As you began this new year, you probably had a plethora of fitness choices. You could step, hop, jog, train, consciously inhale and exhale, pump, dance, kick and box, stretch, concentrate on your core or functionality, or even eat and manage your life in an informed manner. Much of the information and choice that you have now didn’t exist 25 years ago, when IDEA first began. It’s amazing how much can change in such a short time.

As IDEA celebrates its 25th anniversary, we thought you might enjoy a look toward the future. Over the next few years, what will happen in group fitness, personal training, nutrition, body-mind-spirit and wellness coaching? How will the fitness and medical communities work to combat obesity and other issues of common concern? What is the future for qualifications—university degrees, licensing, accreditation and training? What new forms of exercise will emerge? What will be popular with the mainstream? What will the mainstream even be?

You will be intrigued, surprised, informed and prepared by the trends that our industry visionaries have predicted. So read on to discover the 25 things to watch for.

Personal Training
1. Having a personal fitness trainer (PFT) will be as common as having a family physician.

The medical, insurance and fitness industries will increasingly interconnect, and more consumers will add personal training to their lives as part of a comprehensive preventive-care program. As the focus of personal training switches to a more preventive model and the link between healthcare costs and wellness becomes even more firmly established by statistics, companies will help defray the costs of training. As part of a more collaborative mode of health care, physicians will write prescriptions for personal training, just as they do now for physical therapy.

2. Small-group training will increase in popularity, particularly among the older-adult and youth markets.

For example, as the population ages, specialized small-group training will appeal to people with common goals, such as those living with chronic diseases or those needing rehab in relation to higher rates of joint replacement. There will also be a rise in small-group training for youth, as all nations address what the World Health Organization has termed the “international epidemic” of childhood obesity. In addition, as awareness of the need for regular exercise grows, families will increasingly turn going to the gym into a family activity, akin to going to a park, restaurant or game center. In other words, more people will realize that the family that trains together stays well together!

3. A university degree and/or accredited certification or license will become the entry requirement for new PFTs.

As demand for specialized knowledge grows, particularly for trainers who want to work with physician-referred clients, the perception of PFTs as healthcare professionals will increase. This rise in “status” will mandate improved and standardized education, possibly leading to state or national exams and licensing.

4. Youth athletic and sport training will become more common.

As mandated physical education has decreased in schools over the past years, there has been a correlating rise in participation in organized youth sports. Rather than just playing sports for fun, kids are increasingly playing to excel at a specific sport. This, in turn, is leading to an increase in “paid-for-by-parents” fitness training for kids, and many personal trainers are honing the skills they need to work with this age group, especially children 8–13 years old.

Trend spotters: Kay Cross, MEd, CSCS, president of Cross Coaching & Wellness, Fort Worth, Texas; Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, 2004 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 2005 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of Fitness Quest 10, San Diego; Lynn Frank, group fitness director at Keystone Athletic Club, San Diego; and Ingrid Knight-Cohee, MSc, health education manager of the YMCA, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Group Fitness
5. There will be an increase in classes designed to attract the new-to-fitness and unfit populations.

The daily grind of statistics today shows the urgent need for programs that will attract people to exercise. Large health club chains and prominent instructors have an opportunity to take the lead in designing courses and programs that will attract this segment of society. The focus will shift from choreography and specific class types (step, kickbox, etc.) to simply moving—to making movement easy, achievable and accessible. Rather than being a nation trying to be “fit,” we will be a nation working at becoming “fitter.”

6. In an effort to combat obesity, particularly in children, there will be a substantial increase in community-based programs (at afterschool centers, places of worship, community centers).

State and federal funding will be part of this effort, making the programs affordable for the general population and fiscally possible for instructors. Options will include programs that offer a youth-focused twist on group fitness, such as cheerleading or skateboarding conditioning, calisthenics mixed with dodge ball or foursquare, and other activities that emphasize fun, noise and action!

7. Express and fusion classes will increase in popularity.

As people look for more balance in their lives, in matters of both time and personal growth, short (less-than-an-hour), express-style classes, as well as hybrid fusion classes that combine disciplines, will dominate class schedules. This trend will enable people to focus on achieving a complete workout within a time span that fits into their busy lives.

8. Internet and downloadable fitness programs will surge in growth.

Over the past few years, many organizations have decreased the intimidating requirements for being “fit,” focusing instead on adding exercise in whatever way works. With this in mind, people will use the Internet to access “bites” of fitness that can be pulled up and used throughout the day on a schedule dictated solely by the users. Instant-access exercise!

9. As fitness becomes more specialized, choices will increase as class size decreases.

An exciting array of group fitness offerings will please those people who love to work out in the club setting, and that diversity will lead to smaller, more intimate classes. This will be an opportunity for instructors to really help participants focus on technique and form. It may also enable instructors to more easily identify those students who might be ready to transition from student to teacher.

