Innovation matters in every industry, but some industries rely on innovative trends more than others. Fitness, fashion, and food products all come to mind as verticals where developing innovative new products must be a high priority to become, or remain, competitive.
Leaders in these verticals go to great lengths to identify these trends early, leaning on their own data as well as expertise culled from industry organizations and associations to identify and capitalize on new preferences in consumer behavior. Whether this information is used to augment a current business or create a new one, this forward-looking research is critical to maintain a competitive edge.
In the fitness industry, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) publishes an annual survey of worldwide fitness trends, now in its 12th year. This survey highlights the fastest growing trends in fitness, and thanks to its longevity, also provides data on trends falling out of favor with consumers over the years. (The survey results for 2018 were released in ACSM's November/December 2017 Health & Fitness Journal.)
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has enjoyed a high rank on this list since it took the number one spot in 2014, and it again takes the number one spot on the 2018 survey. HIIT is characterized by short bursts of intense effort alternating with short periods of rest sustained over relatively short workout durations of 30 minutes or less. The ACSM survey does not speculate on effectiveness, but the efficiency of HIIT workouts can be safely listed as a contributor to the popularity of this trend.
Group Training ranked at #2 on the 2018 trend list. Defined as classes with more than five people and focused on more generalized fitness versus specialties like Zumba, group training may appeal most to fitness enthusiasts seeking the accountability and support of a peer group.
Wearables technology as a trend declined from the number one spot in 2017 to the number three spot for 2018. This category includes heart rate monitors, activity trackers, GPS trackers, and smart glasses.
Rounding out the winners, the number four and five spots for 2018 trends are respectively held by Bodyweight Training (training with little to no equipment, i.e. pushups, pull-ups, burpees, lunges, sit-ups, and so on) and Strength Training (resistance training with weights), both age-old tried and true "trends" in the fitness arena.
Certain fitness trends have been top 20 mainstays in this survey, like yoga and personal training. Others have toggled on and off the list. Of course, the declining trends tell us as much as the ascending ones in terms of consumer preference.
Trends that fell from the top 20 list in 2018 as compared to 2017 include Worksite Health Promotion, commonly embodied by incentive-based fitness programs designed to reduce insurance premiums; Exercise Apps designed for smartphones to provide programming and/or access to a community of like-minded members; and Outcome Measures, which speak to quantifying the results of any exercise program and which may perhaps therefore track parallel to the trend line of Exercise Apps.
Another unfortunate trend noted in the 2018 results is the ongoing decline of interest in programs related to children and exercise for the treatment and prevention of obesity. This category held a top five position every year from 2007-2013 but plummeted to number 32 in 2018 despite the continuing obesity epidemic and its related health issues.
The ACSM survey makes a point to define and distinguish between fads and trends. This is an important business distinction in any category since fads come and go very quickly while trends can dictate more sustained consumer patterns that can impact your business over time, for better or for worse, depending on how you react to them.
Regardless of the category your business occupies, carve out some time to study industry trends and forecasts to ensure you'll be as relevant next year as you are today. The health of your business may depend on it.