2024 ACSM Worldwide Fitness Trends: Future Directions of the Health and Fitness Industry
This report for 2024 describes the top 20 potential trends defined in ACSM's Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends (Table 3). As in previous years, the order of trends is dynamic and reflects the changing needs of the fitness industry, although others may seem to be relatively static for a duration of time. Wearable technology has been the #1 trend each year since 2016 (with the exception of #3 for 2018 and #2 for 2021). Worksite health promotion had been ousted from the top 20 for many years (#27 for 2021, #28 for 2022, #30 for 2023) but comes in at #2 for 2024. Three of the four digital technology trends emerge in the top 20, which may indicate a continued focus on connectivity and feedback for improved fitness behaviors and outcomes. Employing certified fitness professionals, the #6 trend, moves toward the top of the trends list (#9 for 2023, #13 for 2022).
TABLE 3 - ACSM Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2024
TABLE 3 - ACSM Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2024
|Worksite Health Promotion
|Fitness Programs for Older Adults
|Exercise for Weight Loss
|Reimbursement for Qualified Exercise Professionals
|Fitness Business Model
|Employing Certified Exercise Professionals
|Fitness Business Model
|Mobile Exercise Apps
|Exercise for Mental Health
|Youth Athletic Development
|Outdoor Fitness Activities
|Functional Fitness Training
|Exercise is Medicine
|Traditional Strength Training
|Data-Driven Training Technology
|Online Personal Training
|High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Wearable Technology. Wearable technology is the #1 trend and has been a mainstay in the top 3 trends since 2016. Wearable technology includes a variety of devices that a person can wear or attach to themselves and are commonly connected to a smartphone. This technology provides real-time information such as heart rate, step counts, active minutes, and sleep time. Wearable technology allows exercise professionals to further individualize day-to-day physical activity for their clients, tracking patterns, performance, and progress over time (11).
- Worksite Health Promotion. Worksite health promotion is new to the trends list at #2. This seems to further support an increased interest in health and quality of life, which impacts many areas, including workplace productivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average American will spend approximately one-third of their life at the workplace when participating in a 40-hour work week. Employers have an opportunity to encourage health-promoting behaviors (e.g., physical activity and preventative screenings). These benefits often lower insurance costs, increase workplace productivity, and improve mental health (12). Some examples of worksite health promotion include access to fitness facilities, employee athletic leagues, and health education classes.
- Fitness Programs for Older Adults. Increasing fitness program options for older adults moves up to #3. The 2021 Profile of Older Americans reports a 38% increase in Americans aged 65 and older since 2010, with approximately 27% of this population living independently (13). The older adult population of Americans is projected to continue its growth through 2040. Aging increases the risk of chronic illness, cognitive impairment, and falls in this population. Regular aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity is an essential strategy for reducing the impact of disease, maintaining independence, and improving quality of life throughout the aging process.
- Exercise for Weight Loss. Exercise for weight loss comes in at #4 (#8 for 2023). It is being recognized that regular exercise is a contributor to improving metabolic function and reducing body fat. Exercise should include aerobic activity, strength training, and accompany dietary changes to create a caloric deficit. Exercise aids in preserving lean body mass through weight loss efforts and helps consumers maintain long-term weight loss.
- Reimbursement for Qualified Exercise Professionals (QEPs). This trend appears at #5 and is a revised trend from previous years, which advocated for licensure for QEPs. Licensure never peaked in the top 10, and significant policy-level barriers exist that make licensure less realistic for the fitness industry in many regions worldwide. However, reimbursement for the services that QEPs are trained to provide supports recognition of exercise professionals (i.e., personal trainers and exercise physiologists) as a part of the health-care continuum. An ACSM Task Force was formed in 2021 to advocate for policy change allowing insurance billing for patient services performed by QEPs within their scope of practice to improve physical activity outcomes and quality of life (14).
