If one thing is true of both life and industry, it’s that change is inevitable. This fact couldn’t be truer when observing the fitness industry. One could argue that peoples’ need for physical fitness hasn’t changed much, however the approach to fitness is changing at a lightning pace. The fitness industry is leaning heavily towards technology, and those who stand to profit most from these changing tides are those embracing the cutting edge of fitness innovation.
Let’s discuss some of the exercise technologies revolutionizing the fitness industry.
AI Fitness Apps
You wouldn’t have to look far to see how much artificial intelligence has re-shaped the landscape of our daily lives or the market.
With ChatGPT rising to claim the current title of the fastest growing consumer product in history, companies have scrambled to incorporate AI into the framework of their businesses. If you were to look up “Fitness AI apps”, there’d be no shortage of options including Freeletics, AI Gym, and FitnessAI. This likely isn’t slowing down with one estimate putting the global digital fitness industry at $26.5 billion by 2026 (1).
FitnessAI has expressed its interest in incorporating an AI chatbot in the coming months that utilizes deep AI learning. This is all to understand user preferences, offer feedback on specific workouts, and answer hot-topic questions about nutrition and form.
One of the great hurdles of AI fitness apps up to this point has been their ability to interpret and navigate the nuances of training. This to some extent is why personal trainers and fitness professionals still have the edge over the rising tech market. They have a deeper understanding of the forces that affect clients in any given workout like fatigue, recovery, physical imbalances, etc. and know how to craft programs to fit the clientele’s needs.
However, several companies are bridging the gap between AI’s understanding of training variables through the use of equations. For example, the company EvolveAI has pooled their knowledge to create the Constrained Training Stress Hypothesis. Once applied to AI, it will give users the power to choose how they approach training volume (reps, sets, RPE, etc.) without losing the benefits of the intended training goal (strength, hypertrophy, endurance).
On the surface small details like this may seem insignificant, but this algorithmic approach to fitness is taking AI one step closer to peak efficiency and is one of the ways exercise technologies revolutionizing the fitness industry. It’s also making apps like these much more marketable in other subcategories such as nutrition and recovery- essentially serving as an all-in-one health provider.
Though years in, the digital fitness industry is still in an infantile stage. However, if its growth and development mirrors AI as a whole, it’s not hard to see how fitness AI will in time revolutionize the fitness industry.
Smart Home Fitness Equipment
The late 2010’s was the birth of an era for at-home exercise equipment. The culture began trending in a health-conscious direction, and as fate would have it- technology was moving in beat to accommodate it.
The technology was able to accomplish a few things in step with the evolution of fitness:
-technology in vital tracking improved, offering more useful data for daily living (steps, sleep, etc) and for physical fitness (heart rate, fatigue, etc.)
-artificial learning and computing grew faster and more compact, making the medium perfect for the intense pace and space requirements for home fitness.
If this equipment seemed on the rise before 2020, the pandemic sent its demand on a rocket-ship to the moon. At neck-breaking speeds millions all over the world adapted over to the need to maintain their fitness levels from home. In a GoodFirm survey of over 400 people including fitness professionals and enthusiasts, 41% purchased suitable home gym equipment during the pandemic and as many as 56% claim they still workout at home (2).
Home gym equipment sales soared 170% along with a 17.1% increase in virtual fitness subscription and on demand fitness content. Certain companies zeroed in on each group individually, but the real winners combined the two attributes.
Now we have the rise of smart home gyms; compact, efficient, intense, and interactive pieces of equipment that are reshaping what’s possible with fitness at home.
One of the best examples would be the company Tonal. Since its founding in 2015, Tonal Systems has been a front runner of the smart gym revolution. With compact pulley design, minimal, sophisticated aesthetic, and deep commitment to users’ virtual experience, it’s become the standard for the home fitness lifestyle.
With the introduction of Tonal Live, the company has also doubled down on user engagement, filling the growing demand for interaction with virtual trainers. Their product introduced scheduled and on-demand workouts, social zones where members can interact with one another, and pacing cues and shout-outs made by coaches in real time.
Other companies quickly followed suit, re-defining the home workout experience to a level once only reserved for gym settings. In 2020 Jon Gregory, the founder of smart gym Vitruvian leveraged his experience in applied physics to create his AI-enabled device. The Vitruvian utilizes over 440lbs of adaptive weight efficiently store in its sleek mobile base. With the combination of AI digital resistance and various pulley attachments, the intensity level of a gym workout is now possible from the comforts of home.
This experience isn’t exclusive to resistance training either. In every form of fitness, innovations in technology and design are making gym worthy workouts accessible from home. Peleton was one of the big winners coming out of the pandemic, but brands like NordicTrack and Hydrow offer smart technology to home cardio training.
