Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2017: What’s Hot and What’s Not?

Are you the type that likes to try new workouts or do you prefer sticking with the same old, same old?  If you’re trying to make a visible change on your body, you don’t want to let your workout routine get stale.  Mixing things up and trying new workouts can help your body spark faster change.  Here’s a look at what the pro’s are predicting to be the top Fitness Trends for 2017.

Fitness Trend or Fitness Fad?

Every year the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) takes a poll querying thousands of fitness professionals across the globe about what they see the biggest trends will be for the following year.   The list doesn’t change fast because strong trends tend to keep growing.  Like a Drake song, the best ones will stay near the top of the charts for good, long while.  Eighteen of the same trends from 2016 made it back onto the the 2017 list with two new trends breaking into the top 10.  The new trends are group exercise programs and Exercise is Medicine®.  Interesting since Socrates promoted exercise as medicine thousands of years ago.  Sometimes trends take a long time catch on!  And of course, group exercise programs go back to the very beginning of the fitness industry itself, but like fashion, trends come and go cyclically.

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” 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Fitness is a lot like Fashion. Both industries see their share of fads which explode in popularity quickly then fizzle out fast.  And, both have their trends which, build in popularity until they hit their peak then, gradually fade out of the spotlight.

Barre workouts

Strength Training vs. “Sculpting” workouts

In the fitness world, a trend gains momentum over time because it’s effective, possible for a large segment of the population to do and develops a compelling body research.

I called fitness expert, consultant and international presenter, Abbie Appel, for a spirited discussion about the trends she sees on the rise.

One trend, Appel says is bigger than ever is Strength Training. Go to any gym that offers fitness classes and you’ll always see several workouts on the schedule touting the term “sculpt”.  Ask any trainer what the majority of their clients want and they will say, “muscle definition.”  Especially among women.  More and more gym goers are realizing that they need to pick up heavier weights to in order to get to this goal.  With this in mind, Equinox gyms have started offering a group class called “Pure Strength.”  Rather than using light weights and doing dozens of reps, which primarily builds muscle endurance and not so much strength, Pure Strength focuses on fatiguing the muscle in 8 reps or less.  Heavy weight and lower reps is  really what builds muscle strength and is key for promoting muscle size.  If you enjoy working out with a group rather than yourself, look for a similar type of class at your gym.  If you’re new to strength building, work with a training partner or a professional trainer to make sure you have proper form.  Or DIY with a reputable book that guides you through the process such as “Strength Training for Fat Loss,” and “Strength Training (Step-by-Step).”


Big Box Gyms vs. Boutique Gyms

Another hot trend Appel sees in the field are boutique gyms that builds “community.”  Gyms like Orange Theory are cropping up fast because they offer “inclusive programming” that almost anyone can do.  Orange Theory also incorporates 4 other trends on the top 20 list as you will see shortly.  Appel says boutique gyms are appealing to people “who feel left out” as many larger gyms are making their group classes harder and harder, perhaps to attract those seeking more intense or CrossFit-esque workouts or, to keep the more advanced members engaged.  Appel says any gym or program that, “keeps you accountable and seeing progress, whether it’s on a heart rate monitor or on a board and, is scalable for all levels,” is what makes people come back for more. Gyms that make you feel like you are part of the tribe will always be in style.

While Pilates studios and classes may have hit their peak of popularity some years ago, Barre workouts and studios still appear to be on the rise. Appel believes this is because “people want challenging workouts without the risk of injury that are often seen in higher impact exercises.” No one can argue that Barre workouts offer a killer burn and build muscle endurance thanks to it’s focus on isometrics and small micro-movements.

Obstacle Course Training

Obstacle course training is one more trend Appel sees growing over the next year.  Boot Camp workouts have had their glory and are still a mainstay.  As the popularity of Obstacle Course and Adventure races continues to grow, so does the need for training programs catering to them.  Bench Presses, dumbbell curls and an hour on the elliptical machine won’t cut it if you’re trying to trim some serious time off of your next Spartan Race or Mud Run. Expect to see more workouts that prepare you for these races pop up.  Appel says anything that makes exercising more fun and exciting is bound to be an upward trend.

Spartan Race

Spartan Race

Top 20 fitness trends according to 2017 ACSM Fitness Trend survey:

(Based on the answers of 1,801 respondents)

    1. Wearable Technology.  Wearables earned the #1 spot last year.  The category includes activity trackers like the uber popular Fitbit, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS devices. Here are 2016’s highlights.

      fitness trackers


    2. Body Weight Training. Who needs a machine or dumbbells when you can just use your body? Body weight training uses minimal and portable equipment (think jump ropes, agility ladders and cones) or just your own self (i.e. push ups, pull ups, burpees, sit ups).  It’s “back to the basics” approach and very cost effective!  Need ideas? Here’s 100 different workouts using just your body weight.

