Technology has become an inevitable part of our lives and is not likely to go anywhere. Just like on other things, it has also had a major impact on health & fitness.
Every new innovation is shifting the way you work out at the individual level. But most importantly these smaller shifts eventually result in substantial transformations that change the entire fitness industry.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that before you even realize it, you’ll be working out in your SF flat with your friend from Japan in a big VR gym with Matt Damon as a spinning instructor. But for now, let’s slow down a bit and look at the impact technology has already had / will have in the near future on your everyday fitness routine.
The Future Of Fitness: Wearables – Tracking 24/7
One word – wearables. These more or less tiny devices that now come in all sorts of form and track certain aspects of your workout have had a massive impact on the way we think about health & fitness today. With wearables, tracking has entered a new ear where data has no space, time or any kind of limits.
You don’t have to rely on your personal trainer or other professional assistance anymore. With these simple and easy to use gadgets you can track your own physical activity all day every day.
What are wearables?
Wearable technology is actually not a new concept. Simple wristwatches – remember, the ones before Apple Watch and Fitbit took over the wrists of people – were the first wearables in human history.
Wearables are simply defined as “electronic technologies or computers that are incorporated into items of clothing and accessories which can comfortably be worn on the body.” .
While we can differentiate between various wearable subgroups, they all share the same main goal. Which is allowing individuals to access advanced technologies in an easy, portable and hands-free way .
One of the wearable groups, the one that we are mainly interested in, is fitness trackers. They scan, sense, and track particular aspects of your workouts, movements and all sorts of physical activity. Then they analyze the data and provide you with easily accessible and understandable feedback.
Wearables’ Impact On Your Workout Routine
Wearable fitness trackers have affected a number of aspects of our physical activity. While most of these impacts are clearly positive, you might occasionally hear some skeptical comments too. And to be completely honest, if you dig deep enough there might be a negative side as well.
Pros of Wearables
First and foremost, wearable fitness trackers provide you with real-time data that you were not able to access before. Let it be heart rate, calories burnt, pace and distance of your run, all types of data will be a beneficial piece of information. Information that gives meaningful insight into your current and past performance and helps guiding your workouts in the right way.
There are also more sophisticated wearables today that take it to a whole new level with the feedback they provide.
Wearables, like the Sensoria socks & anklet or the Athos apparel track your technique as well. Once all the necessary data is collected and analyzed, you get access to accurate and easily understandable feedback at the tip of your fingerprints. So thanks to these fitness trackers, you’re able to improve your technique without a professional trainer.
Besides the fitness side of the story, these wearables are also able to reveal useful details about your general health and wellbeing. With basic features, like the HR monitor, step counter, and sleep tracker, you get to see how you’re actually doing in your day to day life.
So all in all wearable fitness trackers have moved your everyday health & fitness journey to a more data-driven direction, which has been proven to have a positive impact on our health & fitness by several studies [1,2].
Cons Of Wearables
However this advantage of being data-driven is something others might actually see as a disadvantage of wearables. The reason behind it is simple. Constantly looking at numbers and checking you performance can become compulsive.
Working on your performance based on meaningful metrics is fine up to a certain level. But once the rivalry with others or even with your own self turns into an obsessive habit, it can become unhealthy. Therefore, wearable fitness trackers are sometimes accused of making you push too hard and taking away the fun aspect of your workouts.
The Future Of Fitness: Mobile Apps – Virtual Trainers Instead of Personal Trainers
The health & fitness software industry is also on fire. The app store is getting packed with various counting, tracking, and coaching apps. And all of these apps are changing our attitude towards different services in the health & fitness, making them more accessible and affordable for everyone.
One of these services is personal training. A service that used to belong to a premium category, not affordable by the general public. But with the introduction of mobile apps that specialize in virtual training, you can train with an instructor whenever and wherever you want to completely free of charge.
Virtual Training Apps Impact On Your Workout Routine
Mobile apps that allow you to “hire” a personal trainer virtually have a clear disruptive effect on the fitness industry as a whole. Although it’s a trend very different from activity trackers, its impact at the individual level may have an even wider reach. And at the industry level it may result in challenging the traditional models of personal training.
Pros of Virtual Training Apps
As touched upon earlier, the main advantage of these fitness apps is the overcoming of barriers of traditional personal training. Applications now offer workouts with video and audio coaching by professional instructors.
And even the ones that are not free only ask for a small fraction of what a personal trainer would normally cost you. So on one hand, these apps make personal training accessible for those who couldn’t afford it perviously.
