High-intensity interval training tops list of 2014 fitness trends, but researchers warn of injuries

Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Andy Silvestri performs Turkish get-ups during a circuit workout on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. (Marine Corps photo)

Navy Lieutenant Cmdr. Andy Silvestri performs Turkish get-ups during a circuit workout on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. (Marine Corps photo)

High-intensity interval training and body weight workouts are in. Zumba, Pilates and spinning — well, don’t let the door hit you in the glutes.

Those are the findings of the latest American College of Sports Medicine survey that polled 3,800 health and fitness experts to gauge the biggest trends in the wide world of workouts.

A staple in CrossFit gyms, high-intensity interval training programs, also known as HIIT, are those heat-pounding, muscle-blasting workouts typically knocked out in 30 minutes or less. The workout style surged to No. 1 on the list of trends for 2014.

The annual survey published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, now in its eighth year, serves as the finger on the pulse of the fitness industry.

“High-intensity interval training made its first appearance on this list this year. Its appearance in the top spot on the list reflects how this form of exercise has taken the fitness community by storm in recent months,” says Walter R. Thompson, kinesiology professor at Georgia State University and lead author of the survey.

That’s not necessarily a good thing, Thompson tells OFFduty. He was among a group of top civilian and military fitness experts who took HIIT to task in a 2011 “consensus paper” raising concerns that the training method can cause unnecessary injury.

“The scary part of all this is that HIIT is not only popular in the military but, it seems, in gyms all over the world,” Thompson says of the survey results. “People who are not accustomed to exercise should avoid it; those who are should monitor any symptoms of overuse such as sore or painful muscles and joints.

“I know that men and women in the military are highly motivated, but exercise with caution.”

Meanwhile, another workout long familiar to those in the military jumped into second place in the survey findings. Body-weight training, which includes old favorites such as pushups, situps and other exercises using little or no equipment, makes its first appearance in the survey.

“People have been using their own body weight for centuries as a form of resistance training. New packaging by commercial clubs as an exercise program has now made it popular in all kinds of gyms,” notes the survey findings.

Rounding out the top three biggest fitness trends for the coming year is “Educated, Certified, and Experienced Fitness Professionals,” which has held the No. 1 spot in previous years.

“There continues to be exponential growth of [fitness] educational programs at community colleges, undergraduate programs, and graduate programs at colleges and universities,” notes Thompson in the survey findings.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts “employment of fitness trainers and instructors is expected to grow by 24 [percent] from 2010 to 2020.”

Meanwhile, some other former workout favorites have proved to be more flash-in-the-pan fads than fitness trends.

Zumba, the salsa-fueled Latin-dance-style workouts, for example, first appeared in the top 10 in 2012. It fell to No. 13 last year and dropped out of the top 20 this year.

Pilates, spinning, stability ball and balance training suffered similar falls, prompting survey officials to conclude they may have “run their useful course.”

 

Top 10 trends

The top 10 fitness trends predicted for 2014 are:

1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

2. Body-weight training

3. Educated 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

 

Jon Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at jona@militarytimes.com.