Given that the world has spent the last two years in and out of lockdowns (due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), it’s no surprise to learn that technology is increasingly cementing its place within people’s fitness routines.
Consumers are now exercising at home and spending on “high-tech” fitness technology solutions more than ever.
And most important of all? Surveys show that they don’t plan on stopping their use of “smart” fitness—even after the pandemic abates. Imaginably, this sentiment brings about serious implications for you as a fitness professional.
Understanding this seismic shift in the fitness industry will be critical to better positioning yourself for maximum marketability with clients. After all, you don’t want to be the trainer who goes, “Pelo- what?” when a client seeks your opinion on it.
Below, discover the latest innovative fitness devices and tools you need to know about.
To say that wearable tech has exploded in popularity is an understatement. According to Fortune Business Insights, the market is projected to grow from USD 36.34 billion (in 2020) to USD 114.36 billion in 2028.
But what’s up with this surge in consumer demand?
It’s mainly due to the pandemic, as it highlighted the importance of health for many consumers—in turn, leading them to seek out ways they could monitor various health-related parameters (e.g., steps covered, calories burned, heart rate).
That said, it’s worth noting that the features mentioned above are the “bare minimum” of what you could expect of a fitness wearable.
Features Worth Highlighting in the Wearables Industry
Technological advancements have made the following innovations possible in the field:
- Heart health: Today’s fitness trackers (more specifically, smartwatches) are now capable of taking an electrocardiogram (ECG), a recording of the heart’s electric rhythm. At its core, this function aims to detect atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heart rhythm, which affects up to six million Americans—and leads to 150,000 deaths a year. It’s hypothesized that early detections could help save lives.
- Blood pressure: Although Samsung’s Galaxy Watch can measure a user’s blood pressure, this feature isn’t available in the United States yet, as the company is still awaiting Food and Drug Administration clearance. That said, several smartwatch companies (e.g., Apple and Fitbit) have started experimenting with blood pressure tech, and it’s likely just a matter of time before the feature is widely available to consumers.
- Blood oxygen level: Demand for pulse oximeters (a device used to measure the oxygen saturation of the blood) spiked in the early days of the pandemic as people rushed to monitor themselves, or their loved ones, for COVID-19. And smartwatch companies responded. Today, blood oxygen monitoring is a common feature in numerous smartwatches.
- Sleep monitoring: Many fitness wearables, including “smart rings” and smartwatches, now come complete with sleep tracking, boasting in-depth data collection that calculates how long a user spent in each stage of sleep (i.e., deep, REM, and light) plus any periods awake.
- Body composition statistics: Interestingly, Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch 4 is the only smartwatch that could help users calculate their body fat percentage and muscle mass (a feature that’ll likely interest your client). That said, there are certain “smart” straps compatible with smartwatches, essentially “adding” body composition tracking to the latter’s features. A good example of this is the Aura Strap.
Space-Saving Exercise Equipment
People’s homes are becoming their fitness centers of choice. But there’s one major problem: space. Put a squat rack in the middle of the living room, and there’s not much space left for navigation around the area.
Luckily, a space-saving home gym equipment market has popped up to meet demand. The following inventions make it possible for fitness enthusiasts to get in a strength training session with minimal space (without cluttering their homes with rows of dumbbells or stacks of weight plates):
- Compact home gyms: One of the best examples would be the “Bowflex Home Gym Series PR1000,” which works on a cable pulley system and comes complete with a bench that folds up when not in use. It promises more than twenty-five exercises that’ll hit every part of the body (e.g., lat pulldowns, cable seated rows, lateral raises). Basically, any exercise you’d typically do at the cable machine in the gym.
- “Smart” cable machines: Look closely at the Bowflex Home Gym Series PR1000, and you’ll realize that it suffers from a glaring shortfall; it doesn’t offer a user the flexibility of training their lower body. That’s where “smart” cable machines come in. Examples include the Vitruvian V-Form Trainer and the kBox4 Pro (by Exxentric). Both devices make use of a motorized resistance system capable of providing a pull of 180 kg, which is plenty for your client’s progressive overload needs.
“Smart” Home Exercise Equipment
If space-saving equipment isn’t impressive enough for you … how about those also smart-tech-enabled? Here are two examples:
“Adjustable” Kettlebells and Dumbbells
When it comes to kettlebells and dumbbells, the biggest beef is that they take up too much space. But, as you can imagine, while a pair of 5 kg dumbbells may be sufficient to challenge your client on lateral raises, they won’t be enough in the context of goblet squats.
Well, that’s where “stackable” kettlebells and dumbbells come in to save the day.
Take the Jarjox Kettlebell Connect 2.0, for instance. At first glance, it’s no different from a typical kettlebell you’d find in the gym—but lift it, and you’ll see that it consists of a plastic shell that houses five interlocking weight plates inside.
