Top Fitness Trends for 2021 Survey Results Are In! What You Should Know!

Topping fitness trends for 2021 is online training. Moving from number 26 in 2020’s survey to #1 for 2021, this is no surprise during a pandemic when so many more of us began to spend more time than ever gathering online for everything. The trends survey this year has much more to do with how fitness is consumed and delivered than the actual detail of activities within the services. Online training is a perfect example.

Curious about other fitness trends for 2021?

This post is my commentary on the 15th annual global fitness trends survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). I begin with information about the study and why it is so very often misinterpreted and what you can learn from it. Then I share a quick summary of key items. I end with the list. So, if you want the list without details you can scroll right away to the bottom.

However, I will say this: the 2021 survey looks very different than prior years. Should we be surprised? That’s pretty much in keeping with 2020. The survey items are much broader than in prior years. And for good reason. It’s like any beginner start, you first get the basics. Then later you refine and define. It’s where we’ve gone in 2020 with many fitness services. There’ve been many attempts to first shift what was happening in person to happening online. Over time more refinement will happen because with global access to what YOU specifically need, there is no longer a reason to take a class for the generic population. The world just opened up to you.

My original concerns founded in top trends from the past 15 years, were not realized. In prior years, we’ve seen trends like HIIT, and barre classes, and body weight exercise begin to appear on trends. Without matching exercise to priorities of individuals, and without introducing the survey as a “for fitness industry growth” survey, it’s easy for media and consumers to misinterpret the results.  Goals to maintain muscle, bone, build longevity, honor hormones, joints, and time constraints make choosing what you do in the time you have to do it important.

Details about the Survey

The fitness trends survey does not attempt to evaluate products, services, equipment, gym apparatus, hard- ware, software, tools, or other exercise machines that may appear in clubs or recreation centers or show up in television infomercials. 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.

The in- formation 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.

It’s also paramount that you look at this statement. You must realize if you hear a media clip or read an article suggesting the top trends that you know this survey is designed to serve the fitness industry, that is those that are making profit in the industry so they may match what is in demand, and popular. This survey did not ask questions about the needs of individuals who seek to improve health, fitness and longevity most by behavior changes. The survey authors fully disclose that the survey intention is to reveal what are for industry professionals:

“increased and more sustainable revenue drivers.”

Who Responded to the Top Fitness Trends for 2021 Survey?

One of the most important things to realize is this survey reaches individuals who respond with their personal opinion about what they think is true. Trainers, professors, fitness instructors may work in gyms, studios, for themselves, part time, full time, and may or may not be currently certified. But they’re eligible to respond if they were sent the survey.

The majority of survey responders were 22 to 34. Average years of experience of the responders interestingly enough was between 10 to 20 and more than 20 for over 26%. So more than 50% of responders have more than 10 years’ experience in the field. While about 39% of responders were in that 22 to 34-year old range. The next largest group was from 35 to 44 years old. Each age category dwindled in the number of responses. Responders over 65 made up just 7% of responders. The 55 to 64-year-old age group made up 15% of responders.

It’s a little puzzling that the average years of experience and the average age of the responders isn’t easy to understand.

The income level of the responders also indications that about 12% earn less than $20,000 and another 8% earn $20-29,999 and 10% early $30-39,999 suggesting that “years of experience” may not be the right question. Though 63% did indicate they work full time, that may not mean full time as trainers. About 35% were only part time fitness industry workers. In fact, the breakdown of responders is all over the board with only 10% of responses coming from full time personal trainers. Others were fitness instructors, professors, grad students, teachers, owners and dietitians each with a small percent of responses.

Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2021 According to the Survey

  1. Online training
  2. Wearable technology
  3. Body weight training
  4. Outdoor activities
  5. HIIT
  6. Virtual training
  7. Exercise is Medicine
  8. Strength training with free weights
  9. Fitness programs for older adults
  10. Personal training
  11. Health/wellness coaching
  12. Mobile exercise apps
  13. Employing certified fitness professionals
  14. Functional Fitness training
  15. Yoga
  16. Exercise for weight loss
  17. Group training
  18. Lifestyle medicine
  19. Licensure for fitness professionals
  20. Outcome measurements

Online Training is #1 in Top Fitness Trends for 2021.

Online training has many facets and is like every other industry right now providing new and innovative options that may not have existed before or that have but not been discovered by as many prior to the pandemic. Online training is there on demand. It’s a when-you-want-it service. Flipping 50’s membership area for instance is online training, as is Peleton and Mirror training.

This category doesn’t divide into the distinct offerings available. That is, within this niche there’s still a need to determine what you need and want, your current fitness and health status, how well the online training you choose matches your goals and offers a start, progression, and regression to fit individual goals.

The fitness industry is forever changed. Universities that are not teaching how to maneuver platforms online and certifications that don’t include an arm of delivery and business building do students and applicants a disservice.

Other Notable Survey Changes this Year

Outdoor Activities came in at number 4. It’s been a staple on the trends survey since 2010, appearing in the top 20 since 2021. No surprise that this just is related to the pandemic. Trainer-led programs held outdoors from hikes and bike rides to small group workouts increased dramatically in effort to respond to social distancing. Individuals also however, increasingly got out on their own for walking, hiking and freedom while social distancing.

Virtual Training which is #6 is basically a repeat of one-to-one training or a group training (falling dramatically this year to 17 from prior spots at 2 and 3 in recent years) done online as opposed to in person. You meet with your trainer at a specified time and date to focus on your specific goals.

#11 is Health and Wellness Coaching. It has held a steady place on the survey list for a decade and slipped out of the top 10 this year. I suspect this is due to the necessity of the pandemic pushing online training, reliance on wearable devices, virtual training up higher on the list. Sliding back is less an indication of lower importance than once of great need to pivot online and have forms of feedback (wearable devices) that provide alternative ways to stay on track and accountable.

Similarly, Mobile Exercise Apps are #12 on the list. This survey item jumped significantly from the last two years, again most likely from the need to have instruction, a plan, in the face of losing access to gyms and fitness classes.

fitness trends for 2021

Sadly, Hiring Certified Fitness Professionals fell on this year’s list. It’s currently at #13 though had previously help a position in the top 10. The search for online, virtual training, and apps may be replacing the need to seek educated, skilled and qualified professionals that might be behind those apps. Sources of constant support and tracking appeal. Though this, something is better than nothing approach, may be slightly true it is just as important to screen the program against your needs and determine if it’s been based on research on you or a broader audience.

Last, Outcome Measurements stayed in the top 20, but just barely. Measurements are necessary to determine the benefits of health and fitness programs. Though apps are tracking data about participation, calories, steps, nutrients, the details often leave the most important measure – the results. Data like that can suggest effectiveness of a specific program or lifestyle for an individual and more rapid changes can be made to gain future success.

At Flipping 50 with each 12-week STRONGER program, pre and post information is strongly requested because we are data-driven. Protocols designed and based on researched supported by our continued date collection can help us quickly realize individuals need additional support in other areas if they’re not seeing the expected outcome.

Exercise is Medicine (7) and Lifestyle Medicine both hint at the growing awareness of “epigenetics.” That is, what you and I do in our own environment and the habits we choose daily have far more impact on our health than genetics.  The right nutrition, exercise, and awareness of stress, sleep and your optimal frequency, duration and quality of them can serve indeed as medicine, or optimally, as insurance. 


Though my fear was what we would see is some of the popular in-fitness club classes, which are also newer deemed-certifications popping up emerge as “trends” this year. Thankfully, consumers have responded wisely by prioritizing their fitness needs toward immunity, strength, longevity – rather than the niched down activities

As in previous posts, I’ve shared the combination of less physical activity and midlife (and later hormone changes) can lead to devastating disability later in life



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