10. The basics will continue to be supported, with a surge in a “back-to-basics” approach; there will be some growth in specialized and outdoor classes that will appeal to dedicated exercisers.

Classes such as step, high-low, aqua, strength, kickbox, boot camp, walking/hiking, circuit and interval training will remain, with an ebb and flow in popularity, yet the emphasis will be more on the experience and less on choreography. Along with the increase in sports-oriented personal training, there will also be a rise in outdoor training for adults. As more people exercise, classes will head outdoors, for both space and interest.

11. Prechoreographed formats will retain their appeal, with no significant growth or decline expected.

More fitness facilities will offer prechoreographed programs, especially as the current generation of instructors retires or switches focus and the next generation takes on more of the teaching load. This upswing will be countered by the expected increase in community-based fitness, which will rely on individuals for program design.

12. The aging population will continue to exercise, and there will be a greater need for “older-adult” fitness programs.

As the current generation of exercisers (including instructors) moves into its 50s and 60s, it will drive program designers to redefine the meaning of “older-adult exercise.” Strength, balance and movement classes will be reimagined to address the needs and demands of this demographic. Although many classes will be developed to appeal to older adults just starting out with an exercise program, this age group is also the generation that has been participating in group fitness for the past 25 years, so there will be a concurrent demand for variety, complexity, vibrancy and challenge in classes.

Trend spotters: Lawrence Biscontini, MA, 2004 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year, Reebok University master trainer, Golden Door Spa group fitness manager, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Jay Blahnik, IDEA group exercise spokesperson, star of over 25 award-winning exercise videos and author of Full Body Flexibility, Laguna Beach, California; Bethany Diamond, Nautilus Institute master trainer, Marietta, Georgia; Fred Hoffman, MEd, Reebok global master trainer and fitness consultant for Reebok France, Paris; Karla Overturf, Honolulu, chairwoman of IDEA’s group fitness committee; Krista Popowych, international presenter and Fitness TV host, Vancouver, British Columbia; and Mary Sanders, PhD, FACSM, director of WaterFit and associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno.

13. The movement toward inner fitness and wellness will continue its phenomenal growth.

With Baby Boomers leading the way, the emphasis on being a whole and holistic person will continue its upward climb in popularity, especially as more research is published elucidating the health benefits.

14. Pilates, yoga, tai chi, core training, breath training, mindful walking and other forms
of “gentle” fitness will become further established as part of mainstream culture.

Serving all ages, these fitness modalities will attract a more general segment of society, with the greatest increases being among youth and older-adult participants. As part of the growing awareness of our planetary responsibilities and our impact on the world, particularly for our children, these programs will be the tools for expanding our consciousness.

Trend spotters: Lawrence Biscontini and Michele Hébert, raja yoga guide and owner of Spa Spirit Wellness, San Diego.

Programming and Management
15. Youth programming is heading into the forefront of fitness.

Addressing the fitness and medical needs of youth will drive the industry, as a major share of the fitness dollars spent in the future by parents, the government and the medical industry are directed toward reversing the trends of obesity and shorter life expectancy.

16. Facilities will manage the dual demands for profit and service by focusing on the needs of the customer.

No matter whether facilities are large or small, elaborate or basic, people will join or remain at them for the experience they provide. If clients have an emotionally rewarding experience, their loyalty and attachment will influence their beliefs about the cost-value ratio. An emphasis on a “concierge” approach to clients’ needs will help “brand” companies.

17. There will be a shift to a one-stop shopping model.

Facilities will expand their offerings, whether through on-site programs or on a consultant basis. As a way to do this—and to stay profitable—more facilities will sell apparel, food, technology, equipment and professional services. These services will include afterschool care, nutrition and meal planning, shopping, laundry, chiropractic care, lifestyle coaching, medical and emotional consulting, family services, and social clubs and events.

18. Facility owners will hire, train and promote staff based on a systemic approach.

Rather than looking for employees with specific “technical” skills, and hiring them for a specific department, managers will focus on relationship skills as part of the overall shift toward a “relationship-based” paradigm. As part of this, more companies will develop in-house leadership and training programs. This will help employees view themselves as part of a system, or family, and retention will increase as staff see
opportunities open up.

Trend spotters: Lynn Frank and Alex McMillan, 2006 IDEA Co-Program Director of the Year and president of Northwest Personal Training in Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon.

Medical Field and Research
19. The link between the medical and fitness
industries will dramatically increase in strength.

