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CindySays: Survey ranks what's trending in fitness

By Cindy Boggs

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What's trending? For the eighth year, editors of American College of Sports Medicine's Health & Fitness Journal have released their survey for the top 20 fitness trends in the world, and there were a few surprising results.

The 2014 trends, determined by thousands of fitness professionals, aim to differentiate between a fad and a trend when it comes to physical activity. According to the Cambridge dictionary, this would translate as follows:

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 enthusiasm for a brief period.

It's important to understand the difference in order to accurately list of the kinds of activities that are on the rise as well as those that will become a thing of the past. With this definition, the list becomes quite predictable because, if correct, the same activities should appear over multiple years in the trends survey.

Zumba's out

Falling completely out of the top 20 list, this was one of the surprises. Now, don't shoot the messenger; I know it's still fairly popular here. In fact, Zumba houses sprung up and multiplied quickly and had great success offering lots of Zumba classes. These days, however, they've had to diversify and add other types of classes to hold the interest of their members.

Also surprising is that Pilates, spinning and stability training failed to make the 2014 list. According to this survey, they can all be labeled fads. Zumba first appeared as a No. 9 trend in 2012, fell to No. 13 in 2013 and fell to No. 28 in this year's survey. For the second year in a row, Pilates, spinning and balance training couldn't score the top 20.

Top 10 trends for 2014

1. High-intensity interval training came in at No. 1 this year. HIIT is described as bursts of intense activity for short periods followed by a longer recovery period of less-intense activity. It beat out educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals, which had held that coveted position since 2008!

2. Body-weight training: First time in the top 20, so time will tell. It makes sense, though, as this is the most-affordable exercise out there. It uses the body as resistance and requires little or no equipment to get and stay in shape.

3. Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals: Health seekers are finally getting the message to work smart and hard. When searching for assistance in fitness, tapping into these people will always be a consumer's best decision.

4. Strength training: This should come as no surprise as it is an integral part of maintaining health and is readily available. Gone are the days when weights were just lifted by men -- now women, seniors and youths are reaping the hefty benefits of resistance training.

5. Exercise and weight loss: Managing weight is the bread and butter of health and fitness professionals. The best ones are tying in sound nutrition and regular exercise into each of their programs.

6. Personal training: Fitness facilities worldwide are demanding properly credentialed personal trainers at an increasing rate. This is good news for everyone.

7. Fitness programs for older adults: Physical activity that is appropriate for the aging Baby Boomers is not only smart, it is profitable, as this population has the funds to pay for it. Also, programs and memberships provided by insurance companies, like SilverSneakers, can engage seniors and make them more active and healthier. Older adults are the fastest-growing membership group in fitness centers and YMCAs alike.

8. Functional fitness: Ties in nicely with No. 7 because it combines strength work, balance training and flexibility exercise in order to help people live independently longer. Senior centers focusing on function will not only decrease the number of falls, but also improve the physical and mental states of their residents.

9. Group personal training: This trend makes personal training possible for many who could otherwise not afford it. This builds in a support group and is a win/win for both trainer and client.

10. Yoga: Because of the many forms and intensities of this ancient practice, it is re-emerging. Yoga has mastered the art of repurposing itself. Certifications are growing, and older adults are figuring out that because of the many gentler forms, yoga is yet another age-appropriate choice for them.

Worth mentioning

11. Exercise for childhood obesity: Another surprise drop, since we seem to just now be getting the message that this is a major health issue and precursor to Type II diabetes. If spun correctly and collaboration enters the picture, this might just move back up into top 10.

12. Worksite health promotion: It's important to note that this one is on its way up, not down.

13. Core training: Spent three years in the top 5 then began the slide to 13. Still, it's important and keeps reinventing itself with new toys -- balls, boards and such.

14. Outdoor activities: Slowly on its way up as trainers step out of the fitness centers to discover physical adventure. More fun, less boredom and burnout on the part of trainer and client.

15. Circuit training: Similar to HIIT but less intense. A series of 6 to 10 exercises in a sequence that alternates work/recover efforts.

16. Outcome measurements: Reappeared at No. 17 in 2013 and moving up, outcome measurements is all about accountability. It is critical to employers who decide whether to fund physical activity and health promotion because it proves whether or not an activity/program works.

17. Wellness coaching: Hanging on but falling, wellness coaching connects behavioral change science to health promotion and disease prevention, which more personal trainers are adopting.

18. Sport-specific training: Designed to enhance sports skills for young athletes, it has bounced around the top 20 like a racquetball. Don't count it out.

19. Worker incentive programs: Represents a resurgence of corporate health promotion programs as a result of rising health-care costs experienced by companies. Aims to stimulate positive healthy behavior change.

20. Boot camp: Losing ground, this high-intensity structured class includes cardiovascular, strength, endurance and flexibility drills and calisthenics. Because of its rise and fall since 2008, it will be interesting to see if it can hang on or be forced to evolve.

Fad to flop

Keep in mind that just because something makes the trends survey doesn't necessarily define it as a trend. It may make an appearance for a year or two and then drop out of sight, returning to fad status. Most of us remember but don't use toning shoes, shaker weights and the Ab Roller, which is why these surveys make sense to both fitness and business industries.

Investors making decisions on fitness products and programming should steer clear of late-night infomercials with celebrity endorsements and look to those which are strong enough to hold a spot on the top 20 trend list.

Cindy Boggs is an ACE-certified healthy-living expert and wellness writer. She is the author of the award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Send your questions about fitness, training and health to cindysays@aol.com.


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