Latest Fitness Trends: Body Weight Training Takes Centerstage

Think you need a gym to stay in shape? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the leading fitness trends involves nothing more than your own body weight

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Think you need a gym to stay in shape? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, one of the leading fitness trends requires nothing more than your own body weight.

In analyzing what’s likely to make up the most popular fitness trends in 2013, ACSM asked 3,346 corporate, clinical, community, commercial and academic health and fitness experts to answer online surveys about what drew people to work out. The participants weighed in on emerging trends as well as whether last years’ ‘it’ programs continued to have appeal. The survey listed 37 potential options and the experts rated the top 20.

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This year’s trendiest fitness programs include a mix of fresh ways to sweat it out as well as some stand-bys. Body weight training, a method that uses the body’s own weight as the source of resistance for strength training and muscle endurance, made the list for the first time while previous gym go-tos like spinning and Pilates fell out of favor.

“It’s true that things that are old are new again, and it is really nice to see that,” says Dick Cotton, ACSM’s national director of certification. “[Older trends] are coming back, and some are coming back and safer.”

Take body weight training, which currently sits at third place behind certified fitness professionals and strength training. The mostly commonly used exercises in body weight training involve push-ups and crunches, which require minimal–if any–equipment. Although some brands have capitalized on its popularity by developing suspension training equipment, like TRX systems, more and more boot camp-style classes are encouraging the use of simple objects like picnic tables and kitchen counters to create adjustable angles for difficult positions. By incorporating every day items like these, fitness experts hope to lower the barriers to exercising.

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“We used to have only two variations of a push-up. The standard, straight body push-up as well as what was called ‘girls’ pushups.’” says Cotton. “Now, we have an extreme variety of no-cost exercises that work. Look at the heights of different common things out in the world like a table, a chair, the ground, a tree, the kitchen counter. Years ago those were not even considered during training. In fact, the ‘girls’ push-up’ has largely gone away because you can do more effective pushups with less resistance from a table top instead of going from your knees.”

Avoiding the high cost of specialized equipment is definitely a plus, he says, especially in tighter economic times.

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Here is the full list of the top 10 fitness trends of 2013 from ACSM:

1. Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals: For the sixth consecutive year, the trend of validating fitness experts top the list. ACSM says fully accredited education and certification programs for health and fitness professionals are on the rise. “The [industry] is getting more professional, more educated and more responsible in providing research-based information,” says Cotton. “I think there is less gimmicky exercise equipment out there now and fitness professionals are assisting with that.”

2. Strength Training: Strength training holds the number two spot for the second year in a row. Recent research even suggests strength and weight training not only improves fitness, but keeps the mind sharp.

3. Body Weight Training: An easy and economical way to stay in shape.

4. Children and Obesity Related Exercise: ACSM says more schools and fitness industry professionals are emphasizing fitness and nutritional programming aimed at kids. “Unfortunately fast food restaurants market to kids and we need to do the same–and we are,” says Cotton. “There are so many advances in technology that are helping kids to be more sedentary. Thirty years ago, all we had were TVs. Now we have tons of really entertaining sedentary activities that are part of the problem.”

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5. Exercise and Weight Loss: Being healthy isn’t just about being in shape; it’s about maintaining a healthy weight. Programs are continuing to focus on a balance of eating and exercise to achieve weight loss.

6. Fitness Programs for Older Adults: As the baby boomers age but live longer, doctors are encouraging their patients to stay fit. “If more older adults exercise, hopefully there will be less health care costs,” says Cotton. “As you get older, your motivation to exercise changes. You may be less interested in weight loss, but more interested in having energy and sleeping better. I am a baby boomer, and I don’t want to have to call someone to take me to the grocery store.”

7. Personal Training: More communities and corporate businesses are making personal trainers accessible through wellness programs.

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8. Functional Fitness: Functional fitness programs are often designed for older adults and incorporate every day activities that use strength training to improve balance and coordination.

9. Core Training: Strengthening core muscles improves the body’s overall stability.

10. Group Personal Training: Trainers can cater regimes to more people through small group classes. These are typically less expensive than the cost for a personal trainer, and are quite fun.

With the holidays approaching, it’s a good time to get familiar with some of the latest fitness trends, and set a resolution to try some in the coming year.

Read the full results from the ACSM survey here.

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