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Trends | Fitness | Activities Participants give it their all in a group fitness session at the announcement of the ASICS and SWITCH partnership. Photo: Yamkela Mkebe.
January 2016

Trendy fitness activities

Fitness fads might come and go, but those activities that become trends can help retailers predict what might be good product sellers for the year to come … or what products might not be worth stocking, writes CARIN HARDISTY

The Health & Fitness category is a strongly expanding growth market, states Messe München, the organisers of ISPO Munich*. “70% of the current German workforce considers life stressful; every fifth worker suffers from permanent stress. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on health, and the desire to be healthy has an increasing influence on personal lifestyles.”

The use of technologies is a big trend among fitness participants. So big, in fact, that wearable technology is the number one fitness trend for 2015, reveals the Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016, compiled by Dr Walter R. Thompson for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

“It seems as though the back to basics philosophy of the industry that was driven by the weak economy might be fading,” writes Thompson.

“Mobile services make the integration of suitable exercise programs and nutritional recipes into the every day possible,” adds Messe München. “The increasingly popular wearables in the form of fitness tracking bracelets, smart watches and even data eyewear set new standards for exercise and lifestyle. These hi-tech mini computers have become our personal exercise partners. Even though our beloved smartphones are almost never left behind, these wearables are carried close to the body and this opens up new types of applications.”

Interestingly enough, wearable technology is a new trend category that makes its appearance for the first time in the report.

Smart phone exercise apps (#17) is one of the other two new categories in the Top 20 trends identified in the 2016 report supporting the trend towards increased use of technology.

Flexibility and mobility rollers (#16) is the third new category. “It was interesting to observe these kinds of programs trending positively for 2016,” writes Thompson. “Although the research is not abundant, there seems to be a growing market for these specialized devices.”

Top 20 trends for 2016*
1 Wearable technology
2 Body weight training
3 High-intensity interval training
4 Strength training
5 Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals
6 Personal training
7 Functional fitness
8 Special fitness programs for older adults
9 Exercise and weight loss
10 Yoga
11 Group personal training
12 Worksite health promotion
13 Wellness coaching
14 Outdoor activities
15 Sport-specific training
16 Flexibility and mobility rollers
17 Smart phone exercise apps
18 Circuit training
19 Core training
20 Outcome measurements

*Source: Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016.


With its vast selection of branches, yoga offers something for everyone. It is not really a surprise that it is among the Top 10 fitness trends.

“Yoga seems to reinvent and refresh itself every year, making it a more attractive form of exercise,” writes Thompson.

Functional fitness

Functional fitness (CrossFit) has had a constant presence in the Top 10 since the ACSM started doing the survey in 2007, with the exception of 2009 when it fell just outside (#11). In the 2016 report, it holds position 7.

“Some of the survey respondents said that they typically pair functional fitness with fitness programs for older adults (trend number 8) depending on the needs of the client,” writes Thompson. “Even the frail elderly can improve their balance and ability to perform activities of daily living when provided appropriate functional fitness activities. It is assumed that people who are retired not only have greater sums of discretionary money, but also have a tendency to spend it more wisely and may have more time to engage in an exercise program.”

“The concern for the health of aging adults has been consistently at the top of this survey, and this year is no different,” he continues. “The baby boom generation is now aging into retirement.”

Types of training

In 2010, sport-specific training was among the top ten fitness trends (#8), according to ACSM’s study. In their latest study, it has dropped to #15. While not quite on the way out, this fitness trend is today not as popular as it once was.

Body weight training, high-intensity interval training and strength training all trend higher, reports the study.

Increased interest in new technologies has pushed body weight training off its #1 spot, which it held in the 2015 report, down to position number two.

“Body weight training did not appear as an option before 2013, because it only became popular (as a defined trend) in gyms around the world during the last couple of years,” writes Thompson. “This is not to say that body weight training had not been used previously; in fact, people have been using their own body weight for centuries as a form of resistance training. But new packaging, particularly by commercial clubs, has now made it popular in all kinds of gyms.”

“As the #1 position in the survey suggested last year, body weight training is a trend to watch for the future,” he adds.

About the survey

The Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2016 is the tenth annual survey published by the American College of Sports Medicine. The survey received more than 2 800 responses from health and fitness professionals worldwide in the commercial, clinical, non-profit community, and corporate sectors.

“The survey has been designed to confirm or to introduce new trends (not fads) that have a perceived impact on the industry according to international respondents,” states the author, Dr Walter R. Thompson.

