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8 Fitness Trends and Predictions for 2012

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The last few decades have brought so many changes in the fitness industry.  When VCRs became affordable, the first home exercise videos (thanks, Jane Fonda!) revolutionized the way people worked out. Aerobics even inspired fashion trends in the '80s. Fitness has become such a part of American culture that gym-based fitness programs like Zumba and Spinning are household names, even among people who have never set foot in a gym.

The fitness industry is ever-evolving with new faces, concepts, and workouts. That's great news for exercisers who are interested in establishing a lifelong fitness habit—and those who are just getting started—because it allows you to explore countless options to find what really does work for you and keep you excited about exercising.

Here are the workout trends I'm predicting you'll see more of in 2012.

Dancing for Fitness
People love music and they to dance! Not only is dancing fun (for most of us), but it's one of those enjoyable activities that doesn't feel like a "work" out—even though it can burn up to 700 calories an hour. Zumba classes are as popular as ever, and I don't expect our fascination with dance to die out any time soon. But look out Zumba: There are some new, hip kids in town ready to give you a run for your money. The industry is abuzz over the new dance fitness programs that are turning Zumba on its toes: Batuka, Drums Alive, Bokwa classes are popping up in gyms across the country and quickly gaining legions of followers thanks to their addictive soundtracks (produced by Grammy-award winning composers in some cases) and engaging choreography. Then you've got the always-popular dancing-hybrid workouts like Turbo Kick and her newer, cooler sister Turbo Fire, and others. With too many options to name here, all I can say is to have your dancing shoes ready next year.

Barre Workouts
In addition to getting our groove on, we love to watch people dance, too. Hit shows such as "Dancing with the Stars" and other talent-based competitions featuring amazing dance performances continue to entertain us. They also prove another thing: Dancers have killer bodies. So in addition to cardio dance workouts, I predict a heightened interest in workouts designed to help everyday people achieve a dancer-like physique including barre, ballet and Pilates fusion workouts. Once only patronized by the wealthy and famous, barre workout studios and classes are popping up everywhere these days, as are barre workout DVDs you can do at home: Tracey Mallet's "The Booty Barre" (love it), Physique 57, Pure Barre and Xtend Barre classes are expanding across the country—and they're all available on DVD, too. I'm a big fan of these workouts because they're fun and super challenging. They're a nice change of pace from traditional strength training that can also help you achieve results and build strength and flexibility.

Home Workouts
We're going to see a surge in home-based exercise options because that is where most people plan to work out in 2012. A recent survey of members of the web's most popular weight-loss and fitness website ( found that 68% of respondents plan to do more  home workouts than last year (less than 6% said they never exercise at home). Why? The answer is three-fold: First, in a recessed economy people are cutting back on extra expenses like personal training sessions and pricey gym memberships. Second, people are busier and more stressed than ever, and it's far easier to squeeze in workouts on your own time—and on your own turf—than it is to waste time commuting to and from a gym. And third, the variety of affordable and effective home workout options is better than it's ever been. People are realizing that they can get great results by investing just a little money in multitasking equipment or a few fun workout DVDs to keep things fresh. We're seeing DVDs and more multi-disc DVD "packages" (think P90X, Supreme 90 Day and even Zumba Exhilarate) offer all the variety you get from a gym for a fraction of the cost of a gym membership. Expect even more variety, choices and price ranges in home workout gear next year.

Functional Fitness
Not every layperson knows what "functional fitness" really means, but they can probably tell you why kettlebells and medicine balls offer such great workouts, or why balance training is important. Many of the most popular fitness programs of the past year involve multi-joint, full-body exercises that not only provide a better workout in less time, but also help build a strong, fit and capable body. Functional training will be even more important as people begin to look to fitness to prevent or help manage the back problems, mobility issues and injuries that are plaguing modern society. But they also appeal because they offer such great workouts. You might not always hear the term "functional training" associated with the workouts themselves, but you will see more kettlebells, full-body exercises and multi-joint moves at gyms and on home fitness DVDs.