- Employing Certified Exercise Professionals. Employing certified professionals, appearing at #6 for 2024, has been a consistent top 10 trend. Health and fitness companies recognize the importance of hiring trained professionals to lead fitness programs. Obtaining an accredited certification communicates to consumers that a professional has obtained proficient knowledge to support them with their fitness goals. Certified professionals can be trusted to have the minimum skill level to safely prescribe exercise within their scope of practice. Maintaining accredited certifications requires evidence of continued education, which is important for decreasing injury risk for consumers and reducing liability for employers. To find a certified exercise professional near you, check the US Registry of Exercise Professionals (https://usreps.org/). To look at certifications available through ACSM go to: https://www.acsm.org/certification/get-certified.
- Mobile Exercise Apps. Mobile exercise apps break into the top 10 trends list at #7. It is a part of the digital technology trend category. This trend first appeared in the top 20 at number 17 in 2016, under the name Smart phone exercise apps. The use of mobile exercise apps allows for flexibility in program delivery. Exercise apps have impacted the market with many unique options for consumers and demonstrate effectiveness in increasing physical activity for users. Consumers can use mobile apps to track exercise activities and receive feedback on performance. Some apps integrate mechanisms for social support and provide tips for behavioral skill acquisition, both key components of health behavior change theory.
- Exercise for Mental Health. Programming exercise for improved mental health lands at #8 as individuals begin to acknowledge the importance of movement on cognition and mood. Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Approximately one in every eight individuals globally is affected to varying degrees by mental illness (WHO), and regular exercise can serve as a protective factor. Physical activity and exercise can boost mood and improve mental health (15). ACSM offers resources to exercise professionals for incorporating physical activity to support mental health.
- Youth Athletic Development. The #9 trend represents an approach to youth training that focuses on developing motor skills, strength, and coordination. There is a rise in training facilities and programs such as KidStrong® designed to improve confidence, develop social skills, and enhance sports performance. Children and adolescents learn basic movement patterns and prepare for skill acquisition. Exercise professionals should consider continuing education or specialty training when working with this special population.
- Personal Training. As the #10 trend, personal training has remained a staple in the top 10 fitness trends list since its inception in 2007. Personal training provides one-on-one training involving fitness testing, goal setting, and program implementation. Consumers may benefit from this service to learn effective exercise selection, safety, and recovery methods. Earning a nationally accredited credential such as those certifications offered by ACSM can prepare exercise professionals to work with a variety of clients.
- Lifestyle Medicine. With increased consumer and industry focus on both longevity and health span (high quality of life years), it is no surprise that lifestyle medicine has moved up five spots this year to #11. Lifestyle medicine first appeared at #16 in 2020 (#18 for 2021, #19 for 2022, #16 for 2023). Lifestyle medicine promotes healthy behaviors as the foundation of health promotion, disease prevention, and medical treatment. Increasing physical activity and decreasing sedentary behavior are general recommendations for improving health outcomes for all people with chronic disease. Examples of targeted patient behaviors align with the American Heart Association's (AHA) Life's Essential 8, and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends additional priorities such as improving nutrition, reducing stress, and enhancing social well-being.
- Outdoor Fitness Activities. Outdoor fitness activities lands at #12 for 2024. While this trend debuted as #25 in 2010, outdoor fitness activities jumped to higher ranking spots in the last several years (#4 for 2021, #3 for 2022, and #6 for 2023) due to COVID-19–related restrictions. Even as the industry finds a “new normal,” participation in fitness activities outdoors seems to be a mainstay for many brands and exercise professionals. Activities occur in public parks, plazas, or hiking trails and are led by exercise professionals. This trend supports single-day or multiday events involving running, biking, or leisure sports and encourages community engagement and social well-being.
- Health and Wellness Coaching. This trend has not appeared in the top 20 since 2010 and is the #13 trend for 2024. Health and wellness coaches integrate behavioral science principles and theories into health promotion and lifestyle medicine programs, helping bridge the gap between the clinic and community. The model positions the client as the authority on his or her behavior-change journey while the coaching professional partners to provide support and feedback using evidence-based behavior-change techniques. Coaching sessions can be individual or small group. ACSM's partnership with Wellcoaches continues to offer certified exercise professionals with evidence-based resources to facilitate changes in mindset and behaviors surrounding physical activity. Find more resources for professional health coaching here:https://www.acsm.org/certification/professional-resources/wellcoaches.