The shell weighs about 12 pounds, and each plate adds 6 pounds to the setup. That gives you 42 pounds in total.
Oh, and ready for the cherry on top? Thanks to its sensors, the smart kettlebell also enables users to track their training performance (e.g., reps, sets, average power, and total weight).
Digital Jump Ropes
There’s a reason why the jump rope remains so popular amongst fitness enthusiasts.
In addition to burning serious calories, it can also improve coordination and build muscle mass. Bonus: The jump rope is incredibly portable, which means your client could get in their workout quite literally anywhere they wish.
But wait. Why are we talking about jump ropes in an article discussing innovative fitness devices and tools?
Well, as it turns out, skipping rope has also gone smart. And one of the most well-known examples is the Tangram Smart Jump Rope Rookie. This smart jump rope automatically powers on when the user starts to swing it and comes fitted with magnetic sensors in the handles that detect complete revolutions of the rope.
It can thus keep track of the user’s daily rope count, calories, time, and goal achievement in real-time. Talk about impressive. Oh, and of course, Tangram’s smart jump rope isn’t the only option out there. There are plenty of alternatives available in the market (especially on Amazon).
Interactive, Immersive Home Gyms
Ready to take the term “smart tech” up another level? Then consider the following AI-enabled machines that offer real-time, immersive fitness experiences and adapt to a user’s fitness gains. There are three main categories to explore.
“Mirror” Home Gym Studios
Here’s the short on how smart fitness mirrors work: A user sets up what looks like a regular, full-length mirror in their home (e.g., in the living room), leaving enough space to move freely.
The user then turns on the mirror to access a fitness trainer—usually live-broadcasted—who can see their movements and provide feedback. If it makes things easier, you can think of these mirror home gym studios as streamlined, high-quality fitness studios that offer plenty of on-demand exercise options ranging from resistance training to yoga to cardio.
Amongst the three, Tonal is the best choice for those serious about strength training because it comes with adjustable arms with cables inside. This contrasts with the other two options, where a user would need to bust out their own weights (e.g., dumbbells or kettlebells) in instances where the need calls for it.
A smart exercise bike offers unparalleled interactivity, allowing a user to attend virtual rides with others in real-time, gather performance data (e.g., calories burned, distance covered, and heart rate), and even enjoy a riding experience that simulates real-life conditions (e.g., going up and down hills).
And while Peloton is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to smart indoor cycling, the truth is that it doesn’t necessarily offer the best riding or user experience.
Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives in the market that may prove worthier of their price tags. For example:
- Bowflex Velocore: The whole bike chassis can unlock to swing left and right, making the biking experience much more realistic when a user is up in the saddle and pedaling hard.
- NordicTrack s15i: Uses a mechanical shaft to simulate the inclines and declines of actual bike riding so that when a user is pedaling a virtual hill, well, it feels more like a hill.
- Bowflex C6: For anyone who isn’t interested in paying additional subscription fees for classes, this is a great option; it’s able to pair via Bluetooth with a variety of different exercise apps, which means a user wouldn’t be locking themselves into a single “ecosystem.”
Like AI-enabled indoor spinning bikes, smart rowing machines typically utilize a giant onboard screen to display a library of interactive workouts.
These workouts include on-demand routines, open swim-style free rows, whole-body specific workouts, and even live classes.
Better still: Certain rowing machines, like the Ergatta Connected Rower, are also known to push out a series of game-inspired routines, delivering a more engaging experience by pitting users against other “live” users in simulated races.
Virtual Reality Fitness
But, of course, nothing beats virtual reality fitness when it comes to gamified exercise.
First, a little context: Virtual reality fitness (also called VR fitness) uses technology to immerse users into a new, virtual workout environment. The user’s body pretty much becomes the controller; if the avatar needs to clear hurdles on the “running track,” the user will be doing that in real life too.
So, one of the most obvious advantages associated with VR fitness? It makes working up a sweat fun. And when something is fun, it becomes sustainable.
But what about the equipment?
Thankfully, VR fitness is relatively affordable compared to many of the smart home fitness equipment already mentioned. The headset responsible for “transporting” a user into the virtual reality environment costs anywhere from $299 to $499 (the Oculus headset and the HTC Vive, respectively), and the fitness games are bought separately at about $20 to $30 apiece.
Adapting to These Trends as a Fitness Professional
With so many options available in the market, consumers are spoiled for choice when looking to satisfy their exercise needs. Now, here comes the important question: Does this mean that you—the personal trainer—are at risk of losing your job?
Fortunately, that isn’t likely to happen.
Many of these fitness devices act as complementary tools rather than replacements for in-person coaching. The personal relationship, hands-on guidance, and empathetic approach involved in coaching are challenging to replicate with tools.
What’s most important for you is to understand how these tools work—and how you could guide a client into integrating them into their daily lives for a more sustainable approach to fitness so that they could keep at it for the long term (and achieve their fitness goals).