Fitness Forecast: The Top Fitness Trends for 2012

What'll have you sweating in the new year? The American College of Sports Medicine has some ideas.

For six years running, the American College of Sports Medicine has surveyed thousands of trainers, fitness instructors, exercise-science experts and clinicians around the world to try and pinpoint the top fitness trends—those with real staying-power—for the upcoming year. Their survey generates a list of the top 20 trends with commentary and analysis from industry experts.

Here’s what the crystal ball is forecasting for 2012.

1. Educated, experienced fitness professionals

If you have someone telling you what to do at the gym, you want him to really know what he’s talking about, right? It’s no surprise that a consumer desire for expert trainers tops the list for the fifth year in a row.

2. Strength training

The need for strength training programs has a growing trend among the fitness set for a few years now, debuting on the ACSM list at #6 in 2007 and jumping to #2 last year. I think the proliferation of classes and fitness systems that teach resistance training using lighter weights or a person’s own body weight makes strength programs more feasible for more people. Because, really, how many of us Average Joes and Janes want to look like bodybuilders?

3. Fitness programs for older adults

Chalk this one up to baby boomers heading into retirement. And what do they do with all that extra time? Hit the gym.

4. Exercise and weight loss

This one seems like a no-brainer, but consider this: how many times have you heard of (or tried) a calorie-restricting diet plan without making any changes to your activity level or lifestyle? While those plans can be quick-fixes (we’re looking at you, Dr. Atkins), most people can’t sustain them in the long haul—meaning the weight just piles back on. So these days, the trend is moving toward developing programs that incorporate both elements, exercise and sensible eating plans. The result: a lifestyle that’s much easier to adapt to—and stick with.

5. Children and obesity

The issue of childhood obesity still plagues our country with increasing alarm as the years go on. The problem takes the #5 spot this year on the fitness-trends list, as experts and researchers continue to search for inventive ways to reverse it.

6. Personal training

The report author suggests that the sluggish economy has kept many undergraduate kinesiology majors out of graduate programs, so they’ve turned to careers as personal trainers instead.

7. Core training

If you’ve ever had a single training session—or, heck, watched a Saturday morning infomercial—you’ve heard the phrase “core training.” It refers to programs which strengthen the body’s stabilizing muscles in the abdomen and back. Everything from stability balls to wobble boards to foam rollers falls into this category.

8. Group personal training

You know why this is popular, right? Group sessions—as opposed to one-on-one training–are much more economical for clients.

9. Zumba and other dance workouts

Zumba first appeared in the ACSM list at #31 in 2010; now we’ve got it in the top 10. Zumba loyalists swear by the fun, upbeat, Latin-dance-inspired class, but other dance-based classes have cropped up recently, too, and those have generated their own legions of followers. But why are they so popular? My guess: these classes make us ladies feel mighty sexy.

10. Functional fitness

These kinds of programs focus on improving your ability to do activities you encounter in everyday life, leveraging strength training to boost balance, coordination and power. This trend goes hand-in-hand with #3.

What else took the top 20 slots for fitness trends? Outdoor activities, boot camp, spinning, wellness coaching and more. Read more here.