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Pilates, Spinning and Zumba just fads? Bodyweight training is the future…

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Pilates, Spinning and Zumba just fads? Bodyweight training is the future…


The title of my article today may come as a shock to some of us. But in its ninth year, the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2015 has been published, and according to FitPro, it’s not good news for Pilates, spinning or especailly Zumba!

First things first, who is Fit Pro? Well, by their own admission, Fit Pro is “is the largest professional association of fitness leaders in the world and a global front-runner in fitness development.” They also offer a range of educational programs that they are not at all shy in promoting at every opportunity, so to say they their opinion is independent is not always quite true.

Back to the survey. The ACSM survey attempts to give “key insights to help fitness professionals determine which factors are causing particular fitness trends to increase or decrease in popularity”.
So what are the results? The survey says that “High-intensity interval training took over the number one spot in 2014, previously held by educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals, which was in that position since 2008 and now appears at number three. However, bodyweight training has now taken the number one spot for 2015.”

Fitpro say that “Bodyweight training was first in the spotlight when it was highlighted in the trends survey in 2013 at number three. The reason behind its slow climb to popularity is due to it only becoming a defined trend within gyms in the last couple of years. However, despite finally only reaching the top spot in 2015, individuals have used their bodyweight for centuries as a form of resistance training. This method of training appears an inexpensive option for gyms due to minimal equipment use – the supposed limitations of the push-up and pull-up certainly appear to be a belief of the past. So, take note, bodyweight training is a trend to watch for the future”.

For those who are not so familiar with the term “bodyweight” (of course if you believe this study then in 2015 you soon will be…), it simply means using your own weight for the resistance to movement. You know, like many Pilates exercises do. The advantage is obviously that at the basic level you do not need any equipment, although at more advanced levels weights are a definite help. Some of the exercises can require more flexibility and balance to perform repetitions when compared to pure weight lifting.

One of main drawbacks is of course that if you are only using you own bodyweight, you can only ever lift your own weight. Whilst for many people this is more than enough, for some it makes it difficult to reach a required level of intensity, although it is possible to progress from bilateral to unilateral movements.

For all these reasons I have used bodyweight exercises primarily with new clients on their sport and fitness holidays in Barcelona to enable them to gain a degree of strength and confidence before progressing. I have been teaching with weighted vests and TRX for many years, and they are one of my preferred methods of training myself. So I am not disagreeing with the survey on this point.

The Fitpro article goes on to say that “Bodyweight exercises can also be modified to decrease the intensity. For instance, a practitioner unable to perform a single push-up may perform them with the knees on the ground….” Sounds like a familiar way to do a push-up?

But I digress a little. Back to this fad called Pilates. The ACSM Survey seeks to provide “a detailed study of specific trends that have appeared dominant for many years in the industry but have now dropped off the top trends list”. Fitpro uses the example of Zumba. Zumba was recorded at number nine in 2012 but dropped to number 28 in 2014 and number 34 in the 2015 list. To paraphrase (or parrot-phrase) Iago who famously said in the Disney film Aladdin, I think I might die of not-surprise.

The survey goes on to say that Pilates, indoor cycling, stability ball and balance training “failed to appear on the list of top 20 trends in the health and fitness industry”, which FitPro concludes supports the theory that these were fads and not trends. And there we have those words from the very “mouth” of Fit Pro!

The survey summary actually says:

“Consistent with the previous nine ACSM worldwide surveys, some new trends from last year were embraced (e.g., body weight training and high-intensity interval training), others were once again supported (e.g., educated and certified health fitness professionals), and still others failed to make the top 20 trends (Pilates, indoor cycling, stability ball, mixed martial arts, online training, pregnancy/postnatal classes, water workouts, unmonitored fitness facilities, medicine ball slamming, and Bowka). Trends have been defined as a general development that takes some time, and then stays for a period (usually described as a behaviour change), whereas a fad comes and goes. In the top 10 fitness trends for 2015, all have been on the list in previous years. Taking over the top spot from high-intensity interval training is body weight training. It will be very interesting to watch body weight training and high-intensity interval training during the next year to see if these are truly trends or fads. Pilates, indoor cycling, balance training, and use of the stability ball continue to exist in the health and fitness industry but with not as much popularity according to the ACSM trends survey.”

If we use the definition of a fad as something that comes and goes, and as Pilates is not in the top 20 trends this year, then FitPro put two and two together and got fad, opps I mean five.

The survey itself only had 3,403 respondents in total, so it represents a very small sample. It was suggested that the “persistent, sluggish economy has influenced the results of this survey”. After all, bodyweight exercises are very cheap for gyms to run.

The survey respondents took the view that “indoor cycling and Zumba have run their course”. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) was recorded at number two in the survey, but survey respondents did raise concern over high injury levels when carrying out a short, intensive burst of exercise (Les Mills please take note).

Strength training continues to be popular within the fitness industry (but rarely do I see it being performed correctly). “It is not uncommon at all for cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation or metabolic disease management programmes to include weight training in the exercise programmes for patients,” says the survey. Personal training has remained in the top 10 since the survey began, and exercise and weight loss has continued to be a trend.

One interesting point is that yoga has apparently increased in popularity jumping to number seven in the 2015 trends list. I think this is a passing fad (a couple of thousand year’s long fad that is…) Bikram is helping with this surge (you might want to read my article Hot Pilates and yoga: Just a lot of hot air? for my opinion on hot yoga and hot Pilates).

The population is living longer, and therefore requires ever more mobility and strength in later years. Surely Pilates is the perfect vehicle to deliver this need? And Pilates will also remain relevant to younger people and sportsmen and women as if has done for many years. For these reasons I take the Study (and especially Fit Pro’s reporting of it) with a large pinch of salt. It is one thing to report on what is actually going on out there (and everything I see suggests that Pilates is gaining in popularity) and another thing completely to be trying to influence the industry.

But what is your opinion?

By the way, if you want to read the full report, you can click on this link. ACSM 2015 Fitness Trends Full Report

Chris is an international Pilates and functional training presenter and educator based in London and Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also created Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. He organises retreats, fitness holidays and sports holidays in Barcelona. For more information about training with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? You can also subscribe by completing the form on the this BLOG to receive articles and special offers straight to your inbox.

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