40 Future Fitness Trends to Grow Your Business
In honor of IDEA’s 40th anniversary, we sought out 40 ways the wellness revolution is impacting our industry and your business opportunities. We hope you have as much fun exploring them as we did collecting them.
At IDEA, we’re fond of the number 40, especially this year. The not-so-secret reason? Because 2022 marks our 40th anniversary as a guiding force in health, fitness and nutrition. As we’ve grown up alongside the fitness industry, we’ve witnessed unimaginable transformation and scoped out future fitness trends.
Gathering for gym-class calisthenics or simplified dance moves in any communal space evolved into structured group exercise programming. Strength training in a gym morphed into professionally guided exercise options in multiple in-person and virtual settings. Dumbbells were joined by other tools like smart equipment and trackers for multiple performance and health goals. And, importantly, fit pro education evolved from learning how to lead and format a workout to understanding exercise physiology, program design, multiple training modalities, chronic conditions and acute injuries, motivation, and behavior change. Then came the pandemic, which accelerated the shift toward a 24/7 lifestyle of health, fitness and well-being.
What’s new—and next for future fitness trends? Take a look at these 40 trends, some of which are well established and others that are just emerging. We hope they help stimulate new thinking on how to focus your business to capture developing opportunities or, perhaps, do some trendsetting of your own.
1–3: Dress for Success
Apparel and accessories are always changing, and thank goodness: Remember the spatter-painted thongs and primary-color track suits of the ’80s? (We do: IDEA was founded in 1982!) Today’s wearable trends reflect the desire to fully embrace a health and fitness lifestyle—not only during training, but around the clock. And innovative technologies are incorporated into fitness wear in everything from materials to sensors.
1. Athleisure and Activewear
The growing popularity of athleisure impacts the fashion industry and future fitness businesses. The U.S. sports apparel market was valued at $105.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to have reached $113.4 billion in 2021. To put the trend to work for you, consider product sales and affiliate relationships. Leading brands like Lululemon and Alo Yoga offer on-demand and even pop-up classes.
2. Smart clothing
Sensors are integrated into everything from clothing fibers to shoe soles. The smart clothing market is predicted to grow to $5.3 billion by 2024. Sensors facilitate biometric data collection from heart and breathing rates to muscle activity and more. Sensors even enable heated underwear.
3. Fitness Jewelry
Bala Bangles, Cali Weights and the Oura Ring allow fashionistas to get more bang from their bling. Expanding on fitness as fashion and functional style, these products are worn even when not training as part of a fitness lifestyle. Fit pros who understand the ins and outs of what their clients are wearing may solidify their position as a go-to for all things future fitness. Interestingly, another tech trend—e-commerce—has had its own boom thanks to pandemic-led lockdowns, making these and other types of athleisure easily orderable from any digital device.
4–9: “Mind” Your Future Fitness Business
The body and mind trend embraces the fact that fitness is not just physical fitness: Fitness is essential in the larger context of whole-person health—mental, physical and even spiritual. While yogis may note that this is not exactly new and is, in fact, thousands of years old, as a Western trend, it’s just in its infancy.
4. Mental Health
The pandemic focused attention on the significance of physical activity to boost mental health. According to Mindbody, over one-third of Americans ranked mental health as the most important dimension of wellness in 2021. A new concept, the “mental health gym” has emerged with Liberate, Coa and others. These fitness facilities blend movement with emphasis on improving mental health. Can you find ways to sneak something similar into your offerings?
5. Anti-Fat Bias
Social media pushed the body image conversation to the forefront; body-positive fitness influencers are being heard. For example, inaugural members of SELF magazine’s Future of Fitness advisory board want to combat anti-fat bias in fitness spaces. According to the Verywell Mind Mental Health Tracker, body image issues affect Gen Z and millennials more than those in Gen X and boomer generations. (See “Weight Biases: How Do They Influence Our Industry?,” page 28, for more on updating your knowledge and CECs.)
6. Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation is mainstream. As many as 40% of Americans have claimed to meditate, according to the Pew Research Center. Mindful meditations and/or guided visualizations are routinely integrated into training sessions and are offered on multiple fitness program apps like Apple Fitness+, Peloton and Les Mills. (IDEA members can read my “Meditation Basics” article on ideafit.com.)
Under influencers like Wim Hof, breathwork is now a common tool to optimize health and performance, and it’s fast becoming part of current and future fitness training. Breath training is supported by multiple apps like Breathwrk, Breathe and Open. Breathwork can be integrated into training for performance enhancement and to improve relaxation, rest and recovery. Bonus points: Earn 1 CEC by taking our “Breathwork Research and Application Quiz” on ideafit.com.
8. Movement for “Feeling Good”
More people are turning to lower-intensity movement practices—like yoga, Pilates and stretching—not to look good but to relax and to address anxiety and depression. In 2021, two of the top three reasons people wanted to train were to feel good and to feel better mentally. This coincides with the “body neutrality” movement of appreciating what the body can do (rather than what it looks like) and of overall learning to view one’s body with acceptance.
9. Motivation and Behavioral Change
Understanding behavioral change is becoming recognized as foundational education for fitness professionals. It’s not enough to know how to design training programs: Fitness pros need to meet people where they are and understand their individual “why” and how to best support them. Consumers note that they want the motivation that fitness pros provide, so if you’re knowledgeable in this area, it may win you new and future fitness business.
10–13: Build Community With Services
The fitness community is evolving. From its inception, the fitness industry primarily served fitness enthusiasts—those who love exercise and feel at home in the gym. The future fitness community is broad. The pandemic expanded the fitness market by increasing at-home training opportunities for many who don’t care for gym culture but found they enjoyed working with fitness pros. This trend features two important factors: retention and inclusivity.
10. Creating Community and Retention
As a business model, it’s no longer working to sell more memberships than a facility can ever serve. Business owners realize that building community; creating brand culture; and offering spaces where people look to each other for support, energy and fitness instruction are critical to retention. The pandemic highlighted the main draw for live workouts is this community.
11. Inclusive Fitness
As society reckons with increasing awareness of social injustice, this conversation is influencing fitness. People are looking for authentic inclusivity that embraces not only all physical shapes and sizes, but all identities and lived experiences. For example, if you want to genuinely welcome people of different races into your facility, does your locker room offer shampoos for all hair types? How diverse is your team overall? Clients seek representation and want fit pros who look like them and understand their stories. Facilities are also serving more diverse clien-tele with specific medical conditions. For example, some are providing multisensory environment (MSE) rooms, where stimulation can be customized to the participant, and classes or guidance from fitness instructors trained in working with people who have autism.
12. Active Aging
Baby boomers have driven the movement toward integrative medicine and want and need fitness services. Right now (in 2022), U.S. boomers are the second-largest population group with 69.6 million people between ages 58 and 76. Thirty-five percent of baby boomers exercise but are underserved by the fitness industry. Members of this generation are redefining aging, continuing to enjoy competitive sports and active leisure over their lifespans. Serving them well can boost your bottom line: This group also has the disposable income to afford these pursuits.
13. Millennial Workout “Events”
Millennials make up the largest segment of the U.S. population at 21.8%. According to a 2019 Les Mills Global Consumer Fitness Survey, 80% of all gymgoers are millennials or Gen Z members. These younger members value social interaction and the “event” experience, reinforcing the importance of community building in the fitness center. For example, a fitness experience can include a small group challenge, prizes, themed workouts, and launch and closing celebrations.
14–16: Think Outside the Big Box
Once a place that facilitated a workout with equipment, fit pros and showers, the fitness facility now offers a holistic wellness experience. With more at-home workout options than ever, clients may need an extra nudge to make a brick-and-mortar commitment.
14. Fitness Facility Apps
Accelerated by the pandemic, many fitness facilities now offer companion apps for members to continue their relationship 24/7. Apps offer virtual classes as well as ways to communicate with trainers and other members. Offering your own brand with the fit pros they know can give you an edge over unaffiliated influencers. “Sunday Sun Salutations” at home with a yogi from your studio allows members to bring the ohm home and keep you all connected.
