A new study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine is showing a perceived decline in health and fitness programs and promotions in the workplace.

The study, in its 11th year, is completed annually in an effort to help those in the health and fitness industry make programming and business decisions, according to ACSM.  Last year, workplace health programs landed number 12 on the list. This year, workplace health promotions dropped to the 16th position.

Respondents to the survey included those in health and wellness professions such as personal trainers, health/fitness specialists, clinical professionals and registered dieticians. Researchers received responses from Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan, Venezuela, Switzerland, Jamaica, South Africa, Bermuda, Greece, Finland, and the United States.

 “Worksite health promotion is a trend for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity,” the study described. “Once a need is determined, worksite health promotion professionals build programs based on the greatest need (for example, smoking-cessation programs or weight loss programs).”

According to an ACSM table which lists the worldwide trends for the last 10 years (2007-2017), workplace health programs and initiatives have never cracked the top 10. Researchers did not ask survey takers for reasons or causes about why workplace health or other trends changed positions on the list.

However, health and wellness in the workplace could play a larger role in the future, especially the United States, the study indicated.

“Within the context of health care reform in the United States and rising health care costs everywhere, worksite health promotion programs may take on additional importance in the future,” the study noted.

Despite a perceived lack of focus in the workplace, many of the trends indicated in the study can be incorporated into workplace wellness programs. The study did not provide a breakdown by country. The top 10 trends for 2017 are:

1. Wearable technology. Wearable technology includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices and smart eyeglasses (designed to show maps and track activity.)

2. Body weight training.  Typical body weight training programs use minimal equipment which makes it a very inexpensive way to exercise effectively, according to the study.

3. High-intensity interval training. HIIT typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform.

4. Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals. This is a trend that continues now that there are third-party accreditations offered by national accrediting organizations for health and fitness and clinical exercise program professionals and a registry designed for exercise professionals, according to the study’s researchers.

5. Strength training.  Many younger clients of both community-based programs and commercial clubs train almost exclusively using weights. In today’s gyms, however, there are many others (men and women, young and old, children, and patients with a stable chronic disease) whose main focus is on using weight training to improve or maintain strength.

6. Group training. Group programs are designed to be motivational and effective for people at different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals in their classes achieve fitness goals, according to the study. There are many types of classes and equipment, from aerobics and bicycles to dance classes.

7. Exercise is Medicine. Exercise is Medicine is a global health initiative that is focused on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients and referring their patients to exercise professionals.

8. Yoga. Yoga comes in a variety of forms including Power Yoga, Yogalates, and Bikram Yoga (also known as “hot” Yoga). Instructional tapes and books are abundant, as are the growing numbers of certifications for the many Yoga formats.

9. Personal training. Professional personal trainers continue to seek the professionalization of their part of the industry (see trend no. 4). Personal trainers are employed by community-based programs, in commercial settings, in corporate wellness programs and in medical fitness programs or are self-employed and work independently.

10. Exercise and weight loss. The combination of exercise and weight loss emphasizes caloric restriction with a sensible exercise program. Organizations, particularly those that are for profit and are in the business of providing weight loss programs, will continue to incorporate regular exercise as well as caloric restriction for weight control, according to the 2017 survey.

Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the study's author, is associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University and a regents’ professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health, the Department of Nutrition, and the School of Public Health.