Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
Workout wimps, watch out: The top two fitness trends for 2014 are high-intensity interval training, such as P90X and CrossFit, and body-weight training such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups and planks, according to an annual fitness trends survey out today.
Previous hot trends that didn’t make the new top 20 list: Zumba (Latin-inspired dance workouts), Pilates, spinning, kickboxing, barefoot walking and running and stability-ball workouts.
The American College of Sports Medicine surveyed more than 3,800 fitness professionals who work in commercial, clinical, community and corporate gyms and health clubs to identify the top 20 fitness trends worldwide for next year. They selected those trends from 38 potential choices. This is the eighth year of the survey.
The top trends don’t take into account fitness activities people are doing on their own, and walking is the most popular physical activity in the USA.
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High-intensity interval training involves working out as hard as you can for a short period of time followed by a short, less-intense period, says Walt Thompson, lead researcher on the trends report and a regents’ professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “These are really high-intensity, almost maximum intensity, workouts, such as P90X and CrossFit.”
These workouts use a combination of exercises such as plyometrics (jumping), strength training, yoga, cardiovascular exercise and stretching and are aimed at people who are already accustomed to exercise and are looking for something different and challenging, he says.
Some like this kind of exercise because they can get fit in a short amount of time, but they are also at increased risk of injury, he says. “It could result in orthopedic injuries or cardiovascular complications for people who aren’t accustomed to this kind of exercise. That’s the danger of them which is why I was surprised this came in as No. 1.”
Several of the top 10 trends, including body-weight training and group personal training, may be a reflection of the tight economy, Thompson says. “We are seeing people going back to basics and using relatively low-cost ways to get in shape.”
Boston-based registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, says for some people high-intensity interval training “is a way to relieve stress and work out frustrations.”
But she is not convinced this trend will last long. “If Zumba has moved off the charts — and that is fun — how long will high-intensity exercise hang on? We’ll find out. Likely longer among Type A, time-pressed people who are dedicated to maintaining their health.”
Clinton Brawner, exercise physiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, says, “Almost everybody can start an exercise program like walking, but when we’re talking about doing high-intensity interval training programs then people with chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis or diabetes should consult with their physicians before they begin.”
The key to any exercise program is sticking with it, Brawner says. If you try a program and don’t like it, don’t give up on exercise, keep looking for other options, he says.
Clark agrees, “The ‘e’ in exercise should stand for ‘enjoyment’ and not for ‘excruciating.’ We all need to exercise for health reasons for the rest of our lives, so finding a sustainable program is key.
“As for me, to keep exercise sustainable, I build it into my daily life and social life. I ride my bike to work, walk with my neighbors and run with my dog and/or my running buddies. I also have converted my exer-cycle into a desker-cycle. I can now answer e-mails while gently pedaling and getting blood flowing into my brain.”
You don’t have to go to the gym to get in shape, adds Thompson. “I put on a pair of shoes and go for a jog every morning, and it doesn’t cost more than a pair of shoes.”
Here are the other trends on the top 10 list for 2014, released in the November/December issue of the ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal:
• Employment of educated and experienced fitness professionals. Most gyms are requiring trainers to have a national certification from an accredited group, Thompson says. “In the past, people could just walk in a gym and say they were a personal trainer, and all they had to do was look good in a pair of tight shorts and Spandex. Today, fitness professionals have to be educated and have experience.”
• Strength training. The exercises can be done at the gym or at home with free weights, machines or tried-and-true calisthenics. Weight training will really enhance your workout, Thompson says.
• Exercise and weight loss. “For decades we have been preaching that you have to have a sensible diet and exercise to lose weight effectively and maintain the weight loss,” Thompson says.
• Personal training. “It has been popular for a long time, but we are seeing a slight decrease in the one-on-one training, and now it’s changing to small-group personal training,” Thompson says. “People still want the personal attention.”
• Fitness programs for older adults. Many fitness professionals are creating age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active. Some gyms are catering to older members during their slower times such as from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Thompson says. Gyms may turn down the loud music and stop the flashing lights and offer programs for these adults, he says.
• Functional fitness. This is closely related to special fitness programs for older adults. The goal of this trend is to use strength training to improve balance, coordination, endurance and people’s ability to perform activities of daily living such as carrying the groceries, reaching for things, getting in and out of chairs and the car, and going up and down the stairs, Thompson says. “These exercises imitate activities of daily living.”
• Group personal training. Personal trainers who work with two or four people can offer deep discounts to each member of the group.
• Yoga. It utilizes a series of specific body postures practiced for health and relaxation. “The yoga instructors are really smart. They change their yoga routine enough that it remains attractive to participants,” Thompson says.
Other trends in the top 20: exercise for the treatment and prevention of obesity in children; work site health promotion; core training; outdoor activities; circuit training; outcome measurements (track outcomes to make sure the program is working); wellness coaching; sport-specific training; worker incentive programs; boot camp.