ACSM declares Wearable Fitness Technology the official Trend for 2016

Each year, trends in the fitness industry experience a proverbial swing of the pendulum as athletics drive the market in a new direction. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) studies such swings to deliver a forecast of what the next year will bring. As such, ACSM has declared 2016 the year of wearable fitness technology.

The announcement shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. In this day and age of portable high-tech gadgets, modern society has become accustomed to the ultimate conveniences. In the past, athletic tracking techs, especially heart rate monitors, were bulky and uncomfortable, but the latest wearable fitness devices have resolved those issues, and then some.

Fitbit Wearable Fitness Technology

The results of the ACSM’s latest study, which happened to be the 10th anniversary edition of the academy’s worldwide survey on fitness trends, were published on Thursday. The main objective was to educate readers on “worldwide trends in the commercial, corporate, clinical (including medical fitness), and community health fitness industry.”

The ACSM also pointed out that there’s a big difference between a “trend” and a “fad”. A trend, wrote the study’s author, ACSM Program Director Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM (Georgia State University) is “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving”. A fad, on the other hand, is “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period”.

Wearable Fitness Technology #1 in 2016

Out of a possible 40 options, including 25 high-ranking trends from previous years, Wearable Technology came in #1. Body Weight Training, which ranked #1 in 2015, was pushed back to the #2 spot for the coming year, while High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), the #1 trend of 2014, fell to #3.

“Introduced just a few years ago, wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices,” wrote Dr. Thompson. “Examples include fitness and activity trackers like those from Misfit, Garmin, Jawbone, and Fitbit. The newly released Apple Watch® is another example.

Dr. Thompson found that, “Some business analysts have predicted that the Apple Watch® will sell more than 485 million devices by the year 2018 and that the wearable technology market will approach $6 billion dollars by 2016. Trending in this part of the industry today include smart glasses, with a predicted $1.5 billion in sales, and smart fabrics and interactive textiles, reaching sales approaching $2.6 billion by 2017.”

In conclusion, he suggested that “the ‘back to basics’ philosophy of the industry that was driven by the weak economy might be fading.”

Chairwoman for the Department of Nutrition Science at Drexel University, Stella Lucia Volpe, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., FASCM, commented on Dr. Thompson’s findings. “In our technology-driven era, I was not surprised to see that wearable technology was listed as the first trend. The fact that body weight training was second demonstrates that people are aware that weights are not necessarily required for effective resistance training.”

A medical student at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and SEACSM student representative, Bridget A. Peters, Ph.D., said, “It is not surprising that this year’s survey results indicate wearable technology as the no. 1 trend. This supports the increased marketing and sales of gadgets engineered to make daily activity easier.”

Losing Focus on Fitness for Children

Since 2007, athletic programs that focus on the issue of childhood obesity have always appeared in the top 20 results of the annual ACSM study, until now. From 2007-2013, exercises geared towards the treatment and/or prevention of obesity in children were ranked among the top 5 results. In 2014, it dropped to #11, falling further to #17 in 2015. In 2016, it didn’t even make the list.

“Childhood and adolescent obesity continues to be a major health issue in most developed and developing nations and is important because of its association with other medical issues such as diabetes and hypertension,” wrote Dr. Thompson.

Due to the current lack of concentration on childhood obesity, he predicted, “Programs for children are a potential new market for commercial and community-based organizations”. However, such programs “do not seem to have been trending well in the industry.”

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