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Two Huge Changes Are Happening In Fitness In 2021, And They Aren't Surprising At All

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) conducts a survey of more than 4,000 health and fitness professionals to determine the top fitness trends of the year to come. This year’s list of the top 20 trends had some big changes from 2020, especially when it comes to technology. And while none of the large shifts were really much of a surprise, fitness facilities certainly need to be aware of them.

A New No. 1

Online Training, a trend that wasn’t even in the top 20 last year, unseated Wearable Technology in the top spot. It was defined by the ACSM as, “Developed for the at-home exercise experience. This trend uses digital streaming technology to deliver group, individual, or instructional exercise programs online.” Wearable Technology—which includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices—has been No. 1 four out of the last five years. It dropped to second in the 2021 list.

It’s hardly a surprise to see Online Training on top considering the pandemic forced countless exercisers to move their workouts out of the health clubs and into the home. This bears out in segments of the 2020 State of Our Health, a report put together by Murphy Research:

  • One quarter of the adult U.S. population reports using some online fitness resource at least monthly. Furthermore, the majority of those who’ve ever tried online fitness remain current users, which strongly suggests that online fitness is here to stay.
  • The pandemic prompted an increase in engagement from all user types, even those who had formerly lapsed or only given it a try once or twice.

A Strong Digital Showing

Online Training was one of three technology-related trends in the top 10. That’s two more than in the 2020 survey. The other two were Wearable Technology (No. 2) and Virtual Training (No. 6). Wearable Technology—which includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices—is an old standby (having occupied the top spot four of the last five years). But Virtual Training is making its debut. This was defined by ACSM as “the fusion of group exercise with technology offering workouts designed for ease and convenience to suit schedules and needs”.

What Do These Big Trend Changes Mean?

Simply put, connected fitness is essential. Digital technology wasn’t going anywhere before COVID and it certainly isn’t going anywhere now. The rise of both Online Training and Virtual Training are clearly byproducts of the pandemic and COVID-19 has hastened a shift that was already in the works.

Exercisers who may have never considered online workouts, or tried them once or twice, had to embrace the trend in order to keep up their workout routines. Virtual classes became the norm as health clubs tried to keep in touch with their members.

Don’t expect these training tools to go anywhere when the all-clear is sounded. Connected fitness is here to stay and keeping up with digital technology is extremely important for fitness facilities in an increasingly competitive industry.

Life Fitness realizes the urgency of keeping up with the fast pace of digital trends. Life Fitness On Demand (Online Training) and Digital Coach (Virtual Training) are just two examples of how we are offering fitness facilities and health clubs the latest in connected fitness technology.

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