Running for Fun
There will always be a new exercise machine or gizmo that promises amazing results in just minutes a day. But I’m seeing a trend away from complex machines and fitness inventions and back to the basics that people know really work. It seems like more people are running and entering races than ever before thanks to motivational gear, best-selling books on the topic, and an increase in fun and interesting race options are making it more accessible than ever. Couple that with the fact that running provides a great workout for just the cost of a pair of shoes, can be done almost anywhere (year-round), and helps people achieve amazing goals (and weight loss results), and you've got a trend that is here to stay. Next year, look for more wacky races (think Warrior Dash, "mud" runs, urbanathlons, Krispy Kreme Challenge and yes, even naked and underwear races), too.

Although shoe manufacturers and marketers are going to continue to play off the barefoot running trend, don't expect your neighbor to sport webbed-toe shoes any time soon. Most of the people dabbling in barefoot running and minimalist shoes are hardcore exercise enthusiasts and long-time runners—not casual joggers: Less than 10% of survey respondents think barefoot running or minimalist shoes will be part of their routine next year, even though about 90% plan to walk and/or run.

Fit Technology
Americans are embracing technology as a way to get fit, keep their workouts fresh, track their progress, and get fitness ideas for little to no cost. You'll find no shortage of free and low-cost fitness apps for your Smartphone or iPad these days, and even though we may no longer think of it as "technology" the web continues to be a source of reliable information, workout videos and demonstrations, tracking tools and more. Consumers used to only be able to get this kind of information from a gym or by talking in-person with a certified fitness professional, but thanks to the web and other portable technologies, answers, tips, support and tools are at our fingertips and in the palms of our hands wherever we go. This accessibility is a wonderful thing, but we still need to use it to benefit from it. If working out with your phone or computer isn't for you, other technological products like the Fitbit, Nike Plus, and Garmin Forerunner (among others) are also fun and inexpensive gadgets that let you track your workouts and measure your fitness. And new store concepts, like "Health Technology" departments opening up at Best Buys across the country are responding to these product trends. They're among the only retail stores where you can see, test, compare and purchase these cool gadgets from one place.

Short Workouts
5-, 10-, and 15-minute workouts will be increasingly popular in 2012. Exercise DVDs continue to include short routines that people can mix and match and follow based on how much time they have available. Gone are the days that working out meant an all-or-nothing hour at a gym. People are learning that short workouts are just as beneficial, and are often easier to fit into their days. 74% of survey respondents plan to do at least some 10-minute workouts next year, and more than half say they plan to do more short workouts than they did last year.

Unconventional Workouts
My final prediction for 2012 fitness trends may be the most fun. So maybe you don't like to dance, run, walk or use a fitness app or gizmo. That doesn't mean there is a shortage of workouts available to you. We are expanding what we think of as fitness, and novelty workout offer something for everyone. I expect to see more hula hooping, pole dancing (and strip teasing), roller skating, rebounding (also called "trampolining"), acrobatics (including suspended or "hanging" yoga/dance and circus arts) in the next year. And why not? Traditional fitness isn't for everyone, but there are countless ways to get your body moving in fun and beneficial ways. These may be niche workouts with smaller followings, but they are more accessible and available than ever before—and they are getting people active, which I think we can all agree is a good thing.
What are your thoughts on these fitness trends? What do you expect (or hope) to see more of in 2012?

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this is old news and needs replaced Report
Bokwa is amazing and highly addictive, the moves and signals are the same all around the world, so you can go to a class in New York and it would be the same moves in Sydney or Auckland, its fun, check it out Report
MOMS100 and Glamarama - Check out Hoopnotica. It's a good place to start. They have adult size/weight hoops and instructional DVDs. Getting a proper adult hoop is VERY important—kids hoops don't work for adults. Hoops should be proportionate to body size and kids hoops are small because they're made for short little kids. Adults need adult size hoops. My beginner hoops are between 40-42" in diameter. Now I've worked my way down to 36" hoops, but those are still about four inches larger than traditional childrens hoops. :D Happy hooping!!!

Just for fun, another video:
what a GREAT article! Report
Tillywhirls, that was a very inspiring video and you look so graceful! What fun! Now I need to get a hoop because that looks like fun.

