Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2017

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released their annual fitness trends for 2017. This is the 11th year that ACSM has been tracking trends as chosen by health and fitness professionals worldwide. It is important to note the difference between a trend and a fad.


A trend is “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving.”

While a fad is “a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period.”

Listed below are 10 of the top 20 trends for 2017 that are applicable with the changing attitudes toward firefighters being fit for the job.

  1. Wearable Technology
    This includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices. These help hold you accountable and help you make lifestyle changes.
  2. Body Weight Training
    Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. This trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with functional movements that work on endurance and strength. This is important because I often hear this, “we don’t exercise at the station because we don’t have equipment.” This is no longer an excuse.
  3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
    HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a short period of rest or recovery. These exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes. Therefore, when time is limited on shift, you can still get this type of workout in. Also, it is the best type to improve VO2 max.
  4. Educated and Experienced Fitness Professionals.
    It is important to make sure you get help from a fitness professional that is certified to help set up your training programs.
  5. Strength Training
    Strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders. Strength training can be a functional part of your program using equipment in the fire station such as foam buckets, hoses and ladders.
  6. Group Training
    Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals. I often hear that fitness time is mandatory during every shift but when I ask individuals they often say they do it sometimes. If the mandatory fitness time is setup as a specific group program there will be better outcomes and more consistency.
  7. Exercise and Weight Loss
    In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Make a commitment on shift to prepare healthy foods.
  8. Functional Fitness
    Functional fitness is defined as using strength training and HITT to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily job performance. When designing programs pick activities that apply to job related activities as defined by NFPA® 1582 Chapter 9 Essential Job Tasks — Specific Evaluation of Medical Conditions in Members.
  9. Smart Phone Exercise Apps
    Smart phone apps such as Tabata timer, Polar Flow and MyFitnessPal used in conjunction with wearables put both activity and nutrition together allowing you to be more successful by increasing accountability.
  10. Outcome Measurements
    Outcome measures are efforts to define and track measurable results to prove that a selected program actually works. Your annual testing can provide this by looking at cholesterol, blood pressure, body composition and VO2 max. According to NFPA 1582 VO2 max should be at least 28 ml/kg min (8 METs) and advised to improve to 42 ml/kg min (12 METs)


NFPA® 1582 8.2 Annual Fitness Evaluation. Testing shall be conducted using an appropriate maximal or submaximal protocol (see C.2.1and C.2.1.1). Bicycle ergometry is not appropriate because it underestimates true aerobic capacity and is not work-task specific.* At levels below 12 METs , a firefighter shall be counseled to improve his/her fitness. At levels at or below 8 METs, a prescribed aerobic fitness program shall be required, and the AHJ shall be advised to consider restriction from essential job tasks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 13.

ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal: November/December 2016 – Volume 20 – Issue 6 – p 8–17

Karen Leatherman is president/owner of Fitness Forum Occupational Testing Services. She started the first hospital-based fitness center in South Carolina where she started cardiac and pulmonary rehab programs. She has over 30 years performing exercise stress testing and has been testing firefighters for over 20 years. In addition, she was on the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Health and Fitness Certification Committee where she travelled with a team from the U.S. to India and Hong Kong to teach and administer ACSM exams.

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