15. Full-Service Wellness
Facilities, with a renewed emphasis on increasing member confidence, have upgraded health and hygiene offerings. This includes basic screenings such as InBody scans and blood pressure machines. Other increased wellness offerings to draw members in for one-stop service—beyond training options—include services for restoration and recovery (see trends 17–22 for specifics).
16. Juice and Immune-Boosting Foods Bar
Facilities that once were cutting-edge with their smoothie bar are upping the ante and offering a broader menu of options for fueling up on site. Some 2022 upgrades include featuring farm-to-table recipes and ingredients from local chefs, fresh blends of juice and adaptogenic herbs, and superfood snacks formulated to boost immune health, recovery and training.
17–22: Promote Rest and Restoration
Reinforced by the pandemic, people are appreciating the value of restoration and recovery. Technology and new research findings support a variety of methods that are becoming more economical and available.
17. Circadian Rhythm Guidance
Growing research in human circadian biology is heightening awareness of the role of exercise, sleep and nutrition for optimal health. Consumers are more aware than ever that not only are all three components essential, but that timing also matters. Sleep issues impact 35% of Americans, and new research is identifying how to determine best timing of exercising, eating and sleeping for individualized well-being. Clients may want guidance on how to put the research to work for them.
Highlighted by Olympic athletes, cupping is an ancient practice whose popularity has surged. This traditional Chinese medicine therapy enhances “chi” (energy flow) in the body, loosens tension and brings oxygen and blood flow to specific bodily points. The treatment leaves telltale round marks that many celebrities share on social media.
19. Cold Therapies
More facilities are offering cryotherapy rooms or treatments for recovery or beauty. Some enthusiasts believe such treatments slow the aging process. iCRYO has partnered with 24 Hour Fitness to provide in-club services of cryotherapy, as well as others (compression therapy; infrared saunas; dry float beds; and even medical services such as IV infusions, vitamin shots and body sculpting). An app called Monk (launching in summer 2022) is devoted solely to use of ice baths and cold-water therapy in the comfort of home.
20. Traditional and Infrared Saunas
Interest in saunas is also heating up in 2022, with many facilities featuring either traditional or infrared types. Some gyms are even offering shorter workouts (15–30 minutes) inside infrared saunas to boost calorie burning, detox and circulation. Equinox clubs have introduced an outdoor barrel sauna along with a seasonal “Après Equinox” heated pool to further dive into this hot trend.
21. Recovery Rooms
More facilities are recognizing the significance of recovery from intense exercise or even excess stress and are offering recovery rooms to support people to transition to calm. Recovery rooms may simply facilitate relaxation with added extras like diffused essential oils or mood lighting or offer extras like healing refreshments and practices like guided meditation, stretching or massage. Corporations are also using the idea to promote office wellness by integrating recovery or “recharge” rooms into their building design, offering a similar combination of quiet spaces to sit and reflect, as well as bodily soothing services.
22. Myofascial and Vibration Bodywork
More understanding of the myofascial system and the value of relieving trigger points has launched new equipment and protocols for releasing fascial tension. Using various balls and rollers and even vibration-enhanced rollers is a normal part of a warmup or cooldown for many training sessions and is now standard gym equipment. Percussive massage guns allow for self-care. Many fitness enthusiasts seek bodywork services like massage to enhance training, and being able to serve and support all these needs can help a facility differentiate itself from others.
See also: Exploring Exercise Recovery Options
23–28: Future Fitness Tech Support
New sensor technology, apps and research are pushing the envelope in terms of what we can monitor and how to track it. Clients are looking to fit pros for help making sense of this data. Other recent developments include expansion of “exer-tainment”—fitness as fun, enhanced by gaming and augmented or virtual reality.
23. The Quantified Self
Self-tracking technology exists in every type of wearable monitor that users can imagine. Ring monitors, like Oura, are available for those who do not care for the bulkiness of smartwatches. Sensors can be embedded in clothing fibers, shoe soles and wearable patches that measure every type of biometric data, including activity quantity and intensity, heart rate, sleep quantity and quality, respiratory rate, hydration, stress levels, nutrition, blood sugar, and more. Devices can monitor blood, breath, sweat and even urine.