And this is a great article Nicole! Report
Oh, Tillywhirls, I'm so jealous! My sister & I just bought hoops a couple months ago, and every time I try, it falls to the ground. Coordinated I'm NOT! Report
One way or another I hope to once AGAIN see the inside of a dojo............. Report
I'm a hooper, too! I was a dancer growing up and was always thin, but college took its toll and I gained about 75 pounds in five years. When I found hooping I didn't start it because I wanted to get fit—I actually just saw it and went, "That looks amazing and fun and I want to look as graceful as her!" I picked it up and haven't looked back. I do it almost every day. My one-year hoopiversary is Feb. 19 and I've lost about 28 pounds hooping. My arms and back look so different and I feel stronger. Now I'm Hoopnotica certified and teach hoopdance at my local community center. I actually just made a short video showing the first week of me hooping compared to hooping this week:

It really is an amazing workout. Plus it's fun and makes me happy and gives me room to be creative and express myself. Viva la hula hoop! Report
I absolutely love hooping. It's my biggest passion in life. I'm currently taking the BodyHoops certification class and trying to spread hoop love to everyone around. Hooping is one of those things where I don't have to be on a diet to enjoy. Now, I dance every day, with or without my hoop. Report
As far as dance, don't forget belly dance and all of its forms! I teach a cardio belly dance class every Friday! Indian dance, Gangra and Bollywood, are also very popular now! Very energetic and fun too! I just wanted to say that I am taking a cue from Spark People and hosting a fitness party in January for my girlfriends and it is going to be a Cardio Striptease party! Can't wait to blog about how much fun we will have! Thanks for the blog. Also, my Zumba instructor does give verbal cues since she knows I am blind and take her class! She is super and I love it! Dancing is my fave and glad to know it is on the rise! Report
I'm saving this one. Lots of good ideas and links to go back and read. Thanks. Report
I love this blog - was very interesting & informative! I haven't heard of Bokwa or Batuka before either. I love my Zumba classes - my instructor mixes in the Latin songs with current songs & moves also.

I've seen the results from hula-hooping from a lady who spoke at a Wellness Luncheon I attended and I keep thinking I will buy one and try it out.

I actually bought an old Jane Fonda workout VHS today at a thrift store for .25! I'm hoping that my old vhs player still works, I thought it would be fun to try out. I used to do aerobics to a real "record" player, I think it might have been Denise Austin almost 30 years ago. I remember doing the moves & stopping the record and looking at the album cover for the directions for the moves and I was trying to teach my parents how to do aerobics also... it was hilarious - sure wish video cameras were around then! Report
Dancing requires some coordination, which I don't seem to have, I have never been a fan of gizmos and 'quick fixes' but have enjoyed and been successful with simple things like the treadmill and exercise bike. I have found one of the best 'game' exercises that provides an amazing workout is Gold's Gym Cardio Workout. Report
Awesome blog! I love the links to all of the additional resources. As many have already said, this will be a frequently revisited blog! Great to see the results of the survey too. Report
I just love working out with my Xbox Kinect! It really makes exercise fun! I actually look forward to my next workout! Report
Great article, as usual, Coach Nicole! Definitely have to save it to my favorites so I have time to read all the links and suggestions!! I am in a funk these days, and have been thinking that Zumba might be what I need to pull myself out of it!! Report
Thank you for this article! I am excited about all the ways Spark People inspires me to exercise!

I love Zumba and hope to do more in 2012! I have the DVDs.

I like barre and would like to try it at home. Will need to get some DVDs.

Home workouts are my favorite. I ditched my expensive gym membership and workout at home now with a mat, stability ball, weights, and resistance bands.

I love running--discovered it in 2011 thanks to Spark People! I started with a 5k your way and just finished a half marathon!

Technology is great. I use a GPS tracker when I run and it records distance, pace and total time.

I love short workouts. When I'm short on time I do a SP video and feel good that I did a workout.

Thanks for all these great ideas and thank you Spark People and Coach Nicole for your support in helping us reach our fitness goals and live a healthy, active life!! Report
One area of fitness that has not been mentioned much is adult sports. Especially with sites like and local gyms and recreation centers posting their schedules and leagues online, there is a resurgence of adult sports programs available. People want to get fit, but many of us don't want to be a slave to the traditional (yes, boring) same cardio and strength workouts. And many of us fit people got fit because we were involved in some sport in our youth and often crave the days of playing sports.

