Functional Fitness Takes Center Stage in the Fitness Industry

Issue 13 - March 2024

Published On


Trends are becoming more and more practical across the board. For the past several years, sneakers have taken the place of dressier shoes (even taking the place of high heels for women), calling for comfort and practicality. And consider the “clean” makeup trends that call for a more minimal look versus a done-up full face.

The same goes for fitness. One of the more practical, no frills trends that’s caught our attention has been functional fitness — a type of exercise that continues to surge as a dominant trend in 2024. A global consumer trends report out of Europe says that consumers are looking for “optimal health without hassles,” in 2024 and refers to the wellness consumer these days as “Wellness Pragmatists.”

“Proven efficacy should be a priority,” the report says. And that’s exactly what functional fitness brings to the table. With its focus on practical movements mimicking daily activities, this holistic approach not only builds strength and endurance, but also enhances overall health, making it a “trend” with exceptional staying power.

What Is Functional Fitness?

First, a brief review of the concept of functional fitness.

Functional fitness — sometimes called functional training — is an approach to exercise that focuses on preparing the body for activities performed in daily life. As such, it emphasizes movements that mimic real-life actions. Think: bending, lifting, pushing, and pulling.

The goal is to improve overall strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, and endurance, ultimately enhancing one's ability to perform everyday tasks safely and efficiently. As such, it’s an incredible option for every type of body and age range, but especially for older adults aiming to mitigate the effects of sarcopenia (age related muscle loss).

It’s not just for the older crowd, though. Functional fitness has taken on popularity across all demographics. Let’s take a deeper look.

Functional Training is Trending Upward

The popularity of F45, CrossFit, OrangeTheory, and TRX have proven that functional fitness can touch on multiple demographics in different regions globally. Part of that could be due to functional training being a particularly empowering type of exercise — the effects are felt in multiple areas of an individual’s everyday life, providing confidence in unexpected ways.

The Australian Institute of Fitness reported that functional training was trending upward at the end of last year — it’s something that improves the performance of athletes, benefits an aging population, rehabilitates injured individuals, and can strengthen any person at any age, regardless of their fitness goals.

And given that healthy aging is trending in general, there’s an emphasis on ‘getting ahead of it.’ Younger populations are considering the latent effects of habits they form now. Consider the topic of one of our recent newsletters: the popularity of Blue Zones. They’re particularly en vogue because they zone in on (no pun intended) habits that contribute to a longer life. Then you’ve got the popularity of goop, and Gwenyth Paltrow’s (somewhat) recent assessment of her biological age.

The biggest data, however, comes from McKinsey & Company’s report: The trends defining the $1.8 trillion global wellness market in 2024. On that list? “Demand for products and services that support healthy aging and longevity.”

The report finds that this trend has been “propelled by a shift toward preventive medicine, the growth of health technology (such as telemedicine and digital-health monitoring), and advances in research on anti-aging products,” and that “70 percent of consumers in the United Kingdom and the United States and 85 percent in China indicated that they have purchased more in this category in the past year than in prior years.”

Functional fitness plays a major role in preventative wellness and medicine — the tie-in to the global wellness trend makes perfect sense. And as Fortune recently reported, “longevity has longevity.” (i.e., they’re endorsing this as a long-term trend as well). “The growing interest in longevity will continue, both those willing to try expensive, experimental treatments aimed at living longer and others who recognize they can play a role in aging through simple things like diet, exercise, sleep, and stress reduction.”

Introducing Your Community to the Power of Functional Fitness

You don’t have to have a dedicated functional training gym in order to incorporate these powerful principles into your programming. In fact, these can be woven into personal training, group fitness classes, and a variety of other offerings at your club or wellness center.

McKinsey & Company recommends a “holistic approach to healthy-aging solutions, which includes considerations about mental health and social factors.” When it comes to communication, education is important. Emphasis on how this type of training helps play a role in preventative medicine, healthy aging, injury prevention, and even mental health (not to mention confidence) is crucial. They also recommend using the word longevity in lieu of aging.

Between the timeless health benefits and the collective desire for practical, effective, balanced approaches toward a longer, healthier life, there’s no reason to skip out on this ‘trend’ (if you can call it that). So tell us: how are you bringing functional fitness to your communities? We’re excited to see how you develop this concept in the coming months.


Industry Happenings:

Upcoming Events:

  1. PerformX Live, March 21-22, 2024, Tobacco Dock, London
  2. California Mania®, March 22-24, 2024, San Francisco, California
  3. FIBO Global Fitness, April 11-14, 2024, Cologne, Germany
  4. FitnessFest, April 25-28, 2024, Phoenix, Arizona
  5. Florida Mania®, May 3-5, 2024, Orlando, Florida
  6. Sibec Americas, May 19-22, 2024, Pasadena, California
  7. Perform Better Functional Training Summit, May 30-June 1, 2024, Orlando, Florida
  8. Miami Fit Expo, June 1, 2024, Miami, Florida
  9. The Health and Well-Being Coaching Conference, June 7-9, 2024, San Diego, California
  10. Beyond Activ World, June 11-13, 2024, Raffles City, Singapore


Upcoming Workshops in March:

  1. 20+ workshops from Peak Pilates
  2. 6 workshops from Spinning®
  3. 4 workshops from TRX®
  4. 4 workshops from Mike Boyle's CFSC
  5. 4 workshops from Oxygen Advantage
  6. 3 workshops from Gray Institute
  7. 1 workshop from SoulBody Fitness
  8. 1 workshop from U-Jam


Industry News:


Thanks for Reading!

This newsletter was brought to you by Kathie Davis, Peter Davis, Ravi Sharma, Dominique Astorino, and the Inspire360 team.


A Note from Peter & Kathie

The industry is changing rapidly and we are here to help you sift through all the noise and get to the good stuff. Every month, we'll bring you trending topics and the inside scoop that we believe is paramount for fitness professionals to know.

Keep Inspiring,

Peter & Kathie Davis

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