Wearable Technology Named Top Fitness Trend for 2024
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released survey results today in the article “2024 ACSM Worldwide Fitness Trends: Future Directions of the Health and Fitness Industry,” published in the January/February issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. Since 2006, the ACSM Worldwide Fitness Trends survey has gathered input from 2,000 clinicians, researchers and practitioners in the fitness industry and is designed to provide input on fitness trends as opposed to “fads” that have little or no impact on the industry.
Considering the impact that technology continues to make on the world, it’s no surprise that wearable technology hasn’t left the top three trends since 2016 and holds the number one spot for 2024. Devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers and heart rate monitors can include real-time information about pulse, step counts and sleep – thus providing exercise professionals the opportunity to tailor programs for their clients. The persistence of wearables being name the top trend in 2024 may also suggest increased interest in using these tools for community connection and social support.
“We know that social support is one of the strongest predictors of exercise self-efficacy. It is important for exercise professionals to leverage the capabilities of wearable technology to improve adherence and autonomy for clients,” says Trends co-author and spokesperson A’Naja Newsome, Ph.D., ACSM-CEP.
In addition to wearable technology, the No. 2 and No. 3 trends tell an interesting story. The No. 2 fitness trend for 2024 is worksite health promotion, which entered the top 10 for the first time. Clearly, there’s a correlation between employees getting back to work “in office” post-pandemic and the development of work-related programs and perks that increase employee wellness.
“We are noticing that exercise professionals prioritize health-related outcomes of fitness programs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are starting to see fitness being used to reduce symptoms of mental illness and to increase health related quality of life,” says Dr. Newsome.
The number three trend, fitness programs for older adults, experienced fluctuations that were influenced by the pandemic and other external factors, including the fact that many Baby Boomers are entering retirement and adopting a lifestyle that focuses on fitness. This trend was No. 9 in 2021, No. 11 in 2022, then moved up to the No. 4 slot in 2023 and No. 3 in 2024. According to the 2021 Profile of Older Americans, the number of Americans aged 65 and above rose by 38% between 2010 and 2021. Further, this increase is likely to continue through 2040. Roughly 27% of this population lives independently, and regular physical activity is key to helping them remain healthy and independent.
The survey predicts the top 20 fitness trends in the United States and around the world. For 2024, findings were combined from two surveys, ACSM’s Worldwide Fitness Trends and Fitness Trends from Around the Globe, to provide a more wide-ranging but regionally sensitive perspective. The authors also organized the individual trends into thematic categories: Digital Technology, Exercise Setting, Special Populations, Programming, Fitness Business Model, Medical Fitness and Training Modality.
According to Dr. Newsome, the hope is that this combined publication, and the addition of trend categories, will allow readers to understand trends predicted to drive the health and fitness industry here in the U.S. and abroad.
Overall, the top three trends for 2024 seem to paint a picture of a fitness landscape in which people remain focused on the potential of wearable tech, more employers are considering the benefits of facilitating healthy behaviors in employees and older adults make up an increasing proportion of the population in need of physical activity.
Here are the top 10 trends for 2024:
1. Wearable Technology. Think fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices, including tech that can monitor heart rate, calories, sitting time, sleep and more.
2. Worksite Health Promotion. Work-related programs and perks that increase employee wellness. (*First time in the top ten)
3. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. Interventions focused on the unique needs of the aging population.
4. Reimbursement for Qualified Exercise Professionals. Policy changes that would allow exercise professionals to bill insurance more easily.
5. Exercise for Weight Lose. Incorporating weight loss programs such as dieting and culinary interventions alongside an exercise routine.
6. Employing Certified Exercise Professionals. Employing certified health and fitness professionals who have completed educational programs and fully accredited health/fitness certifications.
7. Mobile Exercise Apps. Smartphone and related applications that aid in exercise performance or programming. (*First time in the top ten)
8. Exercise for Mental Health. Improving mental well-being through physical activity. (*First time in the top ten)
9. Youth Athletic Development. Engaging young people in sports and related activities. (*First time in the top ten)
10. Personal Training. Personal training includes goal setting, fitness assessment and exercise programming with a trainer in one-on-one settings.