Fitness is a lot like fashion, with workout trends going from hot to not in a matter of years, as this interactive visualization by Steve Viglioni illustrates. Viglioni used data on relative search volume from Google Trends to show the buzziness of workout regimens over the past 10 years.
CrossFit, the cultish fitness program that combines brutal cardio and weight-lifting, is more popular than ever. The Google Search volume visualized here walks hand in hand with the company’s growth: there’s been a 166% year-over-year growth rate of the CrossFit Games.
Why the exploding devotion to CrossFit, especially given claims that it causes injuries easily by pushing people too hard? It could have something to do with its business model. As Jon Gugala over at Deadspin puts it:
By design, the company has only two big sources of revenue: trainer certification and licensing fees, which are paid annually by trainers who’ve opened their own CrossFit gyms, or “boxes.” What this means is that the growth of the company relies almost entirely on its ability to evangelize (new trainers) and propagate itself (more boxes). CrossFit is an idea surrounded by an ever-expanding circle of prophets, everyone on the lookout for apostles and apostates alike.
Viglioni’s chart should be read with caution. It seems to indicate that P90X, the 90-day extreme home fitness regimen beloved by celebrities from Paul Ryan to Sheryl Crow, is on the out. Searches have declined since its prime in 2011, when infomercials by its founder, standup comedian-cum-workout god Tony Horton, turned P90X into a $400 million-a-year empire. But declining Google Searches doesn’t mean the program is no longer popular–the P90X DVDs are still the top seller of the program’s distributor, Beachbody, which is making $700 million in annual sales. Google search volume isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of sales, or what workouts the searchers are actually doing–it just reveals what’s buzzing.