ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal

INTRODUCTION

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Last year’s introduction started with “The year 2020 is the most memorable in many of our lives, especially those of us in the fitness industry.” We predicted that the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19 would change everything. Well, it did, and now as we enter the year 2022, the fitness world continues to feel its effects. The more widespread use of vaccinations, mitigation efforts, and our need to get back to a normal lifestyle may have influenced the 2022 survey results. For example, new to last year’s survey was the inclusion of new trends such as online training and virtual training (the no. 1 trend for 2021). For 2022, online live and on-demand exercise classes fell to no. 9. The no. 1 trend was wearable technology (the no. 2 trend for 2021 but no. 1 for 2019 and 2020). Home exercise gyms is the no. 2 trend for 2022, and outdoor exercise is the no. 3 trend. No doubt the result of COVID-19 recommendations, outdoor exercise was the no. 4 trend for 2021 but was no. 17 for 2019, and no. 13 in 2020. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) was the no. 1 trend in 2014 but fell to no. 5 for 2021 and continues to drop, now at no. 7 for 2022. The results of this annual survey will help the health and fitness industry make critical business decisions for future growth and development. These investments can be based on emerging trends that have been identified by health fitness professionals all over the world instead of basing these decisions on the latest exercise infomercials found on television, social media, or the next hottest celebrity endorsing a product.

For the last 16 years, the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® (FIT) have circulated an electronic survey to thousands of professionals around the world to determine health and fitness trends for the following year. This survey guides health and fitness programming efforts for 2022 and beyond. The first survey (1), conducted in 2006 (for predictions in 2007), introduced a systematic way to forecast health and fitness trends, and these surveys have been conducted annually since that time (2–15) using the same methodology. As this is a survey of trends (and not fads), respondents were asked to first make the very important distinction between a “fad” and a “trend.”

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These annual ACSM Worldwide Surveys of Fitness Trends can be used in the commercial (usually for-profit companies), clinical (including medical fitness centers), community (not-for-profit companies), and corporate divisions of the health and fitness industry. They continue to confirm previously identified trends but also recognize some new emerging trends, along with COVID-19-related trends that appeared for the first time in 2021 and are continuing for 2022. The fitness trends survey does not attempt to evaluate products, services, equipment, gym apparatus, hardware, software, tools, or other exercise machines that may appear in clubs or recreation centers or show up in television infomercials or on social media. The survey was designed to confirm or to introduce new trends (not fads) that will have a perceived positive impact on the industry according to the international respondents. Some of the trends identified in earlier surveys could predictably appear for several years, whereas fads may appear but will expectedly drop off the list in subsequent years (some staying in the rankings for as little as 1 year). The potential market impact of new equipment, an exercise device, or program is not evaluated by this annual survey. The information provided in this survey is left entirely up to the readers to determine if it fits their own business model, and how to best use the information for potential market expansion.

Commercial health clubs (those that are for-profit and the largest sector of the industry) can use these results for the establishment (or maybe the justification) of potential new markets, which may result in increased and more sustainable revenue drivers. Corporate wellness programs and medical fitness centers will find these results useful through potential increases in service to their members and to their patients. Community-based programs (typically not-for-profit organizations) can use these results to justify investments in their markets by providing expanded programs typically serving families and children. The health and fitness industry should carefully consider and thoughtfully apply this information to its own unique setting.

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THE SURVEY

Every attempt was made to replicate the survey delivery as in the past 16 years. For the 2022 survey, there were 43 possible trends. The top 25 trends from previous years were included in the survey, as were some potentially emerging trends identified by the editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. The editors represent all four sectors of the health fitness industry (corporate, clinical, community, and commercial) as well as from academia. In the survey, potential trends were identified, followed by a short explanation to offer the respondent a few details without inconveniencing them with too much reading, analysis, or interpretation. The survey was designed to be completed in about 15 minutes, which was intended to help the response rate. As an incentive to complete the survey, the editors made available to 10 randomly selected winners fitness-related books published by Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and Human Kinetics and a $100 MasterCard gift card. These incentives were designed to help increase participation in the survey.

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As in all previous years, the survey was constructed using a Likert-type scale ranging from a low score of 1 (least likely to be a trend) to a high score of 10 (most likely to be a trend). After each scoring opportunity, space was allowed for additional comments. At the survey conclusion, space was provided for the respondent to include comments or potential fitness trends left off the list to be considered for future surveys, as well as some demographic information. The next step was to send the survey electronically to a defined list of health and fitness professionals. Using SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com), the online survey was initially sent to 123,615 people (a 64% increase from last year’s record of 75,383), including current ACSM certified professionals, those who registered to attend the 2021 ACSM’s International Health & Fitness Summit, the ACSM Certification email opt-in list, ACSM Alliance members, ACSM professional members who have added a FIT subscription, nonmember FIT subscribers, FIT Associate Editors, and FIT Editorial Board members. A link also was shared on the FIT Web site and on various social media sites, including the FIT Twitter page, the ACSM Journal’s Facebook page, and ACSM’s Instagram page. This year, the online/social media link solicited 427 responses. The survey response total was 4,546, up 169 responses from last year’s total number of responses of 4,377. The response rate was 3.5%, which is comparable to previous years.

Responses were received from just about every continent, including the countries of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Russia, Singapore, Serbia, United Kingdom, and the United States, among many others. Demographics of the survey respondents included 60% females (40% males) across a wide variability in ages (Figure 1), with 51% of all respondents having more than 10 years of industry experience (Figure 2) and 25% with more than 20 years of experience. More than 36% of the survey respondents earned an annual salary of more than $50,000, which included more than 6% who earned at least $100,000 a year (Figure 3). Respondents were asked to identify their occupations (Table 1), with 20% indicating that they were full-time or part-time personal trainers. Figure 4 indicates where respondents work, with 33% indicating they were in private practice or they owned their own business. Figure 5 indicates the broad range of certifications held by the survey respondents (38% reported not having a certification). When asked if they worked full-time or part-time (Figure 6), 62% indicated full-time and 29% part-time (less than 20 hours per week).

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Figure 1: Age (in years) of survey respondents.

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