24. Genetic Testing
While still in its infancy, genetic testing may soon be able to determine an individual’s ability to develop muscular strength or endurance. It may also help predict the potential for athletic injuries—for example, if a person may be at increased risk for ligament or tendon tears or low bone-mineral density. This knowledge can improve training individualization and inform injury prevention. For now, staying on top of the emerging science is an important first step.
25. Virtual Reality and Future Fitness
Virtual reality fitness, not to be confused with virtual (online) fitness, involves technology that enables training in an immersive alternative environment. Supernatural, an industry leader in this space, invites members to train in Machu Picchu or on Mars with use of an Oculus headset. Current offerings include boxing, cardio flow, meditation, and stretch and recovery sessions.
26. Augmented Reality Fitness
Some predict that once augmented reality fitness is developed, it may surpass VR fitness since it involves images projected onto a participant’s physical space, requires lighter headgear and is, therefore, safer. Pokémon Go—which involved using a smartphone and an app to walk the neighborhood to “find” various characters—was an early example of how this type of tech can encourage people to be more active. Watch for developments from Snapchat’s AR Spectacles that were featured in a Nike ad with marathoner Eliud Kipchoge.
27. Fitness Gamification
Gaming is blending with exercise in a growing number of popular fitness apps. For example, Zombies, Run! places participants in a scenario that includes being chased by hungry members of the undead. The game allows participants to race and compete with others as they run for their lives. Fantasy, interactivity and competition combined makes this game a triple threat, in a positive way. Introducing clients and members to fitness gaming apps may help them adhere to cardio goals, for example, on days when they’re exercising on their own.
28. Fitness Streaming
TV episodes and multipart series weren’t the only things being streamed during the pandemic. The floodgates opened for fitness streaming, too. With many facilities closed, people turned to platforms like Apple Fitness+ or to streaming-supported technology-enabled equipment like Peloton, the MIRROR, Indo-Row® and more.
See also: Newest Fitness Technology Trends
29–31: Make Sure You’re Well Equipped
Equipment is enjoying its share of the spotlight due to the dramatic increase in home gym equipment buyers, as well as membership facilities and personal trainers who have upgraded their offerings to stay competitive.
29. Smart Machines
Tech is now integrated into equipment, sometimes along with artificial intelligence, to optimize the user experience. Fitness equipment can be connected to livestream classes for more interactivity and social engagement. Equipment can include monitors that measure and record intensity and duration of a session, as well as biometric data. For example, weight machines today can record each user’s weight, sets, training time and date of use so that, when the user returns to that piece of equipment, they can pick up exactly where they left off.
30. Functional Training
Functional training impacts equipment usage as new tools are created to challenge coordination, strength, flexibility, balance, agility and components of movement patterns that are essential for daily living. As the industry continues to evolve—with fitness training being more widely recognized as an activity to enhance daily living, not only to achieve performance goals—the demand for functional fitness equipment and training will grow.
31. Body-weight Tools
As more consumers venture into fitness training, body weight as a tool is attractive, since props are minimal. The TRX® Suspension Training® system is one of the leading body-weight training tools that has essentially redefined body-weight training with 3 million Suspension Trainers™ sold to date. Other popular tools still trending that add variety to our toolboxes include pullup bars and gliding discs.
32–37: Try a New Training Mode
Fitness pros are creative, coming up with new exercise programs informed by research, popular demand, equipment innovations and more. The following are leading programs today that are positioned for further growth. Exploring or becoming trained in new modalities can spark creativity and enhance your schedule or résumé.
High-intensity interval training is attractive for its effectiveness and time efficiency. New methods continue to make this training style accessible even for those new to training.
