If your plan to get fit for 2024 is already floundering in the notoriously tricky first week of January, fear not – some new Garmin data has arrived to give us all some fresh inspiration, based on the biggest fitness trends of last year.
The 2023 Garmin Fitness Report is based on the data it collected from tens of millions of Garmin Connect users worldwide. So while it doesn’t tell us what new kinds of workouts Apple Watch fans are doing, it does reveal some interesting trends that could help guide your plans for 2024.
The biggest takeaway is a boom in gym workouts, in particular HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions. Among Garmin users, these increased in popularity by 112% year-on-year, which is the biggest spike in the whole report.
In fact, the usage of fitness equipment was up all round, with stair climber sessions (up 31% compared to 2022), strength training (a 30% increase), ellipticals (a 17% rise) and indoor rowing (up 14%) all showing the popularity of these machines, whether they’re being used in the gym or at home.
Not that strength training and indoor cardio have overtaken the traditional exercise classics. Garmin’s report reveals that running, walking and cycling were still the top three activities among Garmin Connect users, ahead of those indoor alternatives. But there are also some interesting subsets within those top three categories.
For example, track running saw a 76% year-on-year rise in Garmin’s data, making it the fastest-growing form of running by some distance. It was way ahead of indoor, treadmill and trail running in terms of an annual increase – and with Garmin watches like the Forerunner 235 capable of logging track-based running for some time, the data won’t have been influenced by the arrival of new Garmin features either.
Some of the 2023 increases in Garmin’s report may have been influenced by hardware and software changes, though. For example, Garmin devices only started to support e-bike data from the middle of 2022, so some year-on-year increases here were always likely.
Sure enough, e-bike and e-bike mountain tracking were both up (62% and 49% respectively) last year compared to 2022. Similarly, yoga (up 23%) and pilates (which grew by 48%) were both more popular than in 2022. Though these again may have been influenced by the arrival last year of muscle map graphics (which help you plan workouts based on training loads) for those activities on some Garmin watches.
Wait, eSports tracking is a thing?
Another interesting example of the influence of Garmin’s activity profiles on its fitness report data is eSports. Yes, on some of Garmin’s more premium watches (like the Epix Gen 2, Fenix 7, Forerunner, and Venu series) you can track eSports activity to help improve your gaming performance. According to the report, eSports tracking did also grow in 2023, albeit more slowly than the likes of HIIT sessions.
Garmin says that heart rate, stress, sleep, and energy can all have a big impact on pro gaming skills, so its activity profile tracks all of those metrics and even syncs with a Garmin GameOn desktop app so you can see how your body’s reacting during and after matches.
Still, it’s fair to say that most of us still use Garmin’s more old-school tracking profiles. And while tennis and bouldering both saw big increases in Garmin’s data (up 76% and 68% year-on-year respectively), good-old walking was still the second most popular activity overall in 2023.
But does walking 10,000 steps a day really keep you fit? We tried doing just that every day for a week instead of going to the gym – and you can read our findings. Spoiler: it went well and the 10,000 steps-a-day goal certainly isn’t just for older people.