Survey Predicts Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2012

ACSM experts examine what’s hot, and what’s not, in the health-and-fitness industry.
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INDIANAPOLIS – Zumba® is in and Pilates is out, according to more than 2,600 fitness professionals who completed an American College of Sports Medicine survey of the top fitness trends for 2012. The survey results were released today in the “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2012” article published in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.



Zumba (and other dance workouts) and outdoor activities both made their debuts in the top 20 this year. Zumba and other dance workouts ranked ninth, and outdoor activities ranked 14th.



“Zumba and other dance workouts first appeared on the list of potential trends in 2010, but this is the first year Zumba has made the top 20,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey. “While Zumba has experienced a rapid surge in popularity in the past year, future surveys will indicate if Zumba is truly a trend or simply a fad.”

Educated and experienced fitness professionals claimed the top spot in 2012 for the fifth consecutive year. Outcome measurements and clinical integration/medical fitness both dropped out of the top 20 this year. Outcome measurements, a way to quantify progress in clubs and wellness programs, had a five-year run in the top 20 and ranked 13th in 2011. Clinical integration/medical fitness, perhaps tied to last year’s national health care reform, only appeared in the top 20 in 2011 and claimed 18th place. Pilates, which first dropped out of the top 20 for 2011, remained off the list for 2012.

“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting that jobs for fitness workers will increase much faster than other occupations,” said Thompson, an exercise physiologist at Georgia State University, a Fellow of ACSM and a spokesperson for the ACSM American Fitness IndexTM. “Educated and experienced fitness professionals – such as those with professional certifications – will have the best chances to get new jobs in an increasingly competitive field.”

The survey, now in its sixth year, was completed by 2,620 health and fitness professionals worldwide (many certified by ACSM) and was designed to reveal trends in various fitness environments. Thirty-seven potential trends were given as choices, and the top 20 were ranked and published by ACSM.

The top ten fitness trends predicted for 2012 are:

  1. Educated and experienced fitness professionals. Given the large number of organizations offering health and fitness certifications, it’s important that consumers choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as those offered by ACSM.
  2. Strength training. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete physical activity program for all physical activity levels and genders.
  3. Fitness programs for older adults. As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.
  4. Exercise and weight loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.
  5. Children and obesity. With childhood obesity growing at an alarming rate, health and fitness professionals see the epidemic as an opportunity to create programs tailored to overweight and obese children. Solving the problem of childhood obesity will have an impact on the health care industry today and for years to come.
  6. Personal training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that students are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.
  7. Core training. Distinct from strength training, core training specifically emphasizes conditioning of the middle-body muscles, including the pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen – all of which provide needed support for the spine.
  8. Group personal training. In challenging economic times, many personal trainers are offering group training options. Training two or three people at once makes economic sense for both the trainer and the clients.
  9. Zumba and other dance workouts. A workout that requires energy and enthusiasm, Zumba combines Latin rhythms with interval-type exercise and resistance training.
  10. Functional fitness. This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.



The full list of top 20 trends is available upon request in the article "Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2012.”

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 45,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

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