Long gone are the days of fitness fanatics getting their fix by just putting their trainers on and going for a run. Modern-day fitness has become entwined with the idea that the latest gadgetry is needed to bolster our health and improve our performance.
Unsuburbia has investigated how technology has become integral to our fitness, and whether it actually helps us achieve better health.
The rise in fitness tech
The market for wearable fitness technology is only on the up. In 2017, around 115m pieces of wearable tech was sold – a 10.3 per cent year-on-year increase – whilst the Fitbit reported it had 25.4m active global users in the final quarter of the same year. Tech giants Apple are also getting in on the action, with 8m Apple watches, which can be used to track health and fitness-related data, shipped from October to December 2017.
“Oh, let me just grab my Fitbit” is now a phrase uttered in the same breath as essentials like your keys, phone and purse or wallet as you leave the house. It’s become second nature to have this connected to us at any moment of movement.
But it isn’t just our bodies this fitness tech is now connected to – its connected to everyone and everything. The Internet of Things (IoT) has reinvented the way we work out. Every data from lift, jump, curl or sprint is now stored through our tech and shared through our devices.
We no longer need to remember what our personal best is when we go on a run or how much we lifted last time out – IoT can help us record all of it through scanning or logging into gym equipment and using sensory technology to track our movements.
This wearable fitness technology even tracks your sleep patterns, offering you records and reports on how to rest easier to improve your health and wellbeing.
But in this age of IoT, this is the sort of information we crave. We want to know how many calories we’ve burnt during a session at the gym or how fast we ran that last mile. Results can be shared on social media to show off to our friends how active we are being. It’s almost an obsession towards performance, ensuring we are continually better ourselves.
Initiatives and incentives to drive the fitness tech revolution
Employers are taking steps to create corporate wellbeing programmes can help bolster their workforce’s fitness and encourage them to become more active. Banking giant Barclays and oil group BP are among the companies to incentivise all their employees with wearable fitness tech. This is part of a much wider workplace trend, with a Willis Tower Watson survey finding that 51 per cent of workers in developed economies, and 71 per cent in emerging economies, use a fitness tracker to manage their health.
Those involved within the health sector are also taking steps to create initiatives and incentives incorporating wearable tech to help promote a healthier lifestyle. Health insurance provider Vitality offers its policyholders an Apple smart watch to help track health and fitness data – but the real hook is on the price. Users will pay a monthly fee for the watch depending on how active they have been. So, if you score 160 active points, you don’t pay a penny for that month for your watch. Imagine that, getting a free smart watch for simply keeping active.
There’s the competitive element of using fitness technology too than can help drive this movement and reliance on wearables to keep us fit. All this data that the IoT is collecting doesn’t just have to be used for our own personal, it goes much further than ourselves. Fitness tech allows users to create virtual partnerships and ‘battle’ it out to see who achieves the best stats over the course of a week – it’s a competitive motivator.
The initiative of pitting yourself against your family, friends and work colleagues in fitness challenges through track firstly your own data, then that of your opponent, through wearables has given fitness tech a huge boost in the arm.
Drones, VR and AR: What’s next?
We are in the era of fitness technology – but the boundaries are set to be seriously pushed in the coming years. The trip to the gym could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to tech innovations that bring a fitness arena to your very own home.
Virtual reality (VR), a concept already being utilised in many industries, will come to the forefront as and when it becomes more accessible in everyday lifestyles, in terms of costs and practicality. For the fitness sector, VR will change the face of it – especially for those looking to target their core strength. Listening to a trainer is a thing of a past, here you’ll play games to keep you fit. These advanced VR systems provide a sensory experience so engrossing you want to get involved, with the fitness aspect almost coming across being incidental.
Artificial intelligence (AI) within wearable fitness tech is already in use, with firms such as Sensoria Fitness providing in-app coaching to improve running routines using performance analytics. It doesn’t just tell you how far or how fast you run, but also how well you run – it’s like having your own personal trainer with you at all times, encouraging, motivating and praising you.
Glasses and headsets which incorporate augmented reality (AR) too will be developed, so those working out can track performance ratings. Work is to be done to create a greater immersive experience, but the technological concept is there. Drones too have a huge mark to make within technology fitness from a tracking and recording to encouraging you through your run or cycle.
Our reliance on fitness technology to keep active and healthy is strong than ever. Yet, studies have found when it comes to helping us get fit and stay fit it isn’t all that. Is it just physiological – the more advanced the tech, the fitter we’ll get – or has tech become a key motivator of the modern-day workout?