Technology is everywhere. We use it to make our lives faster, easier, and more organized. The fitness industry is taking the trends towards more and better technology and literally running with it! Before you tell yourself that wearable tech is all there is, understand that the devices are just the beginning. From home workout systems to studio software packages and virtual reality to smart equipment, no aspect of fitness has gone untouched!
Technology has started to dominate everyday life in developed countries since the advent of the computer chip. The problems science and tech can solve know no bounds. In fitness, there are several factors that have driven the demand for assistive technology.
The past decade has seen some tremendous advancements in technology. The most prominent factors driving the advancements include:
Health insurance costs
The shift towards healthier lifestyles
High-value, low price fitness facilities and training options
The convenience of wearable technology
Let's break these down.
First, a healthy human is less expensive to insure over the life of their insurance policy. Less expensive for your employer and for you—especially when it comes to premiums. For that reason, many health insurance companies are giving kickbacks and incentives to employers and employees in the way of premium discounts for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and making better choices. This includes covering gym memberships and even offering cash back for achieving certain physical or health milestones. Get your body fat percentage under 30%, get $100 cash!
In that same vein, a healthy lifestyle means a longer life. When people eat well and stay active, they live longer, fuller lives. What better way to stay motivated than with the latest heart rate monitor or activity tracker and compete with all your friends and family?
In nearly every major market in the U.S., one can find a health club offering no startup costs and less than $20 a month to be a member. Consumers flock to these facilities in the hopes of getting fit while saving some money. Unfortunately, most people don't attend as often as they would like. The low monthly price prevents cancellations (because who will miss $10 a month from their bank account?) and cool technology-based group fitness classes and offerings can draw people back in and boost health club utilization.
Next, the newest watches and wearables are always in season. With ‘updates' once or more a year and even traditional jewelry companies like Movado jumping into wearable devices, there is a stylish and desirable device for literally everyone. It's also really motivating to see your daily steps or calorie burn right there on your wrist.
Finally, streaming services. Not only are they inexpensive enough that most people subscribe and forget about it, this tech offers the virtual experience of having in-home personal trainers at your fingertips! All styles of workout from high-intensity interval training to yoga to Zumba are offered in this virtual environment.
Now that we've moved beyond the pencil and paper to write down sets, reps, and weight, the gym experience has evolved. Machines that recognize you when you sit on them and count your reps, weight, and effort have been available since the early 2000's.
Hate counting reps when you jump rope? Tangram has you covered! Their SmartRope counts your rep and displays them to you as LED lights as you jump.
Of course, activity trackers have become all the rage since the release of the original FitBit in 2008. It started as a clip-on tracker that monitored steps and has turned into a watch with many functions. Apple, Samsung, WHOOP, and many others now make comparable products each with their own attractive features.
Even headphones have changed. Long gone are the wired Walkman headphones with sponges to cover the speakers. Convenient wireless headphones that link to your phone or wearable device have cut the cord and granted us freedom to move around.
More popular trends range from in-home setups to studio software and even recovery tools.
Any personal trainer who knows their stuff will tell you that stretching and flexibility training is a vital part of any workout. But, why just stretch and foam roll when you can upgrade your experience with a Hyperice vibrating foam roller? The vibrations help to relax tight muscles and fascia faster and more effectively to help you recover better and get back to training sooner.
Or, step up your recovery with a portable muscle stimulator. Related to the traditional tens unit, these devices claim to stimulate blood flow and repair damaged muscle tissue faster than traditional rest and stretch recovery. Power Dot offers a tens unit that operates through your phone!
Giving wearable technology a new look, fitness clothing is also a growing trend. From the Athos compression kits that not only provide compression, but track muscle activity to the Sensoria Smart sock to track your running distance, steps, and speed all while cueing you to your personal best from a mobile app. It's just a matter of time before there is a sensor in underwear and we're sure it'll provide some kind of useful metric!
For those with their own motivations, tracking software, apps, and devices allow you to track everything from workout intensity to heart rate variability on a daily basis. Some trackers, like the WHOOP, are designed to be worn all the time and provide cumulative data that gets more precise the longer you have the device. You have a full-time health monitor that never leaves your side...or your wrist.
Another blossoming technology is the seemingly simple phone app. Most tech runs through an app versus on a computer for ease of access. Some offer training programs, coaching, and resources while other simply track the things you already do for fitness and diet. No matter what they do, they're all designed to motivate.
The home gym has also gotten a face lift. It's no longer a rusty set of Olympic weights and a jump rope in the garage. Technologies like MIRROR and Tonal promise a personal training experience that combines artificial intelligence and pre-recorded content. There's truly no replacement for a real live personal trainer taking your fitness goals to the next level, but for those stuck at home or far from a gym, it could be the next best option. These systems are on demand and have begun to shape other device and subscription home fitness systems like Peloton and BeachBody to shift their tech for flexible and fun home workouts that keep people hooked.
For consumers who are tech savvy and can make it through the set-up process, the assistive technology of high-tech equipment can be beneficial. This tech can be built into resistance and cable machines at the gym, embedded in a rower or treadmill at Orangetheory, or even built right into the walls and floor! The innovative system PRAMA skips the equipment all together and gives an immersive experience using lights, music, and sensors to drive users through a tactile high intensity workout.
The next step beyond a live or on-demand workout may be a jump into virtual reality!
Is there a difference between play and fitness? Play is natural for mammals and is part of maturation and physical and emotional growth. It's no wonder video games, board games, and casinos are such a big part of society! Our brains need the release!
Virtual reality (VR) is a part of the progression of fitness technology. It takes on-demand and live classes to the next level with augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Just like the VR video games that proceeded them, products like the Microsoft Hololens and Black Box Virtual Reality Fitness offer an experience like no other. These systems use the traditional head-mounted display to surround users with their workout in a fun, interactive, and sometimes fantasy setting. Users can enter virtual worlds and compete while they exercise. VR fitness mimics the idea of gameplay for exercise introduced to the public by gaming systems like the Wii. After all, if you can have fun while working out, most people are more likely to stick with it! Immersive VR can be a pricey option starting around $199 a month (the Hololens runs about $3500!), but, for those with the budget, it is a fun, exciting new technology.
The expansion of technology in every aspect of fitness has pushed the field to new heights. The ultimate goal is, of course, wellness and longevity. But connecting people via technology where they would otherwise never connect has been an overarching endgame in incorporating technology into fitness. The power of connecting with others is evident in many fitness apps and programs. Users of apps like MyFitnesspal and Nike + Run can share their workout and progress via social media. They can form groups to motivate and challenge one another like in the Fitbit and WHOOP apps. Fitness professionals can keep a close eye on clients outside of the gym as well.
A trainer can now train clients completely virtually, via live or pre-recorded video, or through an app. There are no more physical distance parameters that limit clients from getting the guidance they need to be successful. A user without a trainer now can be coached and track their workouts and progress in any way they wish and share their progress with others.
The technologies keep improving season after season. Advancements in sleep and recovery are becoming a focus in fitness almost as much as the workouts themselves. A lot goes into a healthy lifestyle. Tracking, logging, and being held accountable is a key factor for long-term success for most people. A gym that wants to survive into the next 10 years and beyond will incorporate equipment that pairs with the wearable technology consumers already have as well as new, engaging tech for their facilities. The competitive advantage in a market loaded with options will come with a balance of tech and the personal experience provided by certified fitness professionals and staff.
If you love fitness, are crazy for technology, and are looking to take your career to new heights, get certified TODAY! The sooner you dive in, the sooner you will be building a business that's fun, financially beneficial, and rewarding.
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