programming that consists of short bursts of high-intensity efforts followed by short periods of rest. Although sustained efforts of more than 90% maximum effort can cause potential injuries or other hazardous effects, HIIT still remains popular.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Educating our team members and our participants is essential. Many of our students and members will be participating in HIIT whether it be in a structured or non-structured environment so they need to know how to do it correctly and safely.

6. Virtual Training

What is it?

Not to be confused with online training, virtual training is group fitness opportunities delivered in your facilities and taught by a virtual instructor on a screen. Classic examples are Fitness OnDemand and LesMills Virtual. This maximizes studio real estate to offer movement opportunities at times when, typically, it’s not financially viable to offer a live in-person instructor. Virtual training also serves as a gateway for folks who aren’t yet comfortable with participating in a live in-person group fitness experience.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Think about all the times your studios set empty throughout the day. With something as simple as an iPad and TV, you can schedule movement opportunities with a virtual pre-recorded instructor and provide a service to those who may not feel comfortable coming to a live class.

 7. Exercise is Medicine

What is it?

According to ACSM, “Exercise is Medicine (EIM) is a global health initiative that encourages health care providers to include physical activity assessment and associated referrals to certified fitness professionals in the community as part of every patient visit.” Most importantly, EIM recognizes fitness professionals as part of the health care team in the community.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Maximizing partnerships on and off campus are critical to the success of EIM and ultimately the improved health and well-being of our students and faculty staff. You don’t have to start big, but you do have to start. 

8. Strength Training with Free Weights

What is it?

Training with free weights showcases that instructors and trainers teach participants proper form with the use of barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and/or medicine balls. Resistance is increased and progressed as the form is executed properly. Debuting on the Top 10 list in 2020, strength training with free weights is staying strong on the list with its finish in the 2021 fitness trends.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Teaching our instructors and trainers the basics of movement progression for health, function, fitness and performance is compulsory in our team member training. Consider including the five primary movement patterns and various progressions and regressions in your continuing education workshops. 

9. Fitness Programs for Older Adults

What is it?

Targeting specifically for baby boomers and the older generations, fitness programs for older adults provide movement opportunities to enhance the quality of life. Folks are generally living longer, working longer and prioritizing their own health and well-being far into retirement.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Your mind may first go straight to your faculty and staff members or perhaps some “non-traditional” students. Yes, and you should use this as an opportunity to serve your off-campus community. Many health clubs and community centers had to permanently shut their doors as a result of COVID-19, thus leaving many of their members without their third place. Just as with virtual training, identify non-peak times such as mid-morning when your foot traffic is low and offer opportunities for older adults in your community to work on their health and well-being. This partnership can also be a way the closed health club and community centers can still maintain a relationship with the population they served for so long. 

10. Personal Training

What is it?

Personal training is considered a one-on-one exercise program delivered online, in-home, in-club or through worksite training programs. Complete with fitness testing and goal setting, a certified personal trainer designs an individualized exercise program specific to each client’s needs and goals.

What does it mean for Campus Recreation?

Personal training continues to evolve to be sustainable and so should we. It’s vital for us to take a close look at the other nine trends on this list and identify ways to incorporate them into our personal training programs.

Conclusion

The ACSM Top Fitness Trends just hit its 15th year with this list of 2021 fitness trends. It’s worth saying the largest jump in trend history happened this year when online training went from No. 26 in 2020 to No. 1 in 2021. COVID-19 had many effects and I will confidently say it changed consumer behavior in the health and well-being industry permanently.

Brick and mortar fitness facilities aren’t going away by any means; people crave the interaction that happens during in-person movement experiences and the positive effects it brings to our social well-being. The freedom that someone else has to exercise when they want, where they want and how they want is invaluable. It’s more important than ever for us to include those value adds in our memberships for our students, faculty and staff, and members because after all, we want to be where they are to meet them where they’re at and wherever they may go

 

To read more about the ACSM Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends and to see No. 11 through No. 20, visit the ACSM Health & Fitness Journal. As always, ACSM states the important note that regional popularity does not always translate to an international trend.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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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