ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® | 2020 In Review and 2021 Preview

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ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® | 2020 In Review and 2021 Preview

Brad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACSM, ACSM-CEP |  Jan. 20, 2021

The cover images of ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal from 2020For the past 25 years ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® has strived to provide health and fitness professionals with accurate, unbiased and authoritative practical information that will enhance their day-to-day work with clients and patients. Since 1997 the journal has published six issues per year covering a wide variety of exercise, nutrition, health behavior-change and other topics that are of interest to the health and fitness industry. Each issue consists of two to six feature articles that have undergone a peer review process, special columns written by the journal’s associate editors and a number of continuing education (CEC) opportunities.

For the sixth consecutive year the September/October issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® was a  themed issue focusing on a current hot topic for the fitness industry. The 2020 themed issue was exceptional and zeroed in on the timely theme of: “Refocusing Life Span to Health Span, Making Every Age Count.” Beginning with our Health & Fitness From A to Z column and an excellent review of “Aging in America” written by Madelyn Byra, B.S., M.S., the issue provided six feature articles that collectively covered the life span and shared critical information regarding health behaviors that affect an individual’s health span. This was a timely issue in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on people with preventable chronic conditions.

Historically the November/December issue has presented ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, always one of our most popular publications. Beginning in 2018 we highlighted the survey in a themed issue published in November/December. In 2019 the trends themed issue was expanded to include survey results from international regions that included Europe, China, Argentina/Brazil and Spain. With continued expansion of the surveys in other international regions, the publication of this comprehensive themed issue has been moved to the January/February 2021 issue. This change allows for additional time for all of the survey data to be analyzed and compared, and also corresponds with the beginning of the calendar year.

In 2020 the journal published 23 feature articles and a total of 50 columns penned by the journal’s exceptional associate editors. The relative interest in these 73 articles can be quantified by comparing the number of times the online version of the article is viewed and/or referred to through social media platforms and the mainstream media.

Perhaps connected to experiences with the pandemic, the most popular 2020 article referred to by social media platforms and mainstream media was “Promoting Physical Activity for Mental Well-being,” written by Stephanie L. Cooper, Ph.D., FACSM. The altmetric score (which is derived from those online conversations about the article) for this article was closely followed by an article written by Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., FACSM; James P. MacDonald, M.D., FACSM; Carlos Carvalho, Ph.D. and Tamara Rial Rebullido, Ph.D., CSPS, titled “The Pediatric Inactivity Triad: A Triple Jeopardy for Modern Day Youth.”

Both articles also were the two most accessed articles on the journal’s website that were published in 2020 along with an article from our September/October themed issue, “Exercise during Pregnancy: A Prescription for Improved Maternal/Fetal Well-being,” written by Margie H. Davenport, Ph.D. Interestingly, the two most assessed articles in 2020 were from prior year publications. These were ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2020 and an article from the May/June 2013 issue titled “High-Intensity Circuit Training Using Body Weight: Maximum Results with Minimal Investment.” While the trends issue has historically been one of the most popular articles, one must wonder if the pandemic influenced the popularity of the high-intensity training article, as exercise professionals have been searching for activities that clients can do away from fitness facilities, many of which have been closed or had access limitations.

Outlook for 2021

The journal content scheduled for 2021 is exceptional and will continue to represent topics and practical applications that will be of interest to health and fitness professionals and supportive of the important work they undertake with their clients and patients. Launching 2021, the January/February issue presents the journal’s themed issue highlighting “ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends 2021.” Content includes and survey results from six additional international regions. It is a stellar issue and provides interesting insight into the effects of the pandemic on fitness services around the globe.

The March/April issue corresponds with the release of the 11th edition of ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription and will feature an article by Barry Franklin, Ph.D., FACSM covering the evolution of the guidelines. Once again, the journal will publish a themed issue in the September/October publication. Overseen by our Associate Editor-in-Chief Gary Liguori, Ph.D., FACSM and guest editor Yuri Feito, Ph.D., FACSM, the issue will focus on High Intensity Interval Training and Chronic Disease. An exceptional group of feature authors have been confirmed to share their expertise covering the utilization of HIIT within a range of health conditions. Other upcoming feature articles will include topics on virtual fitness, tips for live-streaming exercise sessions, wearable technology, autism, exercise for obstructive sleep apnea and a broad range of other pertinent topics. Overseen by our Digital Content Editor, Vanessa Kercher, Ph.D., the journal’s digital web content continues to expand along with utilization of a variety of social media platforms. The supplemental digital content posted on the journal website supports many of the feature articles and columns, providing additional information and video content for journal readers.

Journal submissions remain strong, and we appreciate each health and fitness professional who has submitted their work for publication and encourage you to consider sharing your expertise as well. It has been refreshing to see articles penned by young professionals and graduate students within the submissions this past year, and the journal is deeply indebted to our editorial board for shepherding these articles through the review process. If you are interested in submitting an article to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®, you can learn how to write and submit a feature article here.

Additionally, the journal’s associate editors have an exceptional slate of content planned for 2021 that will continue to provide practical information to guide our work with clients and patients.  Following is a list of our regular columns and their respective associate editors.

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal chart of articlesMost Read Articles in 2020

  1. High Intensity Circuit Training using Body Weight (2013 article)
  2. ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020
  3. Promoting Physical Activity for Mental Well-being
  4. The Pediatric Inactivity Triad: A Triple Jeopardy for Modern Day Youth
  5. Exercise During Pregnancy: A Prescription for Improved Maternal/Fetal Well-being
  6. Using a Health Promotion Program Planning Model to Promote Physical Activity and Exercise (Clinical Applications column)

Conversation Starters: Top Altmetric Scores

Altmetric calculates a score based on the online attention an article receives. The score is calculated based on two primary sources of online attention: social media and mainstream news media.

  1. Promoting Physical Activity for Mental Well-being
  2. The Pediatric Inactivity Triad: A Triple Jeopardy for Modern Day Youth
  3. Benefits of Incorporating HIIT Programs for Individuals with Down Syndrome
  4. Aging in America (Health & Fitness from A to Z column)
  5. Long-Term Athletic Development as a Framework to Influence Wellness during Childhood and Adolescence
  6. The Deadlift (Do it Right column)
  7. Exercise for Prevention of Chronic Disease (Wouldn’t You Like to Know column)


RoyBrad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACSM, ACSM-CEP, is an executive director at Logan Health. He is responsible for The Summit Medical Fitness Center, a 114,800 sq ft medically integrated fitness center in Kalispell, Montana, the Westshore Medical Fitness Center in Lakeside, Montana, the Polson Medical Fitness Center in Polson, Montana, and a number of other hospital departments. He is the editor-in-chief of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®