Is the new year inspiring you to get back into shape? If so, you might want to try an exercise tracker, group fitness or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These are the top three fitness trends for 2019, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
For its 13th annual forecast, the organization (made up of sports medicine and exercise science professionals) asked its members to rank 39 possible fitness trends. The three mentioned above have been ranked highly for several years, but there were some surprises: Core training and Pilates, both longtime favorites, failed to crack the top 20.
Wearable technology moved back to No. 1 after falling to No. 3 last year. “The wearables, even the low-end ones, have gotten more accurate,” said Walter Thompson, author of the report, which appeared in the November/December issue of the organization’s Health & Fitness Journal. “That may help explain why they’re back at the top.”
Group fitness, the No. 2 trend, has been popular since the 1970s, but it’s evolving because of specialization, said Devon Maier, managing director of Balance Gym, a Washington, D.C.-based gym. “It’s driven by boutique studios that do one thing and they do that one thing well. It’s inspired everyone to up their game. A cycling class today is much better than just a few years ago” because it incorporates more aspects of exercise, such as varying levels of intensity.
This brings us to No. 3: HIIT. This type of training is generally 30 minutes or less and incorporates short, intense intervals that can push your effort level up to 90 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate. It has long been a mainstay among elite athletes, and it has recently made its way into the time-crunched public.
“I think at first we were all afraid that HIIT would lead to increased injuries in the general public, but that has not proven to be true,” said Thompson, who is an associate dean and professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University. “There is no more risk of injury than any other exercise.”
No. 4 is fitness programs for older adults, defined as baby boomers and older. Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers but are not slowing down, Thompson said. “The gyms are increasingly offering specific fitness programs for older adults,” he said. It’s a win-win for the exercisers and the gyms, who can fill their midmorning and midafternoon “dead time” by making their atmosphere more appealing to this demographic by softening music and lights.
No. 5 is body-weight exercise, which started staging a comeback about a decade ago. This includes such popular and effective exercises as planks, lunges and pullups.
No. 6 was employing certified fitness professionals; more programs have become accredited. This was a new survey item for 2019, replacing “educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals,” which was determined to be too broadly defined as a survey item.
Yoga was ranked No. 7. “Unlike Pilates, which got stale after a while, yoga kept changing. That’s why it’s still so popular,” Thompson said. No. 8 was personal training, which is becoming more accessible online, in clubs and even at work.
No. 9 was functional fitness training, exercises designed to replicate the activities people might do as part of their daily routine. Often paired with exercise for older adults, this was No. 10 on last year’s list.
And No. 10 was Exercise is Medicine, a global health initiative 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.