- Functional Fitness Training. Falling to #14 for 2024 (#5 for 2023) is functional fitness training. This trend is a training modality that improves balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance to enhance activities of daily living. These types of programs reflect activities the client might do during the day to maintain or improve physical function and independence (16). While developing muscular strength and power and improving balance and proprioception is essential for all adults, it is especially important for older adults and clinical populations. Because the older adult population exhibits low physical activity levels, on average, exercise professionals and industry companies should continue to prioritize functional training that reduces the risk of cardiometabolic disease, improves physical function, and the ability to live independently for longer.
- Yoga. Yoga lands at the #15 spot in the 2024 trends list. Mindfulness practice is a great way to reduce feelings of stress, improve mental wellness, and promote self-awareness. As a training modality, yoga is scalable for many fitness levels and safe for special populations. Most commonly done in group class settings with a live instructor, traditional yoga includes styles such as Hatha, Vinyasa, and Bikram. Power yoga (aka: Vinyasa) combines traditional flows with an added strength focus, whereas restorative formats (i.e., Hatha) aim to be slower and more relaxing. Yoga is now available across several settings, including boutique fitness studios and community recreation centers, but can be done individually using on-demand platforms.
- Exercise is Medicine® (EIM). As a global health initiative that appears as the #16 trend for 2024, EIM encourages health-care providers to include physical activity assessment and treatment as a standard of care when administering a care plan for patients. EIM recognizes that certified exercise professionals are an integral part of the health-care continuum. The multilevel campaign promotes awareness and education of physical activity and suggests that it should be recognized as a vital sign of health. Registered EIM programs create a structure for physicians to refer patients to evidence-based exercise programs and qualified exercise professionals. ACSM is engaged in significant advocacy work with strategic partners like the AHA and the American Council on Exercise to promote physical activity in health-care policy.
- Traditional Strength Training. This trend is a fundamental component of ACSM's exercise guidelines but has declined considerably since 2020, coming in at #17 for the 2024 survey (#4 for 2022 and #2 for 2023). Focusing on proper movement and lifting technique, traditional strength training incorporates barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells to improve or maintain muscular fitness by manipulating repetitions, sets, tempo, load, and exercise selection to reach different muscular fitness goals. Given the well-documented mental and physical benefits of strength training, boutique studios and big box gyms continue to innovate and promote strength training-based group exercise class formats, with MindBody Online categorizing strength training as an industry-wide top trend.
- Data-Driven Training Technology. This trend was added as a new potential trend for 2024. It appears as the #18 trend and demonstrates the significance of digital technology within the fitness industry. Clients can use real-time data output, such as heart rate, velocity, and speed, to guide their workout experiences. This type of training allows for individualized coaching and instruction even in a group setting where there may be various fitness levels, with only one exercise professional. Real-time feedback during a workout educates clients on the links between exercise programming and physiological output and helps clients self-monitor effort and intensity within and between sessions. Certified exercise professionals must stay abreast of the digital health and connected fitness landscape, leaning into data-driven training to enhance or diversify program offerings.
- Online Personal Training. Online personal training fell out of the top 20 in 2023 but returned to the list at #19 for 2024. Online personal training uses digital technology to deliver online individual and group instructional exercise programs. It may include interactive, live training sessions or asynchronous/prerecorded workout template programs from a certified exercise professional. This trend equips certified professionals with a more efficient and convenient way to reach more consumers with their training programs and expertise. In addition, online personal training may improve accessibility of services to those experiencing barriers to meeting physical activity guidelines, such as perceived lack of knowledge, time, access to facilities, and social support (17).
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Dropping to #20 for 2024 (#7 for 2023), HIIT involves repeated bouts of short, near-maximum effort exercise (>80% maximum heart rate), followed by longer active or passive recovery periods. Recognized for its health benefits like improved peak aerobic capacity, improved cardiovascular health, and better insulin sensitivity, HIIT workouts can be programmed using various equipment options like treadmills, rowers, or bikes (18). The HIIT programming is heart rate-based training that can be customized to meet all fitness levels' needs. It is attractive because it is time-efficient for individual or group environments. The training modality has shown cardiorespiratory fitness benefits for some special populations with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or certain cancers.