It doesn’t matter what your exercise goals are – whether you want to bulk up, slim down or just keep fit — boredom is one of the biggest barriers you have to overcome. If you don’t find your workout enjoyable, you’ll put in less effort, which means you’ll be less likely to see results. But don’t worry, the world of fitness is constantly evolving, and there’s always a new workout trend to keep you engaged.
So, which fitness trends have taken the USA by storm and which have we said goodbye to? Using Google Trends, we analyzed search data to see which workouts have seen the biggest rise or fall in popularity over the last 12 months. We also teamed up with Myprotein PT Tom Hall to predict how we’ll be working out in 2022.
Fighting fit, Olympics and TikTok inspired workouts
After a rather frustrating year, it’s no surprise to see Americans turning to various combat sports in an attempt to keep fit — and maybe release some tension while they’re at it.
Boxing was the most popular fitness trend of 2021, seeing an impressive 139% increase in searches over the last 12 months. Looking regionally, Nevada, California and New Mexico showed the highest levels of interest in getting in the ring. We also saw increases in searches for mixed martial arts (+102%), kickboxing (+48%) and karate (+29%).
After the event was postponed last year, 2021 saw the Tokyo 2020 games finally take place, leading to a spike in searches for Olympics-inspired workouts. Badminton saw the biggest increase, with a 70% increase in searches and high levels of popularity in California, New Jersey and Washington. Athletics (+47%), rowing (+43%), swimming (+33%) and tennis (+13%) all also saw spikes in interest over the last year.
Another of the biggest fitness trends of the last 12 months came from TikTok. Earlier this year, we saw a viral trend sweep the social media app, with people uploading videos of themselves using weighted hula hoops to work out. And rather than staying on TikTok, this trend hit the mainstream, with a 70% increase in Google searches and high levels of interest in Virginia, Maine and Connecticut.
Waving goodbye to lockdown workouts
With many of us spending the majority of 2020 at home, we started to see things slowly get back to normal this year.
Interest in home workouts fell by 45%, while we also saw interest decrease in a range of different exercises which are commonly done at home, needing minimal equipment and limited space. Searching around planking fell by 41%, while burpees (-30%), sit-ups (-21%), push-ups (-21%), bodyweight exercises (-13%), pull-ups (-95) and squats (-6%) all fell out of favor.
But it wasn’t just solo, at-home workouts seeing falls in popularity. A number of once popular group exercises also saw decreases in interest, including spinning (-69%), tabata (-33%), aerobics (-21%), CrossFit (-13%), circuit training (-6%) and Zumba (-5%).
How will we be working out in 2022?
We now know how Americans have been keeping fit over the last year, but what about the next 12 months? We teamed up with Myprotein PT Tom Hall to predict some of the fitness trends we might see in 2022.
2021 saw people becoming less interested in at-home workouts, and this is something we’re expecting to see carry through into the new year, as people try to move back to more sociable workouts.
Here’s what Tom had to say: “People like seeing people — the interaction is so valuable, even if we don’t always think it is! While people may love being part of a gym thanks to having all the equipment they could ever need, they also love chatting and being sociable, as well as having other people around to provide motivation.”
“So, all things permitting, we’re expecting to see a return to doing things in person, as well as in groups, and maybe some dust settling on those home dumbbells!”
Cross training and functional fitness
When it comes to working out, boredom is one of the biggest barriers to progress. However, cross training can be a great way of keeping things interesting. Cross training is doing different types of exercise, rather than focusing on just one thing. Now this might sound like something you already do, but the key to proper cross training is to think about your fitness goals, look at your main forms of exercise and pick out other workouts which will complement them.
Functional fitness, on the other hand, refers to workouts that mimic everyday actions, using different muscle groups at the same. Functional workouts will all center around seven key movements — push, pull, squat, lunge, hinge, twist and walk.
Tom says: “The world is becoming less and less oriented around the traditional bodybuilding workout and most trainers are now doing more functional based workout plans. Working on functional fitness can help with any number of different goals too, whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight or just maintain a good level of strength and fitness.”
Data-driven workout plans
Wearable technology is nothing new — we all know someone who uses some form of fitness tracker — or maybe you do yourself. However, in 2022 we’re expecting to see data-driven workouts really hit the mainstream.
Tom says: “Rather than just using technology to keep track of our steps or monitor our heart rate, we’re starting to see entire workout plans built around biometric data. And as technology continues to advance, we’ll be able to include more and more data in our plans — we may even start to get things like speed and power timings with our weightlifting.”
Even more vegan
Vegan athletes have long been shouting about the benefits of plants, but now we’re seeing an increasing number non-vegans start to look into alternative ways of fuelling their fitness.
Tom says: “Plant-based diets can still be powerful sources of nutrition and energy, and with enough planning and structure to your meals, can be high enough in protein for those looking to bulk up. You’ve got so much more variety now, with healthy bars and snacks, as well as loads of plant-based protein powders. The quality is getting better and better, so expect to see more of this over the coming year.”
Looking after your mental health has never been more important. As we continue to prioritize self-care, we’re expecting to see a growing number of people explore intuitive eating. Instead of getting hung up on weight loss, intuitive eating focuses on actively listening and paying attention to your body’s cues when it comes to hunger and getting rid of more restrictive dieting practices.
Tom says: “People are taking a more holistic view to their physical and mental health, and intuitive eating can play an important part in this. With more thought about your eating, trying to enjoy food, rather than just thinking about numbers and macros, instead focusing on behaviors and building positive relationships with food and your overall diet.”
Take Home Message
We all want to find exercise fun. Because let’s face it, if you’re bored, you won’t give 110% and get the results you want. With more options than ever when it comes to keeping fit, you’re sure to be able to find something to keep you motivated, regardless of what your fitness aims are.
We took a list of over 50 different types of exercise, then used Google Trends to track the search interest surrounding them over the last 12 months. We then looked at how much search interest had increased or decreased over that period to reveal America’s most and least popular workout trends.