On the other hand, the usage of the app doesn’t have any time or location constraints. This means that you no longer have to spend time on trying to sync yours and your trainer’s schedules. Or sit an hour in traffic traveling back and forth from the gym. Hence, these applications also make personal training more accessible for the time poor audience.
Besides accessibility, there’s also a positive influence on training frequency and precision. When you have a professional voice to rely on, you’ll feel more confident. This is likely to have a positive impact on your willingness to work out increasing the frequency of training. And when these trainings are video and audio guided, chances are that you’ll nail the exercises better than when you’d on your own.
So overall, the innovation of virtual training apps have resulted in widening the audience for a nontraditional personal training service. Which, taken a step further can lead to more frequent and efficient workouts among everyday people.
Cons Of Virtual Training Apps
An obvious disadvantage for the industry is the undermining of personal training in a traditional sense. When you have a lower cost and more time-effective alternative, you will probably choose that one. And hence, the profession of personal training is likely to suffer as a result.
But before jumping to conclusions, we can still ask whether there are any benefits of real life personal training over virtual training. And the answer is there might be, especially if you’re a newbie in the gym. Because having a video showcasing the right movements doesn’t guarantee that you’ll actually perform the right movements.
So while virtual training apps are likely to improve your workout habits compared to anything DYI, it might result in adopting worse techniques than with real life personal trainers.
But an easy way to overcome this is to pay close attention to your virtual coach and potentially have a more pro workout buddy with you. This way you won’t need to worry that much about messing up.
The Future Of Fitness: Streaming Workout Classes – Bring The Group Workout Home
Ok so those interested in one-on-one sessions can now have on-demand virtual coaching in their own living room. But if you’re more of a group workout fan, you still need to get that pricey gym membership, right? Not at all. Because the Netflix of fitness classes has arrived as well.
Streaming Workout Classes’ Impact On Your Workout Routine
Services like ClassPass Live or Peloton have made it possible to enjoy almost everything that comes with a group workout without having to step outside your home. These virtual workout class services allow you to either join in for a live class or stream on-demand. They revolutionize another aspect of the fitness industry.
Pros of Streaming Workout Classes
Just like virtual personal training, a higher level benefit is making studio workout classes more widely accessible.
The most popular boutique workouts, like SoulCycle and CrossFit, are hitting price ranges that are breaking the bank. Hence, they’re obviously not for a mainstream audience. But with lower costs, streaming allows you to get a piece of the cake even if CrossFit is out of your monthly budget.
In addition to the time and location convenience, another factor that leads to an audience increase is the unlimited capacity of these classes. While booking the class of your favorite Barry’s Bootcamp trainer is like getting tickets for Coachella, Peloton Bootcamp will never sell out.
These streaming services will also increase your training effectiveness and efficiency, as they are instructor-led. But besides this, these virtual group workouts are likely to impact your motivation as well. As a result of being virtually surrounded by people, you’ll push harder than on your own.
Finally, the subscription model of these streaming services might also increase your motivation to train more frequently. Simply because more workouts means lower costs per class, which should sound like a good deal to everyone.
Consequently, streaming group workout classes is another fit-tech trend that is likely to increase the number of people engaging in physical activity. At the individual level, your workout scenery will shift from a fitness studio more towards your living room. And the frequency of your workouts coupled with the efficiency of home workouts will see a rise as a result.
Cons of Streaming Workout Classes
In parallel with virtual training apps, these class streaming services are also bringing workouts to your home at lower costs. In the future this might result in a decline in studio class attendees. Now the prevalence of such effect is probably still lower simply because of two factors.
1) The number and variety of those streaming services that actually match the quality of studio workouts is still limited.
2) Those services that are/are almost available, come with pretty highly priced equipment. For instance, the Peloton Tread will be $3,995 and the Mirror’s reservation price is $1,495. While they are great long-term investments, their up-front costs still turn them into premium category Christmas gifts.
And looking at the actual workout, it is questionable whether a studio workout fanatic can be satisfied with a virtual version of these classes. Yes, it is definitely an alternative option that will fuel your motivation to train better than an individual session. But will you really experience the same vibe and atmosphere as in an in-person group workout?
The Future Of Fitness: Virtual Reality Fitness – Keeping Fitness Fun
Give me anything that screams ‘the future of fitness’ more than having a VR personal training session in your local VR gym. While not too long ago VR sounded more like the after work fun of boojee Silicon Valley software guys, it’s slowly making a move towards a more general fitness audience.
VR Fitness’ Impact On Your Workout Routine
With the roll out of machines like the VirZOOM – a blend of stationary bikes and VR games – and the Icaros flying machine – core & upper body focused VR – to selected gyms, you should expect your workouts to see some more action in the near future.