For the survey, respondents were asked to make a distinction between a fad and a trend. The survey used the Cambridge dictionary definitions:

  • Trend: “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving”;

  • Fad: “a fashion that is taken up with great entusiasm for a brief period.”
  • Personal training

    Personal training, which has been among the Top 10 trends of the survey for the past nine years, holds the number six position in the 2016 report.

    “While there have been some minor variations of personal training (e.g., small groups as opposed to one-on-one), respondents to this survey believe that personal trainers will continue to be an important part of the professional staff of health and fitness centers,” writes Thompson.

    “Group personal training will continue to be a popular trend in 2016,” adds Thompson. “The personal trainer will continue to provide the personal service clients expect from one-to-one training but now in a small group typically of two to four. This approach offers potentially deep discounts to each member of the group and creates an incentive for clients to put small groups together.”

    “In these challenging economic times, personal trainers are being more creative in the way that they package personal training sessions and how they market themselves. Training two or three people at the same time in a small group seems to make good economic sense for both the trainer and the client.”

    Locally, ASICS and SWITCH have partnered to take the fitness class to a new level. The SWITCH Playgrounds fitness program — created by internationally-acclaimed fitness instructor, Steve Uria — sees participants led in a class that combines cardiovascular training, functional training, boxing, plyometric training, core stability and power-flow yoga. This offers each participant a full-body workout, not only focusing on one area, in a non-competitive group atmosphere.

    The partnership is in keeping with ASICS’s philosophy, which is reflected in the brand’s name: Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, which means sound mind in a sound body.

    As part of the partnership, SWITCH instructors wear ASICS apparel and footwear during the classes.

    This partnership gives ASICS an opportunity to promote their latest products in an exciting environment, says Sarah Mundy of ASICS. “We look forward to a long term partnership with Switch, a platform that will enable the continuous promotion of our latest innovations in an exciting environment, one that encourages continual reinvention and improvement,” says Mundy.

    Uria, owner and originator of SWITCH, is equally excited about this partnership and believes the two brands share the same visions. “Mutually aligned brands sharing the same passion makes this venture a no brainer!” he says. “We are two likeminded businesses with similar goals, established but reinvented, with the vision of a cutting edge, hip and sexy lifestyle in the workout arena.”

    SWITCH Playgrounds are being rolled out both across South Africa and abroad.

    Outdoor activities

    In 2010, outdoor activities emerged as a fitness trend in the survey — then at position #25. Activities such as hiking, canoeing, camping outdoor games, etc. all fall in this category. “This more recent trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010,” writes Thompson. “Some personal trainers use outdoor activities as a form of small-group personal training.”

    These professionals might be slow to catch on, but the outdoor industry has known for ages that getting outside is an excellent way to get fit.

    In the 2016 report, outdoor activities holds position number 14, two spots down from 2015.

    Hi-Tec is sponsoring South Africa’s first walking festival, Cape Walking Fest. It will feature 52 walks between George and Storms River and offer participants the opportunity to connect with the area and to explore its natural beauty at leisure.

    “Walking festivals are a big trend globally, but this is a first for South Africa — it is a massive undertaking that involves the support and involvement of all the local communities,” says festival founder Galeo Saintz. “Hi-Tec, a brand which has become synonymous with hiking in South Africa, are sponsors of the event, which enables us to offer a wide range of walks catering to all levels of fitness and adventure.”

    The partnership is a perfect fit, says Joanne Esterhuizen of Hi-Tec. “Hi-Tec is a brand that infiltrates all outdoor recreation in South Africa. Walking, in many forms, has become a popular way of touring new places, improving health and fitness, and appreciating natural environments. The Cape Walking Fest is a great platform for us to encourage South Africans and visitors to see what the Garden Route has to offer and to align our footwear and apparel.”

    Cape Walking Fest takes place over the Easter Weekend, 25-30 March, and walks range from strolls along the beach to brisk walks up some of the highest peaks in the regions, such as George Peak or Peak Formosa in the Tsitiskamma. To mix in some extra fun, there will also be several festive walks.

    The more unusual Walk with Poetry and Yoga Walk have a calming effect on participants, and the Naked Walk in Nature (au naturelle), evening Walk Through the Night Sky (presented by local astronomers), and Connecting Nature and Community walk (conducted by a local conservation initiative) promise to bring participants closer to nature.

    *The 2016 ISPO Munich takes place 24-27 January in Munich, Germany. The Health & Fitness exhibitors will be housed in hall B4.

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    © SA Sports Trader