As more companies compete for opportunities in the home gym industry, the technologies driving this growth will revolutionize the way we approach fitness.
The fitness industry isn’t new to the VR frontier, however in recent years, it’s made undeniable improvements that will change the fitness landscape forever. The market has been reached the near perfect intersection of technological advancement, modern convenience, and demand that can make the use of fitness VR both lucrative and effective.
No matter how immersed you are in fitness culture, there’s one thing we’re all aware of and that is most people don’t stick with a workout regimen. We’ve all experienced lapses in our fitness journeys, and this is a problem many fitness brands are trying to solve.
One of the glaring features of fitness is its physical discomfort. To be truly present in a workout (whether at a gym, outside, or at home) is to be acutely aware of your physical discomfort associated and “powering through it” anyway. This isn’t most peoples’ cup of tea, which is one of the reasons lapses in training exist.
Many companies interested in fitness VR are combining the stimulating qualities of gaming and physical fitness to create a consistent training experience. And they’re getting better at it.
WalkOVR has crafted a network of sensors that attach to your knees, ankles, and torso to record lower body movement, making it possible to run in virtual environments while staying put in reality. The product was designed with fitness in mind but is also compatible with games that are not necessarily fitness related.
VirZOOM’s “VZfit Sensor Kit” attaches to any ordinary stationary bike and turns it in a VR cycling experience. In its multiple settings, the cyclist can bike through real destinations or fly on a Pegasus through distant canyons.
Virtual Reality for Health and Wellness
As virtual reality continues to expand, its applications for fitness are also becoming well-rounded, not only strengthening bodies but healing them as well. VR is invading the landscape of therapy. Companies like ICAROS are developing gamified full body workout and rehabilitation equipment designed to turn patients into athletes.
As data collection, machine learning, and intelligent feedback improves VR soon, there are no limits to how much it will also improve the fitness and wellness industries.
We can’t speak on the rise of fitness technology with recognizing the growth of recovery technology as well. They are two sides to the same coin. The goal of moving more efficiently through physical activity is always followed by the necessity to heal properly through rest and recovery. The fitness industry is taking full advantage of this fact by introducing cutting edge technology to aid athletes in better recovery.
The beauty of the fitness recovery market is variety of stress relief methods and the equipment used to achieve it. Think about offerings of certain fitness and wellness facilities such as saunas, massage services, hyperbaric chambers, yoga, and much more. These restorative services resonate deeply with the sentiments of an increasingly modern, fitness conscious culture- and people are willing to pay for it. With the advent of technology these luxuries are more effective, accessible, and varied in price and form than ever before.
Recovery trackers like Whoop bands offer the most compact and mobile benefits of recuperative technology.
Originally designed with athletes and fitness enthusiasts in mind but now used by regular fitness fans, it empowers wearers with data to balance both recovery and daily activities. While it doesn’t actively alleviate the body, the information it provides helps circumvent unnecessary fatigue by preventing overtraining and promoting more efficient training practices.
The tracker actively measures sleep, strain, and recovery, creating a recovery score every morning that informs users how much strain (exercise) is necessary to take on for peak performance.
In addition to preemptive products like recovery trackers, the market is heavily embracing muscle recovery equipment in the form of compression technology. Brands such as Game Ready, Rapid Rebbot, and Normatec have created products that harness dynamic air compression to improve circulation, reduce lactic acid build-up, and relieve pain to entire muscle groups (specifically the lower body).
Other titans of the industry like Therabody are perfecting their craft in percussive messaging. Recently they’ve even added smart goggles to their inventory that reduces stress and improves sleep with heated eye massages.
While the market for portable recovery options is looking increasingly favorable, larger recovery units are becoming just as attractive and more accessible to the public. Two decades ago, you’d have to travel a way to enjoy the luxury of a sauna. A decade ago, you’d likely be hard pressed to find a hyperbaric chamber anywhere near you. However, tech has folded the world in on itself to offer luxury and effective recovery from the comforts of home.
Companies like Shallow to Sea have created spacious, mobile hyperbaric chambers with high efficiency air pumps and sound suppression systems to provide concentrated oxygen to injured organs or tissue.
Golden Design is breaking barriers of both affordability and space, offering compact Canadian-hemlock infrared saunas with quality that match even the most luxurious sports clubs.
The growth of fitness technologies in recent years has been a story of imagination and profitable possibilities. And there is still a lot more to its evolution on the horizon. The growing interconnectedness of devices and our cultures emphasis on holistic well-being will not only make exercise more effective and efficient, but also revolutionize society’s approach to preventative healthcare and proactive health management.