ACSM Worldwide Trend Review

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  • ACSM Worldwide Trend Review

You can never have too much information about where the market trends are heading. One really insightful source that I’d like to discuss is the eighth annual American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2014. To get the most out of it I recommend that you read the entire survey report yourself.

Every year for the last eight years, the ACSM has commissioned a worldwide poll of fitness industry professionals. There are some really interesting issues that turn up in this survey. One of the best things about it is that it attempts to distinguish the trends from the fads. Fads are the sort of things that appear and grow rapidly, generate excitement and then disappear just as quickly. Trends stick around longer and are more predictable in their growth.

The ACSM Worldwide Survey Top Three TrendsGlobe with a yellow arrow circling

The unnerving thing about fads to a small gym owner is that, if you judge them to be more worthwhile than they actually turn out to be, you risk losing your investment. A small business owner’s worst nightmare is when plans turn out like throwing money down the drain. You definitely need to be aware of the trends in the business because they will offer the best opportunities to exploit commercially. However, it’s so hard to accurately predict what will turn into a trend and what won’t.

The three top trends according to the ACSM survey are: 1) High intensity interval training, 2) Bodyweight training and 3) Increased fitness trainer professionalism. There appears to be a high incidence of injury in high intensity interval training, which makes me wonder if it’s going to maintain its top position. A very fast rise with a serious shortcoming is something that has all the makings of a fad, in my opinion.

It’s interesting that the third top trend is about professionalism; clients are demanding that their trainers have the highest possible levels of training. This is a trend that I’ve been watching for some time. There’s been a definite need for professional certification of trainers, along with an expansion of the many different courses and degrees that confer the appropriate skills.

Other Things To Watch

A noteworthy point is that fitness for older adults comes in at number seven in the survey. This sector of the market continues to expand and includes both the fit and healthy and the less able or infirm. It confirms my belief that special populations, of which older gym members are a part, could be a niche market for a small gym.

That is something into which you could expand. Either by recruiting trainers who specialize in and are certified for working with seniors or by encouraging your staff to get advanced certification as professional development training. A mix of both new certifications and experienced and more mature trainers is the best way to provide motivation and leadership in your team as well as the optimum response to market demand.

The top trends are all good opportunities and in particular those that rely on well-qualified staff can be covered with lots of flexibility. It would be worth your time to read the report on your own and decide what you think is going to be the most relevant to your operations and marketing strategy.

Boot Camp classes have dropped to number twenty from a peak position of number eight in 2011, and Spinning and Zumba have apparently left the building. They’ve dropped out of the trend leaders altogether. These look to be past their primes and may not be worth pursuing if you don’t already have strong followings for them. If you have got resources invested in these activities hopefully you’ll be able to switch over to one of the upcoming trends without too much trouble.


The ACSM survey shows that there is an ongoing need for fitness training and a continued market for the services and facilities that small, independently owned and operated gyms can exploit. That makes me optimistic for the future of gym ownership as a business. Try to stay away from anything that looks like a fad (remember, if it quacks like one it probably is one). As long as you build your service around a core team of competent and qualified fitness trainers you will likely find a following.

Over to you…

What is your own analysis of the ACSM Worldwide Trend Report?

What trend do you see gaining ground in the year to come?

What fad do you see losing ground?