But what’s going to have an even more interesting effect on our fitness routine is the introduction of entire VR gyms.
Black Box VR, which brings the ‘world’s first virtual reality gym’ to life, is expected to open their first studio this year in San Francisco, CA. With their unique resistance machines and personalized fitness headsets, they promise to deliver the most disruptive full-body workout experience.
Now the question is, how will this influence the fitness industry in the long run?
Pros of VR Fitness
The most obvious impact of VR fitness is adding something back to your workouts that fitness trackers are accused of taking away. Pretty sure you could’ve guessed it by yourself, but this something is fun. Because training your core while flying through space on your Icaros will be a bit more exciting than a set of lame crunches.
This idea of having real fun, not the ‘Oh my God, I had so much fun at SoulCycle yesterday – because I’m pretty sure you didn’t – has some real game changing opportunities.
Firstly, it has the potential to bring a whole new crowed into fitness. Meaning that people who have never worked out a day in their lives because they lack motivation, now might feel encouraged to take the first step.
Secondly, VR fitness also has the power to keep those who’re already physically active motivated in the longer term. Because let’s be honest, doing the same cardio session every morning is not too engaging. Whereas working out in a virtual world while fighting a bunch of aliens to save the planet will probably keep you away from an easy burnout.
These effects at the individual level are expected to have positive benefits for the industry as a whole as well. Since the involvement of a new audience means more clients. And the increased engagement of old members means higher retention rates. At least for those gyms who will put VR on their list of offerings.
Cons of VR Fitness
Next to all the positive changes, there are a few controversial questions that pop to my mind when thinking about VR fitness. There are some basic critiques, like the awkwardness of working out in a headset. Or the immediate motion sickness that’s likely to be caused by VR. But there’re also some more significant and long-term points to consider.
First, this motion sickness may be more serious than we think. According to scientists at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, VR negatively affects how your brain and eyes normally correlate, which might have some long-term effects. However, what these effects exactly are is currently unknown.
But what’s not unknown is that suggested max times spent in VR already exist for a reason. Now when your brain is being tricked and you’re also exposed to intense physical activity at the same time, how does that affect the whole equation?
And another thing to question is the actual efficiency of these VR workouts. Focusing on purely your physical performance is already hard enough. But when you’ll need to divide your attention between VR and the actual reality, will your performance not drop as a consequence?
The Future Of Fitness: High-Tech Equipment – An Entire Built-In Gym
The last big change caused by technology, which is something also fairly new, is how much is actually packed into a single piece of equipment. With the introduction of equipments, like the Tonal with digital weights, live coaching and real-time tracking, the time when stationary bikes were only for cycling will soon become history.
Although we can expect to see some hot price tags – $2,995 for the Tonal – ,considering that it is the real all-inclusive option makes it more reasonable. Because I’m pretty sure that if we add up your annually gym membership, personal trainer, and fitness tracker costs, this number will be outweighed. And we haven’t even touched upon the equipment part yet.
High-Tech Equipments’ Impact On Your Workout Routine
A clear outcome for those who invest in the Tonal-alikes will be moving their workouts from their local fitness studios to their homes. And of course moving towards a more data driven fitness journey.
Pros Of High-Tech Equipments
You will no longer need to write a lengthy shopping lists for building a full-on gym in your living room. A single piece of equipment will provide everything you need for a full body strength workout. Which has positives both on the financial and the actual fitness side of things too.
Focusing on the fitness side, these equipments will ultimately improve your workout routine if you belong to the following group. You don’t have time to go to the gym 5 times a week, but have some time every day to work out at home.
While this would normally mean a quite simple workout with basic equipment, these products will definitely spice things up a bit. You’ll now be able to do a complex workout with professional guidance and accurate tracking. Meaning that you’ll have the chance to have more comprehensive, performance based workouts supported by real-time data.
Since all of this will be within the comfort of your home, you’ll also be encouraged to work out more often than before. So overall forecast is rather sunny with frequent workouts resulting in efficient calorie burning – strength building all over the body.
Cons Of High-Tech Equipments
The cons here are in line with what we’ve seen with the previous trends. Firstly, these equipments will push the data and performance emphasis even further. As discussed earlier, getting fixated on these number can have negative effects, like over-competitiveness and finding no joy in the workouts anymore.
Secondly, the virtual personal trainer aspect raises the question of technique improvement again. Because like it or not, your movements may not always be perfect. And when you’re not doing an exercise in the right way, your efficiency will drop. Which is where in-person coaching of real instructors comes in handy.
Which fit-tech trend do you think will bring us the most significant changes? Tell us in a comment!