Zumba is out, HIIT is in: Hottest Fitness Trends for 2014

This is the introductory post of a series titled Top 20 Hottest Fitness Trends for 2014.  Read more in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

For the eighth consecutive year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released its annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends (2014), and some of the results are interesting:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) took over the #1 spot, bouncing Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals – which had previously held the top spot for the past six years – to third place.  (To see a version of HIIT in action, check out Dr. Mercola’s video clip in my previous post The 7-Minute Workout? Depends.  Find out if HICT is right for you)
  • Zumba dropped out of the Top 20 list this year (in 2012 it peaked at #9, then fell to #13 in 2013)
  • Pilates, Spinning (indoor cycling), Stability Ball and Balance Training again failed to make the list of Top 20 trends in the health and fitness industry, supporting the theory that these were fads and not trends, and – some industry professionals argue – have simply run their useful course.

Is Zumba Dead

Oy, I know those last two are going to ruffle some feathers.  Before hordes of you start flaming me with…

Hey, I love Zumba, and it’s always wall-to-wall people in that room!” or,

I’ve been doing Pilates for years, and it’s not going anywhere!” or,

That’s BS!  My spin class is so popular I get locked out regularly if I don’t reserve a bike quick enough!

…let me add a bit more context.  Many of these programs will of course continue to exist in the health and fitness industry, just not with as much popularity according to the survey.  And keep in mind this survey evaluates *worldwide* trends, not just what happens to be hot in your little regional hamlet.  Further, it’s important to understand that the survey is designed to – both over time, and through its specific respondent guidelines –  ferret out trends from fads:

A trend is defined as a general development (over some period of time) or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving, whereas a fad is defined as a “fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period” but which comes and goes.  These annual surveys…continue to confirm some previous trends.  Some of the trends first identified for 2007 have moved up and stayed at the top of the list since the first survey was published, whereas other new trends appear to be emerging for 2014, and still others have dropped out of the top 20.  Future surveys will confirm these new trends or they will fall short of making an enduring impact on the health fitness industry and drop out of the survey, as did Zumba this year.  Dropping out of the survey may indicate that what was once perceived to be a trend in the industry was actually a fad (note that Stability Ball, Spinning and Pilates have yet to reemerge as a trend.)  One developing trend (Body Weight Training) from last year’s survey was affirmed this year, and High-Intensity Interval Training appears at the top of the list for the first time.  Future surveys will either confirm or reject these as emerging trends.  (Source: American College of Sports Medicine, 2013)

For all you data junkies who may have been wondering, survey editors were comprised of industry professionals representing all four sectors of the health and fitness industry (corporate, clinical, community, commercial) as well as academia.  There were 38 possible trends in the survey, which they were asked to score on a scale from 1 (least likely to be a trend) to 10 (most likely to be a trend).  After they nailed that down, the survey was electronically sent to a defined list of 28,924 certified health fitness professionals across every continent, who were then asked to rank order the potential trends from highest (most popular trend) to lowest (least popular trend).  Space was left to include additional expert opinion, commentary and projections.

Here’s the Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2014 list (Source: American College of Sports Medicine, 2013)

1.  High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)*

2.  Body Weight Training

3.  Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals

4.  Strength Training

5.  Exercise and Weight Loss

6.  Personal Training

7.  Fitness Programs for Older Adults

8.  Functional Fitness

9.  Group Personal Training

10.  Yoga

11.  Children and Exercise for the Treatment/Prevention of Obesity

12.  Worksite Health Promotion

13.  Core Training

14.  Outdoor Activities

15.  Circuit Training

16.  Outcome Measurements

17.  Wellness Coaching

18.  Sport-Specific Training*

19.  Worker Incentive Programs

20.  Boot Camp

* Trends with a top 20 position new for 2014

And please, yoga purists…it is with love that I must ask you to “stand down” and miss me with your cacophony of cyber screams that “Yoga is not a TREND but a centuries-old discipline and practice….!”

Already noted.  Do not kill the messenger, please.  I am merely passing along survey results taken against a broader health and fitness view.  Breathe.  Thank you.  Namaste.

Over the coming weeks I’ll do a deeper dive on specific fitness trends on this list, providing examples and ways we can all benefit from them in our day-to-day lives.  The goal is to have more than enough fitness tools at our disposal as we navigate the “Indulge Yourself!” environment of the upcoming holiday season, and race each other to meet 2014 with a solid health and fitness plan.  So stay tuned!  And keep taking care of yourself in the meantime…

Portrait of Women at Gym


Want more in this series? Check out:

Part 1 (HIIT)

Part 2 (Body Weight Training)

Part 3 (How to Become a Certified Fitness Professional)

Part 4 (Too broke for P90X? Try this $25 Strength Training Alternative)


  1. says

    What about a survey for participants in fitness clubs? Many instructors are biased based upon their own professional interests versus considering what it is the participants really ENJOY doing

    • TerriTerri says

      Can’t speak for the survey takers (ACSM), but I think that’s a great idea! Though I’d caution the bias can cut both ways. For example, participants may rank highly only those fitness trends that they find “easy” and not requiring significant effort or sweat. Also, unlike the instructors who have an opportunity to critically assess a fitness activity based on how many of their clients have achieved results with it, a single participant would not bring that perspective. Still, I agree that it would be useful to get rankings from both sides.

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