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2023 Worldwide Fitness Trends Released by the American College of Sports Medicine

Annual ACSM survey reveals insight into the fitness industry.


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The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) publication ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal (HFJ) recently released its highly anticipated Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023.

The annual survey was launched in 2006 to explore changes in the fitness industry. It is used by wellness facilities and independent sport and exercise professionals to direct investment and remain on the cutting edge of the market.

The top trend this year is wearable technology. However, the broader story told by the 2023 results, when compared to those of 2020 through 2022, is one of a relatively swift industry-wide reaction to COVID-19, a temporary pandemic status quo, and an eventual return to a more “normal” fitness landscape.

According to the survey’s author, former ACSM president Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, “The results of this year’s survey could very well be titled ‘post-pandemic recovery impacts the fitness industry’ or ‘what happened to online training and home gyms?’”

Here are the top 10 trends:

  1. Wearable Technology. Think fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices, including tech that can monitor heart rate, calories, sitting time, sleep, and more.
  2. Strength Training with Free Weights. This activity incorporates the use of barbells, dumbbells, and/or kettlebells.
  3. Body Weight Training. Predictably, techniques that focus on body weight as the primary resistance are on trend. Body weight training uses minimal equipment and space, making it an inexpensive and functional way to exercise.
  4. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. Programming focused on the aging population and its unique needs are growing.
  5. Functional Fitness Training. Training to improve balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance is being utilized to improve daily living.
  6. Outdoor Activities. Pursuits like group walks, bicycle rides, or organized hiking led by health and fitness professionals are on the rise. Activities can be short events, day-long events, or planned multiday excursions.
  7. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These exercise programs typically involve repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise combined with periods of rest.
  8. Exercise for Weight Loss. This trend incorporates weight-loss programs like dieting and cooking classes with an exercise routine.
  9. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals. Hiring certified health and fitness professionals who have completed educational programs and fully accredited health/fitness certifications is also trending.
  10. Personal Training. Personal training includes goal setting, fitness assessment, and exercise programming with a trainer in one-on-one settings.

In 2020, Online Training came in at No. 26. In 2021, it was the No. 1 trend. In 2022, it dropped to No. 9, and in the 2023 results, it fell to No. 21.

Fitness facilities seem to have gone back to basics in the wake of the pandemic: Strength training with free weights was No. 2, Body weight training took the No. 3 spot, and core training and circuit training ranked Nos. 11 and 12, respectively.

Other trends have remained relatively stable, regardless of the changes brought by COVID-19: High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), for example, was the No. 1 trend in both 2014 and 2018, and it took the No. 7 slot in 2022 and 2023.

Fitness for older adults experienced fluctuations that seemed to be caused both by the pandemic and other external factors. It was No. 9 in 2018, No. 4 for 2019, No. 8 in 2020, No. 9 again in 2021, No. 11 in 2022, and No. 4 once more in 2023.

The 2023 survey comprised 42 possible trends and polled 125,940 people, including 30,000 ACSM certified professionals, receiving responses from across the globe—from Australia to Malawi and Sri Lanka to Sweden.

Personal trainers and medical professionals, including M.D.s and physical therapists, made up the largest percentages of respondents. Fifty-five percent had more than 10 years of industry experience, and 29 percent had more than 20. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were female, and 41 percent were male, and those surveyed represented a wide range of ages.

Trends differed slightly by region. Australia ranked fitness programs for older adults at No. 1. In Brazil, it was personal training. Europe, as a whole, placed body weight training in the top slot. Mexico favored exercise and weight-loss programs. Portuguese respondents were most interested in licensure for fitness professionals. In Spain, the No. 1 trend was functional fitness training. And the U.S. reflected the overall global trend, placing wearable technology at No. 1.

About The Author

Julie is the co-founder of Well Defined and a longtime influencer and advocate in the wellness world. Along with her work at Well Defined, she is an executive recruiter and marketing specialist for Hutchinson Consulting. She is also a consultant and content strategist for numerous wellness brands. She is the former editor-in-chief and publisher of American Spa and was named a 2019 Folio Top Woman in Media in the Industry Trailblazers category and a 2018 winner of ISPA’s Innovate Award. She is also a seasoned journalist, specializing in spa, travel, health, fitness, wellness, sustainability, and beauty. She has been published in Departures,, E! Online,, Insider’s Guide to Spas, Luxury Travel Advisor, Marin Magazine, Ocean Home, Smart Meetings, Spa Asia, and Travel Agent.