ACSM reveals its 2023 fitness trends

Wearable technology is 2023’s number one worldwide fitness trend according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which has released a list of 20 industry trends taken from its annual survey.

Launched in 2006 and designed to help sector stakeholders make informed business decisions, this year’s survey was sent to 125,940 people, including more than 32,000 ACSM-certified professionals, with 3,735 (58 per cent women and 41 per cent men) responding from almost every continent.

The results were released in the article Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023 penned by ACSM’s past president Walter R Thompson, the lead author of the survey, and published in the January/February issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal.

“The health and fitness industry should carefully consider and thoughtfully apply this information to its own unique setting,” wrote Thompson. “Commercial health clubs (the largest sector of the industry) can use these results for the establishment of potential new markets, which may result in increased and more sustainable revenue drivers.

“Corporate wellness programmes and medical fitness centres will find these results useful through potential increases in service to their members and to their patients. Community-based programmes can use these results to justify investments in their markets by providing expanded programmes typically serving families and children.”

Here is an expanded list of the top ten with 11-20 following after.

1. Wearable technology

This includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices and trackers that monitor heart rate, calories, sitting time, sleep, and so on. Wearable technology has found itself at the number one spot since it was first introduced into the survey in 2016, except for 2018 (when it was third) and 2021 (when it came second).

“Wearables are certainly not going anywhere,” said Thompson. “Not only are these devices becoming more affordable, but wearable data is increasingly being used in clinical decision making so they are continuing to hold their appeal.”

2. Strength training with free weights

This includes the use of barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells to improve or maintain muscular fitness. It dropped to number eight last year, but has become more popular over the last 12 months.

3. Body weight training

This activity uses bodyweight resistance to weight train. It first appeared on ACSM’s trends survey in 2013 at number three and dipped to seven in 2020 and eight in 2022, but was in third position in 2021.

4. Fitness programmes for older adults

This trend is coming back after being number two in 2007 and falling to 11 in 2017 and 2022. “This is a trend that emphasises and caters to the fitness needs of the baby boomer and older generations,” commented Thompson. “People are living longer, working longer and desiring to remain healthy and physically active throughout their lifespan.

Thompson suggests that this generation has more “discretionary money” than younger generations so fitness clubs can capitalise on this growing market. “Changing the atmosphere (including lights and type of music) of gyms to be more older generation friendly during the traditional slow times of the day is the type of trend that seems to be catching on in commercial clubs,” he wrote.

5. Functional fitness training

This is defined as training to improve balance, coordination, functional strength and endurance to improve activities of daily living. Functional fitness first appeared in 2007 at number four and fell to number fourteen in 2021, so it is making a comeback this year.

6. Outdoor activities

Activities can include group walks, rides, paddle boarding, mountain biking and organised hiking, and can be day-long or multi day events. “Perhaps because of the Covid-19 restrictions, more outdoor activities have recently become popular,” said Thompson. In 2021 it ranked in fourth place and in 2022 it was number three. It first appeared in 2010 in position 25.

7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Last year HIIT dropped out of the top five for the first time – it was first in 2014 and 2018 – to number seven and is still in this position. Sessions vary in format, but can include dumbbells, cycling, bodyweight and stair climbing.

8. Exercise for weight loss

Combined weight loss and exercise programmes have been a top 20 trend since the survey began. It was number five in 2022, but has dropped to eighth position for 2023.

“Perhaps because of the quarantine imposed by COVID-19 and resulting perceived (or real) weight gain, exercise for weight loss made a comeback in 2022,” wrote Thompson. “Most diet programmes recommend including some form of an exercise programme into the daily routine of caloric restriction, adding the caloric expenditure of physical activity into the equation.”

9. Employing certified fitness professionals

“The importance of hiring certified health and fitness professionals through educational programmes and accredited certification programmes has remained a steady trend,” said Thompson. “More certification programmes have become accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, allowing employers easy access to certification.”

This trend first appeared in 2019 in sixth position, but was thirteenth in 2021 and 2022.

10. Personal training

Having been a top ten trend since the survey was first released in 2006, personal training continues to be popular, however, once at number three (in 2008 and 2009) it has dropped to position ten.

“One-on-one training continues to be a strong trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, in the home, and in work sites,” wrote Thompson. “Personal training includes fitness testing and goal setting with the trainer collaborating one-on-one with a client to prescribe workouts specific to his or her individual needs and goals.”

Fitness trends making up the rest of the top 20 are (in order from 11-20): core training; circuit training; home exercise gyms; group training; exercise is medicine; lifestyle medicine; yoga; licensure for fitness professionals; health/wellbeing coaching; and mobile exercise apps.

According to Thompson, trends that have disappeared from the top 20 for 2023 include online live and on-demand exercises classes (was number nine in 2022) and online personal training (from 17 to 26). New entries include balance and stabilisation training (in at number 23), stretch-based training (debut at 36) and virtual reality exercise training (in at number 41).

ACSM also released a 2023 Fitness Trends from Around the Globe article in its January/February journal that provides the top 20 fitness trends for Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

The number one trend for Australia is fitness programmes for older adults; for Brazil, it is personal training; for Europe, body weight training takes first place; for Mexico, exercise and weight loss programmes are number one; Portugal has licensure for fitness professionals in the top spot; Spain puts functional fitness in first position; and the US has wearable technology as its number one trend.

ACSM’s survey results and top 20 list can be found here: