11 top fitness trends for 2011

Is it your goal to stay in shape? With the economy improving, health and fitness experts are expecting good things for the industry this year — and that’s good news for consumers. Say “so long!” to one-size-fits-all programs — this year there are even more options to appeal to individual abilities and interests.

Every year, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) make their predictions for the coming months based on market indicators and surveys of fitness professionals. Here are some trends we can expect to see in 2011:

Top fitness trends for 2011

Fitness for 50+. The industry is catching on to the fact that older adults are focussed on leading healthier, more active lives — and baby boomers are the largest demographic and have the most discretionary cash to spend. Watch for more places to offer niche programs for baby boomers and seniors — not to mention specialized gyms and personal trainers eager to help. Retirement residents and long-term care facilities will even be in on the trend as exercise programs tailored to residents’ abilities have been proven to prevent falls and injuries.

Youth programs. Obesity rates in children and teens are a major concern that many health and awareness programs plan to tackle in 2011. (First Lady Michelle Obama even appointed a task force to address the issue in the U.S.) Gyms, schools, doctors and recreation programs are predicted to turn more attention to keeping kids fit and active. It’s not just kids’ stuff either: look for sports, outings and activities that include the whole family.

Strength training. Once thought to be the realm of body builders and athletes, strength training is now considered an essential part of a balanced fitness regime. While appearance is certainly important, the focus is on health — especially as people age. Strength training is the way to go to retain muscle tone and bone mass, not to mention staying active and independent.

Core training. The muscles in the middle — those “core” abdomen and back groupings — are getting more attention too because they help provide strength, stability and balance. Core training will continue to be popular again this year.

Personal training. With the market recovering, more people are expected to start investing in themselves again with some one-on-one attention from a fitness pro. It’s not just people looking to get in shape — clients will also be looking to physiotherapists, occupational therapists and sports medicine experts for some personalized advice.

It won’t be hard to find qualified professionals this year either as surveys indicate more people are seeking certification — and more places will be hiring.

Exercise and weight loss. We’re well versed in the benefits of exercise — especially its role in obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight to dodge or deal with chronic disease. This year, gyms and trainers will continue to make calorie-burning a focus, and weight loss programs will increasingly incorporate an exercise component.

Boot camps. If you love those high intensity, military-style workouts you’ll be happy to hear they’re going strong for another year. There’s a lot of variation among these types of workouts — some focus on indoor activities while others stay outside, and many include strength training as well as cardio.

Not a fan of boot camp-style fitness? Other popular workouts this year will include Zumba, spinning (indoor cycling) and small group workouts. Yoga continues to be popular, though Pilates may be losing some of its following, according to the numbers.

Functional fitness. Never heard of it? This type of exercise uses the benefits of strength training — like improved balance, coordination and endurance — to help people perform daily activities. Rather than artificial activities like bench pressing and weight lifting, you build the muscles you actually use at home and work, especially if you’re in a physically demanding field.

This trend is also a crossover — it’s part of fitness programs for older adults as well as occupational therapy.

Focus on wellness. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t the only concern: regular exercise also tops the list of smart lifestyle habits that ward off illness. Doctors, patients and fitness pros alike are looking for more ways to use exercise as prevention, and new businesses like wellness and lifestyle coaching are taking off as a result.

Many programs will also target trouble areas like stress and poor sleep habits — both of which play a significant role in illness and can be helped with exercise.

Workplace programs and incentives. Encouraging fitness makes business sense for employers — after all, healthy workers are more productive, take less time off and are less likely to suffer burnout. More companies are offering employees ways to stay fit from in-house gyms and trainers to discounts on (or reimbursements for) fitness programs and gym memberships. Some companies even offer incentive programs to motivate people to exercise.

How common are these programs? There aren’t any hard numbers to speak to their popularity, but it may be worth asking what your company offers.

Fitness tech. Dare we say “there’s an app for that”? Not surprisingly, technology will continue to play a role when it comes to health and fitness. More people are turning to social media sites, online communities and online tools to track their progress and find support. Count calories on your smart phone, watch fitness videos on YouTube or participate in an online programs like the Arthritis Society’s Lifestyle Makeover Challenge. Even better: most of the tech offerings are free or inexpensive.

One tech trend that isn’t taking off is virtual fitness classes, so don’t expect a lot of new offerings.

While not all of these trends have universal appeal, the overall direction in which the fitness industry is heading offers good news for most. With the focus on health and wellness — and the wider variety of customized choices — it will be easier than ever to stay in shape this year.

For a complete list of fitness trends see ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2011 and the ACE press release.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Izabela Habur

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