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2020’s hottest fitness trends: Which is right for you?

By Michelle Rogers, CPT | February 14, 2020 | Health Conditions, Healthy Lifestyle

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Need some motivation to achieve your 2020 fitness goals? Looking for something new to spice up your current routine? Perhaps you might like to try one or more of today’s top fitness trends.

Each year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) compiles a list of the top worldwide fitness trends, based on a survey of over 3,000 fitness professionals.

Here are several that are included in this year’s top 20. With each one, I’ve included an “ideal for,” which is my professional opinion.

Wearable technology

Ranked #1 in the survey, this includes fitness and activity trackers, smartwatches, GPS tracking devices, and heart rate monitors. The technology has improved and devices are more accurate than when activity trackers first appeared several years ago, which has helped increase the use of these products. Today, it’s estimated that wearable technology is about a $95 billion industry.

Ideal for: Those who are motivated to move by tracking their steps and activity; exercisers who want to work out according to their target heart rate; and runners, walkers and cyclists who wish to track their mileage. 

As a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina member you’re eligible for an exclusive, valuable discount program on Fitbit and other wearable devices and monitors. Find out more about Blue365.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

 From Bootcamp classes in the park to CrossFit gyms, to studios that focus on heart rate training, there’s no doubt that HIIT continues to be one of the most popular workouts around.

 This exercise format involves short segments of high-intensity bouts of exercise followed by brief periods of rest. While there are potentially increased injury rates using HIIT, this form of exercise has remained in the top five trends since 2014.

Ideal for: Those who are already moderately active and fit and want to take their fitness to the next level with challenging, intense workouts.

Group training

The survey defines group training as a program or class with more than five participants.

While group exercise classes have been around for a long time, in the last few years small group personal training has emerged as a trend among gyms and trainers. The reason for this is that it’s a win-win for both the gym/trainer and the clients: Clients typically pay less per session than a private one-on-one; and overall the gym or trainer makes more per hour than with single, private sessions.

Ideal for: Those who would like the guidance of a trainer and don’t mind a group workout and sharing the trainer’s time with several other people.

Training with free weights

This category includes working with barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells or medicine balls.

When starting out with strength training, it’s important to first begin with proper form. Then progressively increase the resistance and add new exercises over time, while maintaining correct form. This is where a certified trainer can be especially helpful and to help you avoid injury.

Ideal for: Those who want to gain muscular strength and endurance and are able to safely grip and move the weight without pain.

READ: Why is strength training important for women?

Personal training

According to the ACSM, this includes fitness testing and goal setting with the trainer working one-on-one with a client to prescribe workouts specific to clients’ individual needs and goals. “One-on-one training continues to be a trend as the profession of personal training becomes more accessible online, in health clubs, in the home, and in worksites that have fitness facilities,” said the researchers.

Ideal for: Everyone can benefit from the guidance and support of a certified professional. But it does require time and financial commitment from the client. You will need to be able to keep your scheduled appointments.

Body weight training

With this method, you don’t need any fancy equipment to get in shape. It can be done anywhere, and you use what you have: Your own body provides the resistance. This makes it an inexpensive way to exercise effectively. Examples include push-ups, lunges, planks, leg lifts, ab crunches, and squats.

Ideal for: Working out at home, a park, or in a hotel room.

Fitness programs for older adults

There are 47.8 million people over age 65 in the U.S., and that number is expected to be 98.2 million by 2060 ( People are living longer, working longer, and remaining active much longer. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are a tremendous benefit to older adults who wish to maintain their independence.

Ideal for: Adults who wish to improve or maintain their health, reduce arthritic and muscular stiffness and soreness, better perform their activities of daily living, emotionally benefit from the social aspect of classes, and improve their overall quality of life.

Health/wellness coaching

“This is a growing trend to integrate behavioral science into health promotion and lifestyle medicine programs,” explains the ACSM. “Health/Wellness coaching uses a one-on-one (and at times small group) approach with the coach providing support, goal setting, guidance, and encouragement. The health/wellness coach focuses on the client’s values, needs, vision, and short- and long-term goals using behavior change intervention strategies.”

Ideal for: Those who have been struggling on their own to make healthier choices and to stick with them.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina offers health coaching with certain plans. Log on to Blue Connect to find out if your plan offers health coaching.

Functional fitness training

“This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance, coordination, muscular strength, and endurance to improve activities of daily living,” says the researchers. It involves “replicating actual physical activities someone might do as a function of their daily routine.”

Ideal for: Older adults and clinical populations such as physical therapy patients.

Outdoor activities

 This trend for health and fitness professionals to offer outdoor activities for their clients began in 2010, say the researchers. “More outdoor activities such as group walks, group rides, or organized hiking groups are becoming popular. They can be short events, daylong events, or planned weeklong hiking excursions. Participants often meet in a local park, hiking area, or on a bike trail typically with a leader.”

Ideal for: Families and individuals who long to spend more time in the fresh air and sunshine.


Yoga has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last decade and a half as it reinvents itself. Today, there are countless varieties, including power yoga, hot yoga, chair yoga, and even goat yoga. While some seem to be a far deviation from yoga’s spiritual roots in Indian culture, when it comes to today’s commercialized yoga there is no shortage of classes and options.

Ideal for: Those desiring more flexibility, strength, breath control, calmness, and a mind-body connection.

Circuit training

Circuit training is similar to HIIT, “but at a much lower or even moderate intensity (some have called this moderate-intensity interval training),” explains ACSM. “Circuit training is typically a group of about 10 exercises that are completed in succession and in a predetermined sequence. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a set time period before having a quick rest and moving on to the next exercise.”

Ideal for: Those who enjoy the format of HIIT but prefer or need to exercise at a more moderate intensity.

Children and exercise

“Childhood and adolescent obesity continues to be a major health issue…and is important because of its association with other medical issues such as diabetes and hypertension,” notes the researchers. But coming in at #20 this year, this category showed the biggest decrease in the top fitness trends survey.

With cutbacks in school programs, increased screen time, and less playtime outdoors, kids are not moving enough. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States, putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. And today’s inactive kids are tomorrow’s unhealthy adults.

Ideal for: Most children. Families play an important role in helping kids learn to be active and stay active throughout their lives. For some helpful strategies, see our story “How parents can help kids be fit and healthy.”

The bottom line: Do what’s right for you

There are many ways to exercise, and a dizzying array of modalities and classes available. It can take time, and some trial and error, to find the right fit. But even something as simple as going for a daily walk can make a big difference in your health and fitness.

Find an activity you enjoy so that you’ll stick with it. Keep going, get support if you need it, and do what works for you.