All change? We’re here to help you embrace it


What a difference a year makes. Even just a quick scan through the ACSM’s Top 20 Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2021 leaves little room for doubt around the lasting impact of COVID-19 on our sector. It’s right there in black and white.

Here’s our take on the ACSM’s conclusions.


Online training, wearable tech, bodyweight training, outdoor activities. Put simply, 2021’s top four trends are the story of a year of on-off lockdown – particularly when you consider that online training, the go-to of living room workouts, has rocketed from almost nowhere (trend #26 in 2020) to top the table in 2021. Mobile exercise apps, meanwhile, are a new entry for 2021 – in at #12.

Yet while this is a story of lockdown, the ACSM’s trends aren’t simply a backwards look. These are the trends identified for the coming year – which means the ACSM, as many other experts, believes the face of fitness has been changed forever by what’s happened over the past 12 months.


First up, as evidenced by this year’s top trend, out-of-club digital fitness is here to stay. It will ultimately sit alongside club visits – a complement, not a replacement – but consumers have been convinced of the value of ‘any time, anywhere’ training. It’s why Physical Company offers free online workout content, through our app, to support motivating, results-focused workouts wherever your members are.

Meanwhile, personal training may have slipped from trend #5 in 2020 to trend #10 in 2021, but its continued presence in the top 10 – despite global gym closures – is worthy of note. It’s credit to trainers the world over for getting creative, taking their sessions online (trend #1) and to the parks during lockdown – which of course brings us back to bodyweight training (trend #3, which incidentally the ACSM classes as using minimal, not zero, equipment) as a great option for all those outdoor training sessions (trend #4).

Physical Company has certainly witnessed its PT customers stocking up on all manner of innovative smaller tools to keep clients’ workouts motivating, varied, challenging, fun and effective, even while indoor facilities were off-limits.

And as clubs re-open? Operators around the world are reporting even higher PT revenues than before, as members return to their gyms wanting to get back in shape, needing guidance and motivation to do so, and opting for what they perceive to be safe one-to-one training bubbles – often using dedicated training spaces that can, by collaborating with Physical Company, be cost-effectively marked out and equipped with tools that are easy to clean between sessions.

We’re also seeing lots of operators creating fantastic new outdoor training spaces – spaces filled with smaller, more portable pieces of equipment. Our heartland.


Other top 10 trends deepen the story. ‘Exercise is medicine’ retains its presence; if anything, given the weight of evidence linking activity with improved immunity, the only surprise is that it’s slipped one spot to #7. Fitness programmes for older adults are there too, at #9, as this high-risk group moves to strengthen its defences against COVID; our Apex Active programme has been designed with precisely this group in mind.

Also maintaining their top 10 listings are strength training with free weights and HIIT, which can of course be performed with little to no equipment. Before you write these trends off as ‘not relevant for clubs’ – something that only came to the fore when people had to work with what they had at home during lockdown – remember that both these trends were also in the ACSM’s top 10 in 2020.

There are no fads here. This is the shape of people’s pre-, mid- and post-COVID workout preferences. And when it comes to free weights, the strength in depth of Physical Company’s portfolio is unparalleled.


The omissions from the 2021 list speak volumes, too, in terms of changing consumer behaviours since COVID. Unsurprisingly given our prolonged absence from office spaces, workplace wellbeing falls out of this year’s list altogether. Meanwhile, out of the top 10 goes group training (down to #17) and in comes virtual training – the first time it’s been separated from online training in the survey, whereby online now denotes out-of-club and virtual denotes in-club.

What’s notable, though, is that in spite of all this change, certain styles of training hold firm in the top 20: not just PT, but also yoga and functional training. And, yes, group exercise is there too – slipped out of the top 10 for now, but something that will no doubt rebound once current restrictions are eased.

Yoga has been a stalwart on trends lists for years, but if anything is even more important now and moving forward. It is the perfect discipline to help people ease back into activity, get some movement back into their bodies, not to mention cope with the residual stresses in life that not even a vaccine will sadly resolve. Yes, unemployment and financial worries, we’re looking at you.

As a gym operator, yoga will be an increasingly important thing to get right and we’re here to help, with a collection that includes all the accessories you’ll need for a world-class mind-body offering.

Meanwhile, ‘functional’ has been on the sector’s lips for a number of years now, but its continued presence in the ACSM’s top 10 shows this is no passing fad. By working the body in all the forms and planes of movement it naturally has to use on a daily basis, functional training gets you fit for life whatever your age, fitness level or exercise experience.

As we emerge from COVID with even more people appreciating the need to be active, including the older generation as noted previously, this is a form of exercise that can be made highly relevant – and Physical Company has a proven track record in creating some of the best spaces in the sector, all filled with an enticing array of top-quality functional training tools to engage everyone from new exercisers to die-hard enthusiasts.

In a nutshell, it’s ‘same-same but different’ in 2021. The key is to embrace the change – and we’re here to help you do it.

Find out more about why Physical Company should be your first call if you want to stay on-trend and relevant in the new normal:

Physical Company. First for Fitness Solutions.

For a host of online workouts using both equipment and bodyweight, download the Physical App from the iTunes or Google Play store by searching for Physical Company.

Read the full ACSM article here