The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) today released its top 10 Australian fitness trend predictions for next year – forecasting the movements, methods and zeitgeists set to take Australia’s fitness industry by storm in 2021.

According to the survey of AIF’s leading industry experts and professionals, the top fitness trend for 2021 will be Wearable Technology (#1), followed by Exercise is Medicine (#2), Mind and Body Training (#3), Virtual Fitness (#4), and High Intensity Interval Training (#5). Then followed Functional Fitness Training (#6), with Health and Wellness Coaching (#7), Personal Training (#8), Group Training (#9) and Outdoor Activities (#10) rounding out the top 10.

Commenting on the trend forecasts, AIF noted the seismic shifts the global fitness industry has faced this year following the onset of COVID-19, as fitness businesses, professionals and consumers have adapted how and where they train.

Pettit added:

“The shutdowns and challenges the fitness industry has endured in 2020 have paved the way for large- scale technology disruptors and major evolutions in fitness offerings. Necessity is the mother of invention, and as we’ve seen our social needs change, fitness professionals and consumers alike have embraced new fitness technologies and training models, and reconsidered the role that fitness plays in broader health and everyday lives,” said Australian Institute of Fitness CEO, Steve Pettit.

“As we prepare to, hopefully, reset in a new post-COVID world next year, we expect to see many of the fitness developments from 2020 continue to endure, evolve and gain popularity throughout 2021. Regardless of how the pandemic pans out, the fitness world has been forever changed – and there’s plenty of positive takeaways for those willing to continue riding the wave.”

AIF’s top 10 fitness trends for 2021

1. Wearable Technology
2. Exercise is Medicine
3. Mind and Body Training
4. Virtual Fitness
5. High Intensity Interval Training
6. Functional Fitness Training
7. Health and Wellness Coaching
8. Personal Training
9. Group Training
10. Outdoor Activities

The AIF also predicted several additional key trends will pick up steam in Australia next year, including Training With Free Weights, Body Weight Training and Fitness Gamification.

The Trends In Focus

Commenting on Wearable Technology as AIF’s top fitness trend for 2021, Steve Pettit said.

“Wearable technology has come a long way in a relatively short space of time and, these days, everyone from young kids to grannies are wearing devices to monitor their steps, sleep, heart rate and more. For some Australians, the personalised data and insights from wearables have a novelty element – but for many others, wearable data is increasingly being used as a valuable tool to shape and track fitness, health and wellness progress.

“Apple and Garmin wearables will continue to flourish across all segments of the Australian fitness market in 2021 – from everyday fitness and leisure consumers, through to gym junkies and fitness professionals in areas of programming, training and recovery.

“Also, keep an eye out for hearables with biosensors. Rumours have been circulating that next year’s Apple AirPods may include heart rate and blood oxygen sensors. If these do hit the market in 2021, expect big uptake from Australian fitness communities.”

Pettit added that Exercise is Medicine, AIF’s #2 trend for 2021, will also likely gain momentum on the back of increased recognition – sparked by COVID – of the role that fitness plays in supporting broader mental and holistic health.

Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that encourages primary care medical professionals and other health care providers to include physical activity assessment and associated treatment recommendations as part of every patient visit, and to refer patients to exercise professionals.

“This year, we’ve seen Australians spend more time in their homes and in isolation than ever before. People have moved and interacted less, which has been compounded by unprecedented stresses and hardships across the board. These challenging dynamics have had flow-on effects on the mental and physical wellbeing of many Australians. And we know that poor fitness and physical health boosts risks associated with mental illness and chronic disease.

“There is significant collective work to be done on the road to recovery and, with such, we expect to see an increasing emphasis on proactive referral and collaboration between medical professionals, health care providers and fitness professionals.”

Commenting on Mind and Body Training, AIF’s Head of Training, Kate Kraschnefski said:

“The fitness trends for yoga, Pilates, breathing work, mindfulness, meditation and broader mental health training have intensified during the pandemic, with more people opting for combined training that involves both mind relaxation and physical fitness. This collective training approach will continue to increase in popularity in 2021, as mass fitness consumers place dual value on physical and psychological health.”

Kraschnefski said Virtual Fitness will also carry its popularity into 2021 and beyond:

“Virtual fitness has been emerging for a while now – however, 2020 has seen an explosion in this area in line with the increased need to train at home. Many fitness businesses and professionals quickly evolved to offer virtual solutions and rapidly expanded the virtual fitness market. Consumers were forced to go virtual and many discovered they liked it – as did many of the professionals delivering the programs.

“Many fitness professionals and consumers will continue to return to on-site gyms in 2021; others will continue to take up virtual options – especially as additional virtual tech disruptors enter the market and widen choice further.

“Mobile apps, online on-demand workout libraries and virtual PT training will continue to be massive and broaden our horizons. Key players to watch in 2021 will be at-home workouts from LES MILLS On Demand; AIF graduate Kayla Itsines’ SWEAT app; Lululemon’s Mirror hardware; and Peloton’s live and on-demand workouts, which have become huge overseas and will very likely hit Aussie households in the near-future.”

Commenting on High Intensity Interval Training, AIF Master Coach, Brodie Hicks said:

“HIIT training will continue its rise towards mass popularity in 2021, propelled by increasing service offerings and also the flexibility offered by this type of training. HIIT training is quick and effective for weight loss and lean muscle building, which the majority of everyday fitness enthusiasts want – and it can be done with or without equipment, in a gym or at home. All of these factors make HIIT relatively easy from a programming perspective and appealing to the masses.

“F45 will continue to be a major force in the Australian market, and overseas franchises like Orangetheory and Barry’s Bootcamp will also likely strengthen their footholds.”