      body weight training


    3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Still a darling of the fitness world HIIT workouts involve short bursts of hard effort followed by short recovery periods.  HIITs are still trending because they are proven to be effective and can be performed in relatively short amount of time (i.e. 30 minutes or less).
    4. Strength Training.  Like a little black dress or a well fitting suit, defined muscles and physical strength will always be sexy, therefore I predict will always be on trend.  Strength training is one of the essential components to developing overall fitness.

      strength training


    5. Group Training.  Some things are just more fun in a group.  Group exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate their students through classes designed for a specific intention.   Experienced and educated group instructors help people of varying levels achieve their fitness goals.  They use a combination of leadership, teaching and motivational skills to accomplish this.  Group programs appeal to a wide demographic because of the variety of choices available, camaraderie and social aspects.
    6. Exercise is Medicine. A global health initiative focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.
    7. Yoga. 2500 years and still going.  This centuries old form of exercise practiced for health and relaxation, is based on using a series of physical postures.  This survey includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.
      Yoga at sunset

      Yoga, still hot for 2017


    8. Personal Training. Making the top 20 since the inception of the survey in 2006, personal training is still a growing sector industry.
    9. Exercise and Weight Loss. Like peanut butter and jelly (preferably no-sugar added), the combination of exercise with a nutrition program that reduces calorie intake is key for losing weight.   Programs offered by health and fitness professionals, nationally known companies with meal delivery services and even the most popular diet books, now more than ever, tout adding exercise to nutrition to speed up and maintain weight loss.
      apple and measuring tape

      weight loss


    10. Fitness programs for older adults.   Because 60 is the new 40!  Many baby boomers and retired people have more discretionary money that they can spend on themselves.  You’ll be seeing more of them getting up in the gym and working on their fitness.  The best types of programs for older adults happens to also be Functional fitness training.
    11. Functional fitness. These are the exercises designed to enhance your ability to perform activities of daily living.  These programs improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance. Functional Fitness exercises can be added to most any type of training program.  From physical therapy after injury to athletes needing to improve power.
    12. Outdoor activities.  More and more people want to get outside more for their health and fitness.  This includes activities ranging from hiking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking to all kinds of team sports.
      outdoor activity



    13. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals. Fitness has been a growth industry for a long time.  More and more organization are offering health and fitness certifications partly because of demand and partly because it’s good business.  If you’re hiring a trainer or taking group classes, there’s no substitute for experience and education.  It’s important to choose professionals certified through programs that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), such as ACSM, ACE, NASM or AFAA to name a few of the largest organizations.
    14. Group personal training. Saving money is always in fashion.  Group personal training allows 2 or more people to share the services of a personal trainer.  It’s a win-win for both the clients and trainer.
      small group training

      small group training, still a hot fitness trend

    15. Wellness coaching.  A more holistic approach than traditional personal training, wellness (aka “health”)  coaching combines behavioral-change science with health promotion, disease prevention, and rehabilitation.  It can be done one-on-one or in a group setting with the wellness coach providing support, guidance, motivation and encouragement in helping clients reach their long and short term goals.
    16. Worksite health promotion. These programs are designed to improve the health and well-being of employees.  In light of the rising costs of health care nationwide, this trend may very well continue to grow.
    17. Smartphone exercise apps.  From tracking progress to providing real-time feedback, these apps have become increasingly popular with younger gym goers and outdoor exercise enthusiasts.

      smartphone apps

    18. Outcome measurements. What can be measured can be managed.  Programs that measure outcome help keep you accountable and determine the program’s effectiveness.  Smartphones, smartwatches, and wearable technology help support accountability.
    19. Circuit training. Some circuit workouts involve HIITs but not all HIITs are done as a circuit.  While circuit training is a type of interval training,  it’s usually done at a more moderate intensity .  Circuit training incorporates a group of exercises that are completed in succession and in a particular order.  Each exercise is performed for a certain number of repetitions or for a set time period before moving on to the next exercise.
    20. Flexibility and mobility rollers. This includes all kinds of deep tissue rollers, myofascial release, and trigger-point relief.  Exercise enthusiasts have been wising up to the importance of recovery tools.  Maybe it’s because injuries are on the rise thanks to the increase in popularity of intense workout programs.  For more on the importance of Self Myofascial Release (SMR), the tools you need and how to speed up recovery, click here.  Mobility rollers massage and relieve tight muscle, relax muscle spasms, improve circulation, ease muscular discomfort, and assist in the return to normal activity.
      self massage

      self care therapy, foam rolling


Some programs not making the cut in fitness trend for 2017 are:

Arguably, according to the respondents, the previously popular Zumba® (no. 39), indoor cycling (no. 24), Pilates (no. 33), boot camp (no. 30), and indoor rowing (no. 41) have lost ground and therefore can no longer be called trends.

How did your favorite workout measure up?  Share your thoughts and opinions and share with friends!

Jill Brown
Jill Brown
Hi, I'm JillI am a Los Angeles based Fitness + Nutrition Coach. With 20+ years of experience in teaching, training and continuing my education, I have transformed thousands of lives through fitness and healthy lifestyle changes.