Bodyweight exercises such as handstands are becoming increasingly popular. Photo: Heath Missen
A Google report of the top search terms of 2012 offers insight into the uncensored exercise interests of the Australian public. The top 10 "how-to" searches included how to kegel, handstand and twerk. Kegels are pelvic-floor exercises, while twerking is "a dance move that involves a person shaking their hips and bottom in a sexually provocative manner".
None of these manoeuvres, however, made the top 10 (or even 20) anticipated trends for 2013, according to an international survey of close to 4000 fitness professionals.
Published in the current issue of the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal, the top predicted trend was the need for "certified, educated fitness professionals".
Gold Coast-based Mireille Ryan, the 2010 exercise professional of the year and owner of Health Guru boot camps, says the trend is largely irrelevant to Australians. "In the US, certification is less regulated than it is here," she says. "Here it's a given and Fitness Australia is the main regulator."
Trend No. 2, on the other hand, which is strength training, is highly relevant to us.
"It's so important for everyday usage," Ryan says. "Squats aren't just for tight butts, they're for functional movements, like getting out of cars and sitting on the loo. They are also important for preventing injury."
Another type of strength training, body-weight training, made the No. 3 spot. It's the first time it has appeared in the survey, now in its seventh year. Along with functional fitness, which came in at eighth place on the list, body-weight exercises mark a return to an inexpensive yet equally effective approach to fitness, says Walkley Award-winning health writer Paula Goodyer.
"I personally love the new emphasis on body-weight exercises and functional exercises because once you have the technique right you can do them anywhere, any time, not necessarily in a gym," she says. "Strength training just goes from . . . strength to strength."
The owner of Sydney's Bottoms Up! Social Fitness, Libby Babet, agrees. "The most interesting thing about these trends is the dramatic rise in popularity of do-anywhere home workouts, body-weight training, functional strength workouts and 'play'-focused fitness [such as former fad Zumba and rising trend twerking, a term derived from "to work" the body as in dancing]," she says. "It's a return to the days before going to the gym became a serious business and I think it's great because, all of a sudden, getting fit is achievable, fun and explorative."
This element of fun is essential for engaging both big kids and little kids alike in the long term. Tackling obesity and fitness levels in children was high on the trend list at No. 4, up from No. 5 last year.
"This is the first generation of people who will die before their parents from preventable illnesses," Ryan says. Fitness "is dropping more and more out of the curriculum and it really needs to be a part of the curriculum . . . but it's got to be fun".
Having said that, she points out the No. 1 priority must be health, and good health is a combination of nutrition and physical fitness. Professionals are recognising this and incorporating exercise into nutrition-based weight-loss regimes. Exercise and weight loss came in at No. 5 on the list, gradually rising from its previous ranking of 18 in 2009, 12 in 2010 and seven in 2011. With 63 per cent of Australian adults overweight, its increasing importance makes sense.
The next trend is also particularly pertinent for Australians, given we enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world (79.5 years for males and 84 for females).
Programs for older adults feature at sixth place on the survey. It is an important trend given we have an ageing population and that, according to the results of a recent study published in the Physician and Sportsmedicine journal, loss of lean muscle mass is not inevitable in older people. Contrary to popular belief, it can be maintained through exercise.
That's regular exercise through one-on-one or group personal training, if the trends at Nos. 7 and 10 are anything to go by. Worth about $400 million annually in Australia alone, personal training has grown at a rate of about 5 per cent a year in the past five years.
"Personal trainers have to go beyond just 'training' these days," Babet says.
"True recreation time is at a premium for people, and exercise is now being viewed as a personal escape or a bit of 'downtime'. People . . . want to work their bodies but they're also looking for a release, so creating a unique, stimulating experience is a skill personal trainers will really need to acquire in years to come.
"I don't think group training will ever leave this list – there's nothing like getting sweaty with a bunch of like-minded people all focused on a common goal."
Trend No. 9 on the list is core training. While Pilates, along with balance training and stability balls, is not among the top 20 trends, which could imply they were little more than fads, Ryan says their absence is more a reflection of terminology.
"It's about marketing and perception," she says.
"Pilates is all about core training. They'll just come up with some groovy new name."
Goodyer, however, believes "ACSM are on the money" and that "Pilates is probably plateauing".
As for trends that didn't make ACSM's list, Ryan says mindset training, which addresses the emotional reasons why people eat badly and don't take care of themselves, will be a growth area in the years to come. And she doesn't think we should be too quick to dismiss twerking. "Zumba's done its dash . . . but, the next thing you know, people will be twerking all over the place," Ryan says.
Babet and Goodyer, who also predicts the continuing rise of interval training, concur. "Dance classes are definitely on the rise," says Babet. "They're here to stay. It's a way for people to express creativity and use parts of their brain they might not be accessing during a busy, hassle-filled day."
Top 10 fitness predictions for 2013
1. Certified, educated fitness professionals.
2. Strength training.
3. Body weight training.
4. Children and obesity.
5. Exercise and weight loss.
6. Fitness programs for older adults.
7. Personal training.
8. Functional fitness.
9. Core training.
10. Group personal training.
Source: American College of Sports Medicine