33. Low-Intensity Training
Fueled by various factors, people are appreciating low-intensity training for its stress-relieving benefits. “Slow,” easy, consistent training is a counterpoint to overachievement, competition and highly inflammatory punishing workouts. Two popular trends include low-intensity sustained-state training (LISS) and low-intensity interval training (LIIT), both of which emphasize fewer reps with perfect form. A side benefit is a reduced risk of injury and an appeal to people who may balk at the idea of a “sweaty” workout session.
Yoga demand surged during lockdowns. In 2019, the yoga industry generated $37.46 billion and is expected to grow to $66.22 billion in 2027. Livestream yoga was the only digital class in the top 10 of most-booked workouts, according to the 2021 ClassPass report. Experts believe yoga’s growth is due to its blending of exercise and the calming of the nervous system.
35. Body-weight Training
Along with body-weight training equipment, body-weight training is increasing in popularity due to more interest in at-home options and less-complex, minimalistic approaches to improving future fitness. Creating body-weight–based programs that supplement group exercise and/or gym equipment usage and personal training can help fitness enthusiasts stay on track wherever they may be.
36. Immunity-Boosting Training
The pandemic heightened awareness around the importance of overall health and a strong immune system. Growing research supports the profound health benefits of exercise for all people at all life stages and ability levels. Moderate-intensity aerobic training has the most research support in this area. Stimulating muscle activity seems to exert a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
37. Outdoor Training
After being cooped up for months, people began moving outside to appreciate nature and are still looking to train outdoors. Activities that have enjoyed a particular boost include golf, walking and hiking. Fit pros can capitalize on this development by offering training that complements outdoor activities and taking programs outdoors when weather and locations permit.
38–40: Highlight the Health of Future Fitness
Physical activity is essential to health. Research shows that, for many medical conditions, consistent exercise offers a multitude of benefits, oftentimes including the ability to reduce or even eliminate medications and troublesome symptoms. Fit pros are essential contributors to an allied healthcare team, and this is becoming increasingly recognized by laypeople and the medical profession alike.
38. Health and Wellness Coaching
Effective in 2021, health coaching services have received a code for billing purposes. While most insurances do not yet cover health and wellness coaching, this is an important development and a sign of good things to come. For fit pros who add a health and wellness coaching certification to their repertoire, this may significantly improve business growth, particularly with the expansion of telehealth. Medical professionals will increasingly look to allied healthcare pros to help progress patients with chronic conditions.
39. Medical Fitness
Another development is the creation of a category of medical fitness. This includes fitness professionals who have additional training to work with people with specific chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer and more. With the “graying of America” (an increasingly senior-age population), this type of specialization may open the door to new opportunities for fit pros and clients alike.
40. Exercise Rx
As research continues to re-fine a specific dose-response relationship between types and amounts of physical activity (with respect to specific medical conditions), exercise prescriptions could one day be a reality. For example, moderate aerobic exercise and time spent outdoors are proven beneficial adjunctive therapies for people with clinical anxiety or depression. Fit pros who have relationships with medical professionals will benefit from client referrals.
Grow a Strong Future Fitness Business
As the industry has evolved, so are ways in which fitness pros can earn a livelihood. Employment opportunities include careers with a fitness facility, a fitness-equipment corporation or a fitness program provider. Qualified professionals can work in a wellness setting, healthcare or public health organization; offer wellness programming in corporate or hospitality settings; or open their own business or own a franchise. Fit pros can specialize in a type of movement, client or equipment or combine all of the above.
Emerging Business Model: The Fit-preneur
Have you dreamed of running your own business but are intimidated by how to acquire all the business skills? Fitness business leaders are remedying that by creating the infrastructure for fitness professionals to take power back into their own hands and build their own fitness business. For example:
- Zumba® created the ZIN Studio™ platform that enables certified teachers to lead classes online, accept bookings, and receive payment and feedback.
- Playbook and other similar platforms offer fitness and wellness creators a way to showcase their services with backend support for marketing, fee processing and more.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 39% employment growth for personal trainers and fitness instructors from 2020 to 2030. The fitness-as-wellness merger is creating expansive business growth. Considering the strength of current fitness and wellness trends and the shift toward fitness as a lifestyle, there’s never been a better time for motivated fit pros and fit-preneurship.
Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.