The biggest fitness trends that defined the decade

In the last 10 years, the fitness sector has exploded. Going to the gym is no longer something a bit dull that you do to simply lose a few pounds – there is now status attached to the ways you choose to workout.

And, thanks to the boom of social media, everyone knows how often we go to they gym, what we do there, and what #gains we’ve made since joining.

In 2010 we were only just dipping our toe into the pool of fitness tech. Back then, searching the term ‘work out’ only brought up 157 apps. Today, the number of fitness apps in the Google Play store is 37,143.

But technology isn’t the only thing that’s changed the ways we work out – our entire mindset towards fitness and physical health has had a complete overhaul in the last decade.

We have collectively attached a new sense of virtuousness to our levels of fitness – and moral superiority can now be bought with the right gym membership.

Reckless hedonism is out, ‘wellness’ is in, and as a result the UK fitness industry is now worth around £5bn. These are the trends that have made fitness cool again in the last decade:

Strong not skinny

Early in the decade we saw a slight pivot away from the female body ideal of thinness. It was no longer the thing to say that you were working out in order to lose weight or get skinny – it was all about strength.

On the face of it, this was an entirely welcome trend. Fuelled by social media posts, #StrongNotSkinny became an alternative goal for women everywhere, and seemed to be healthier and less damaging than fixating on weight loss.

Now, the aim was to be strong, toned and powerful – and it opened up a lot of important conversations about unrealistic body expectations and unsustainable fitness habits.

But, as the decade wore on, people began to pick this philosophy apart. Wasn’t a fixation on strength and muscle definition just another kind of unattainable ideal?

In 2019, we’re no longer sold on the idea that pressure to be strong is any better than a pressure to be skinny.


It has been the decade of #fitspiration. Did you even go to the gym if it wasn’t on your Insta feed? Rather than stretching and foam rolling, the gym floor has become a haven for sweaty selfies and amateur video tutorials.

Log onto any social media account and it is unavoidable; ‘#gym’ is tagged to more than 173 million posts and counting.

But there are people who have turned their fitness social media into fully fledged careers – becoming fitness influencers with millions of followers and lucrative commercial deals.

Arguably one of the first, Kayla Itsines took her personal training brand to social media and has made tens of millions of dollars since 2009.

And, whatever your thoughts on these lycra-clad social media stars, it can’t be denied that there presence has encouraged a whole new generation of gym-goers.

Fitness professionals and personal trainers have had to adapt to this new world – there’s less of a need to pay hundreds for one-on-one sessions when there are limitless resources at the touch of a button.

Wearable tech

The first ever Fitbit launched in 2007, but this decade has seen an incredible evolution in wearable tech.

The latest Fitbit Versa 2 does so much more than count your steps and measure your heart rate. Now, you have built in Amazon Alexa, Spotify, and your digital wallet. You can track your periods and your sleep, it will even guide you through meditation.

Wearable tech in 2019 is entirely holistic and aims to cover every element of your health, fitness and well being.

Beyond the Fitbit, there are now hundreds of brands offering wearable tech for every price range. There are bands for swimming, bands you clip around your chest, clips you can strap to your trainers.

It has never been easier to track every single element of your fitness progress.

The evolution of home workouts

Ten years ago, our idea of a home workout was sticking on a Davina McCall DVD and jumping around until the neighbours complained. But now, home fitness can be just as comprehensive as going to a gym class.

Finding workout videos to follow on Instagram or Youtube has never been easier, and there are plenty of options for bodyweight-only workouts – meaning you don’t need any heavy or expensive kit.

But the last few years have seen more people investing in pricey kit they can set up in their living rooms – like the Pelaton bike which costs £1,990 plus a monthly subscription of £39. It makes sense, because millenials really like spending time at home.

It may be the case that a luxury exercise bike or rowing machine will become the must-have homeware accessory in the next few years.


Thankfully, this has been the decade when we realised that staying in the gym for hours at a time doesn’t mean you’ll get better results.

Scientists uncovered the benefits of short and sharp workouts and High Intensity Interval Training was born.

In 2018, HIIT topped the yearly survey of worldwide fitness trends by the American College of Sports Medicine. It has remained in the top five since it entered at the top spot in 2014. And it’s no surprise that it’s enduringly popular.

No more plodding for an arduous 40 minutes on a treadmill – HIIT is all about explosive, intensive movements, short rest periods and getting your heart rate as high as possible.

Think burpees, squat jumps and lunges – all of your least favourite moves. And the results pay off. Your metabolic rate remains high after doing a HIIT workout – which means you keep burning calories for hours after finishing.

Luxury fitness

For many of us, fitness became a luxury commodity in the last ten years.

We are no longer satisfied by the sweaty, shabby surroundings of our local leisure centre. We want a sauna in the changing rooms, high-end shower products, cold sweat towels stored in a tiny fridge, a green smoothie bar when we leave.

Fitness has become more about a lifestyle than simply an hour of getting sweaty. We want to wear the latest fitness gear, even when we’re not working out, and we don’t just go to the gym for a class anymore – it needs to be an experience.

Luxury boutiques are transforming the fitness industry. The definitive trade organization IHRSA notes that boutique memberships expanded 74% from 2012 to 2015, compared to just 5% for health clubs.

They offer high end experiences at an often dizzyingly high price point – but we seem to be willing to pay the price.

Gentler fitness

Towards the second half of the decade we started to realise that our joints were getting sore.

In direct response, it seems, to the boom of high intensity, high impact training, we have gone in the other direction and started to favour gentler, kinder fitness.

The focus is on low-impact workouts – such as swimming, cycling and walking – the benefits of walking, yoga, recovery, stretching and massage.

Too much high-intensity exercise can leave you at risk of injury, and lower impact stuff can be a fantastic antidote to all those burpees and box jumps.

Recovery has also become a big part of the workout process in the last few years, with people investing in sports massagers you can use at home and even dedicated recovery venues offering infrared saunas and compression therapy.

Fitness for our mental health

This decade we have began to truly unlock the mind-altering potential of endorphins.

Working out makes us feel happier and as a result, fitness has become a new form of therapy to get us through all the madness that the last ten years has thrown at us.

Mindful fitness has been one of the biggest growing trends of the last few years, with a focus on being present, moving your body consciously and being fully aware of your breathing patterns.

Whether it’s running, yoga or spinning – we are all getting very zen about our fitness – and it is helping to keep us calm and centred.

Great news, because doctors have been prescribing exercise (alongside medication and therapy) for a whole range of mental illnesses for donkey’s years.

The fitness festival

Festivals used to mean getting off your face in the rain waiting for Arctic Monkeys to come on stage, before sleeping under a tree because you can’t find your tent and not showering for three days.

But the festival has had a holistic, healthy glow-up and fitness festivals are all the rage this decade.

Swap out the lukewarm beer for a green juice, and swap the sweaty crowds for yoga mats, and you’ll get a taste of what you’re in for at a fitness festival.

From Soul Circus to Wild & Well, Balance to LoveFit Festival, these events are often alfresco and allow you to be at-one with nature – offering group classes, talks with industry stars and the opportunity to buy the latest gear.

What’s not to love?

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