I got back into fitness and lost 35 lbs. in the span of 3 months mostly by getting back into volleyball. It was a sport I enjoyed and played competitively in high school, but when I became an adult, there just wasn't anywhere to play with others that could play too. So many of us stayed in the closet, tried to pick up running or gym ratting, but never with the same gusto as jumping over a net and spiking the ball into an opponent's face. However, now that pick-up games are becoming more available, more popular, and more well-known, there are places to play volleyball (or tennis or softball/baseball or kickball or dodgeball or basketball or flag football or ::insert sport here::).

This is a trend that I am seeing growing every day. As we want more fitness in our lives, we are finding new ways to incorporate fitness into the things we like to do. Report
PROUDMARYFM55, on Youtube you will find IzzyBarish who is 62 doing lots of workouts geared for "over 50". Also, PaulEugene has Christian based 10 minute workouts that include "chair" exercises. If you do a "search" on YouTube you will find "over 50" Yoga workouts.
Of course, remember, Denise Austin is 54 and the mother of two grown girls. Tony Horton who does P90X is also, 54. Jack LaLanne passed away in February at 96 and he was still going strong 2 hours a day. So, there is help for us "oldies". Report
I'm always up for trying new things but I also love the old classics too. Give me an elliptical and I'm 6 levels in! Report
I think the drums alive class looks like alot of fun - although I'd be interested in hearing what kind of calorie burn you get. And maybe how many bruises are accidently inflicted by fellow classmates!! :) Report
GREAT blog full of GREAT information! Thanks Nicole Report
I woudl like to see more workout vidioes that are geared twords the older starppeople member that is over 50 years of age, and deals with more functional training and toning of the body. I do use a number of your vidioes for my body toning and functional training, but some of the moves are too hard to perform regardless of what your fitness level is. Thank You for this web site. it is helpful for those of us who do prefer to work out at home.
Wow, I was afraid you were going to say "lap swimming" is a 2012 fitness trend (because of the upcoming Olympics .. lol) I miss lap swimming, and I can't easily get to a pool with my schedule and living conditions. That said, I tend to agree with both Home Workouts and Unconventional Workouts.

I think that the nexus between those two, could be ecstatic dance both as a dance form/art form and as a way to fitness that is regaining traction (including with men as well as women). I am partial to Gabrielle Roth's 5 Rhythms, which combines ballet, folk, pop, and Latin dance modalities; dance-exercise; qi gong, reiki and yoga ...

For one thing, classes in 5 Rhythms are attracting adults who want to express themselves but couldn't with the rigorous offerings in today's yoga classes, or the stultifying atmosphere of working out at a gym ...

Viva La Backlash! Report
Don't forget all of the game style fitness options! If you own a Kinect for your xbox, you can "play" fitness games. They have Zumba, The Biggest Loser, and a couple of other ones too. (That's on my Christmas list!) The game can tell how you're moving your body. With Wii Fit I think you can even weigh in to keep track of your progress! Report
I enjoy Zumba as home on the Wii or the videos...unfortunately my Ymca offers live classes but the instructor calls her cardio dancing class Zumba...hardly any latin music and hardly any latin moves...most of her routines are to country and pop music...not Zumba in my book! Not much of a party! Report
I'm old enough to have owned Jane Fonda's 33 RPM record workout. I also had a Debbie Reynolds workout on 33 RPM record. Report
I am an avid supporter of at home workouts, outdoor workouts, heck do it in your closet if you feel it workouts as long as you get your fitness in! I loved this blog, gave some great ideas on other workouts I hadn't heard of but may be willing to try. Report
There's a lot of information in here. thanks! Report
Yay hooping! :) Report
GREAT blog! There is a TON of wonderful information here. I will be reading this one many times over!!! Thanks, Coach Nicole! Report
I agree that these are all on the rise. I discovered Zumba 6 months ago & love it so much that I'd have a hard time going back to other workouts. I'd never heard of Bokwa or Batuka - very interesting. I guess it doesn't matter WHAT you choose to do as long as you do something you enjoy & this list is full of very fun choices!! Thanks for a great blog. Report