As preventive and postrehabilitative fitness gain more attention, the two fields will become more interdependent, with programs such as the Medicare-supported Silver Sneakers seeing increased attention. Weight management, smoking cessation, diabetes and arthritis programs, as well as other health management courses, will be more common in fitness facilities, while trainers and equipment will be found more frequently in hospitals. The medical world will invest substantial amounts of money to create formalized fitness programs, and participating in these programs will be a prerequisite for joining a health plan. As a way to manage costs, hospitals, medical insurance companies and businesses will spend more on buying or building their own fitness facilities. As part of this symbiotic relationship, record keeping—whether it be in regard to fitness, performance, disease risk or medical assessments—will increase in importance. Clients will have a thorough set of files as trainers, therapists, medical personnel and nutritionists collaborate in a timely fashion to direct clients away from disease and toward health, with a focus on early intervention. Currently, most people spend more time with their trainer than with their medical professionals, which puts trainers in a unique position to spot potential disease patterns or problems.

20. Consumer demand will be the driving force
for substantial changes within the medical community.

Looking to become healthier and more educated, consumers will turn toward the fitness field and away from medicine as they look for guides to help them integrate their physical, spiritual and mental selves. Just as consumers drove research and demand for alternative medicine, so will they lead the way toward holistic fitness as medicine. The medical system will play catch-up, eventually restructuring its paradigm to become a network that offers lifestyle management.

21. There will be continuing interest in published scientific research in a number of health, fitness and wellness areas.

As scientists attempt to answer pressing fitness questions, there will be a movement toward research in the following areas: applied research, exercise testing and assessment, equipment devices, training adaptations, the physiological effects of resistance exercise, the health benefits of body-mind practices and the physiological effects of Pilates. Research trends and money will also be targeted toward the link between exercise and chronic disease, particularly in the areas of obesity and diabetes. Finally, we will continue to see underrepresented populations involved in research, both as scientists and study subjects.

Trend spotters: Jeff Janot, PhD, technical editor for IDEA and assistant professor of kinesiology in the department of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire; Len Kravitz, PhD, coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Michael Luan, DC, MA (oriental medicine), instructor of integrative movement and biomechanics, Santa Barbara, California; and Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Body for Life for Women, Bethesda, Maryland.

Training and Education
22. More universities will offer full credit
programs that prepare entry-level personal trainers.

As demand for qualified, versatile trainers grows, the number of academic organizations that offer hands-on, practical coursework and internships to complement standard science courses will increase. Once this combination of practical and theoretical knowledge is added to more university degree programs, a new generation of fitness leaders will emerge who will be trained in both “the science and the art” of leadership.

Trend spotter: Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA, academic advisor to the fitness instruction minor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Life and Wellness Coaching
23. Working with a wellness coach will become more commonplace.

Just as personal training rocketed over the past several years, wellness coaching is poised to explode as part of the “next wave of fitness.” As more and more people recognize the importance and impact of holistic health, there will be a concomitant rise in demand for wellness coaches. More personal trainers, nurses, dietitians, sport coaches, group exercise instructors and other health educators will add certificates in wellness coaching to their educational achievements.

24. More education courses will integrate the concepts of fitness and wellness coaching.

As the industry expands, so will the need for specialists, including wellness coaches. This will increase the desire for, and availability of, courses that address topics like basic coaching skills, ethics and scope of practice, career coaching, stress management, short-term power coaching, eating and health management, in-person coaching, and workout coaching that simultaneously combines coaching with exercise.

Trend spotters: Mary Bratcher, MA, co-owner of The BioMechanics, San Diego; and Kate Larsen, PCC, Minneapolis, author of Progress Not Perfection: Your Journey Matters, executive coach and faculty member for Wellcoaches® Corporation and the Ken Blanchard Companies.

25. People will increasingly shop locally as a
response to food concerns, which will drive changes in food standards and commercial food production.

As concerns about food safety and the environment grow, more people will shop for food that is local, organic and seasonal. There will be increased interest from mainstream consumers in knowing the origins and history of the food they buy and eat, which will lead to an upswing in the number of local markets and co-ops. More shoppers will ask for an accounting of how their meat and produce are raised and brought to market. This will lead to streamlined labeling, banning of certain foods and additives, consistent definitions for food terms (organic, hormone-free, natural, free-range, etc.), healthier marketing (particularly toward kids) and a huge rise in the amount of organic products sold at chain stores.

Trend spotter: Jennie McCary, MS, RD, LD, wellness coordinator for the Albuquerque Public School District, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An Eye Toward the Future

So, do you feel ready for a healthy future? It will certainly be interesting to follow our trend spotters’ predictions to see how or if they come to pass. It’s now time to pull out your energy bar (remember when there was only one choice?), kick up your heels (do you recall the beginnings of high-impact aerobics?) and get out there and set some trends!

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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