Elevating fitness with the help of technology
Brendan Rolfe, CPHR, BA, DipA
Twenty years ago, if you would have taken me on a virtual tour of the gyms of today at rush-hour, I would’ve laughed at you. From TV sets on every machine and wall to weekend warriors strapped up with heart rate monitors and pulse oximeters, these recent tech advancements are a far cry from the days of leotards and ankle warmers. Like it or not, fitness technology has shaped our gym ecosystems in a significant way, and you can bet it will continue to be a powerful architect.
The gym ecosystem, or gymcosystem (I’m test-driving the term), is the total experience a gym-goer is exposed to when at a fitness facility; it can be boiled down to a combination of: the facility and equipment you interact with, the services you receive, and the relationships you build.
Unsurprisingly, the gymcosystem (is it growing on you yet?) can play a major role in an individual’s attitudes surrounding health and fitness. Technology has transformed the gym from a place to simply get your sweat on, to a data-heavy, entertainment experience, through the introduction of things like smart equipment, portable fitness tracking tools, and virtual coaching options.
The technology avalanche, or “technolanche” (I ain’t no quitter), has created a tale of two gyms, so to speak. While technology can simplify fitness routines through automated guidance and customizable workouts, it can also be intimidating for individuals who are not tech-savvy (this guy). So what’s the solution? For some, it may be education on how to use the tech, for others, it may be avoiding it altogether.
Striking a balance between staying on the cutting edge of tech, without alienating skeptics like me, remains a challenge for any fitness facility.
Fitness tech has made an inarguably positive impact on accessibility for those with disabilities, those recovering from injury, and those looking to speed up their recovery between workouts. To combat inflammation and muscle soreness, tools like compression garments, massage devices, and cryotherapy have all shown effectiveness of varying degrees, prompting faster healing and reducing the risk of injuries.
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are more at risk of adverse health effects due to physical inactivity, due in part to a lack of resources or necessary equipment in local gyms. The usage of virtual reality exercise games is an example of tech intervention that can support these individuals’ health and fitness.
Technologically speaking, in the next 20 years, gyms will most likely settle somewhere between a holographic AI Suzanne Somers teaching an inner thighs of steal class and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But if gym owners want to continue to grow their membership, they should integrate tech in an immersive, fun, and inclusive manner.
· Virtual or augmented/altered reality (VR/AR) workouts are a fabulous option for anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to go to a gym. These workouts range from playing sports with the pros to taking a relaxing yoga class, all from the comfort of your own home, while still reaping the health benefits!
· Biohacking, in a broad manner, refers to tracking and using data from our bodies to improve our health and fitness by altering our biology. In recent years, it has grown to include embedding technologies in one’s body and even engineering one’s own genes.
Gamification of fitness is exactly what is sounds like. The science (and common sense) behind it is sound; if you make an activity fun, people are more likely to enjoy and continue doing it. Examples of gamification include any VR sport or video games where you dance for points. After being rewarded with points, you can use them towards future fitness game purchases. The idea behind this is: exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Gamification is motivating, behavior shaping, and fun for all ages.