Winds of change in popular fitness

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Are fitness and competitive endurance races declining? Are people getting tired of tiring fitness trends? Have triathlons and marathons run their course, losing their appeal to the masses?

After 20 years of extreme growth, it seems most categories of physical fitness, running and competitive multi-sport events are seeing noticeable declines in participation. Something appears to be changing in the way people are approaching exercise and fitness trends.

When you start to look at specific competitive events, for example, organizers play off dropping registration as a temporary plateau caused by a saturated endurance market full of new and different types of compilations. If you talk to some athletes who usually sign on to those events, you start to hear a change in priorities. Some state the adage of “been there done that, got the T-shirt” and many taking the attitude it's time to move on.

This decline is seen in many other fitness categories. Over the last 10 years, some big fitness trends have all but vanished. Zumba, Bootcamps, Tae Bo and a few others have lost their shiny, must-do appeal. Even the mighty Crossfit, which is an incredible high-intensity workout, is starting to see declines.The fitness industry seems fragile in a time when people are as interested in building their health as they are in building their wealth.

So what is changing? Where is the health and fitness road leading? It is kind of interesting to see in some cases double digit declines in certain categories of fitness. If you look at all aspects of fitness trends from 2008 to now and take a high-level view, you can see a connection between increases in gym memberships, popular programs wrapped around group fitness and triathlons, obstacle racing and running.

The growth of the fitness industry in the last 10 years has been fast-tracking in all categories. Between 2012 and 2014, the industry was hitting its peak with new and different trends, in some areas tripling their number year over prior year. Then in 2015, a slow trickle downward has turned into a fast shift across the board in the aforementioned categories. Where this is leading to has yet to be understood. The one thing that is clear is we are transitioning from one 10 year pattern into a whole new series of health trends.

Industry leaders like the World Triathlon Corporation, large gym franchises, and brand name fitness companies are working hard to reposition, re-market and re-energize tired programs. The current fitness industry is huge, so I am not saying any of these guys are in trouble of failure. However, big profits are only made by high volume participation.

But what does the average person want from health and fitness regimens and programs? Perhaps the two most influential groups to drive the next wave of exercise and fitness trends are the aging baby boomers and the driven millennials, who are both looking for a personalized experience where the outcome can be accurately measured. We are entering into what I believe will be a general move away from chronic exercise. The next ten years will see a very narrowly focus individualized series of health and fitness programs based around developing lasting health conscious habits. The building blocks will have a new emphasis based on fitness integrated lifestyle choices, genetics, new fitness technology and shifts in nutritional content.

We already see a global shift to make every fitness effort an adventure, unique and highly personalized. I believe that our aging population now sees the need to be physically healthy as a required financial investment to control long term health costs. I also see baby boomers' refusal to let age diminish their quality of life, making 70 the new 50.

For younger folks, it becomes a cross section of social media driven images of health, lifestyles based on health and fitness with a serious splash of high adventure. Both segments of our young and old are tired of unhealthy behavior and both want an active, exciting quality of life.

We also need to consider technology factors that are exponentially increasing where everyone can access billions of health-related bytes of information. The speed at which health and fitness technology devices are evolving is mind-blowing. Within the next ten years, smartphone apps, wearable technology, smart weight scales, fridges, even our food choices may be scanned and monitored, advising us of a vast range of fitness aspects tied to our genetic makeup.

The demand for next generation health and fitness activities are likely to be based on a much more personalized approach. Current outliers in the fitness industry are already developing new cutting edge health and fitness methods to feed their need for a more accurate outcome and personalized experience.

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