It’s that time of year again – we’ve piled on a few extra pounds thanks to Christmas turkey and a week or so of lazing around and generally taking it easy. Thoughts inevitably start to turn towards fixing some of the damage and, particularly for the geeks among us, how technology might be able to help us to do it.
Health and fitness technology is big business – the market for fitness tracker devices alone is forecast to come close to $100 billion by the end of 2025. All of the big mobile device manufacturers are competing for a slice of the pie, and at the same time, a new market has emerged for in-home fitness technology thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns. Here’s my overview of what will be the most important tech trends in this area over the next 12 months.
Health and Fitness in the Metaverse
What is the metaverse? Well, the jury’s still out – it might be a load of over-hyped nonsense or it might be the future of the internet! In a few years' time, we should know for sure, but in the meantime, many of the constituent technologies that metaverse advocates say will make up the new, more immersive, and experiential online world are becoming firmly embedded in everyday life.
Take virtual and augmented reality, for example. Both of these are forecast to play a key part in the emergence of the metaverse, and are also proving popular with technology-minded health and fitness fans. Many different workout programs can already be delivered via VR headsets, covering cardio fitness and strength training. Popular examples include the FitXR app, which provides guided high-intensity interval training sessions. You can also take part in simulated, immersive golf, boxing, fencing, and many other sporting activities, all of which gamify the workout experience in order to keep users active and engaged.
Wearables becoming more sophisticated and powerful
Fitness trackers such as the Fitbit wristbands, as well as smartwatches like Apple, Pixel, and Samsung models with inbuilt fitness tracking capabilities, have been with us for a while. Over the next year, we will see them continue to become more sophisticated, with more powerful and flexible sensors capable of monitoring and giving us AI-enhanced feedback on our daily routine. In recent years, we have seen manufacturers add ECG scanners that can measure electrical signals in the heart in order to provide early warning against potentially life-threatening conditions such as atrial fibrillation. Another recent development is Sp02 monitoring, which can warn against conditions affecting the functioning of the lungs, including Covid-19.
With research showing that one in five Americans now wears a fitness tracker or smartwatch with health monitoring capabilities, we are now capturing and analyzing more health data than ever before. In 2013, this flood of information will assist in developing new techniques for spotting health issues and understanding how our bodies are affected by our daily activities and the world around us. This will lead to the development of new treatments and therapies that ultimately will contribute to better health and fitness for everyone.
App-based home workout classes
The pandemic forced gyms to close and left many of us confined to our homes. Although restrictions have lifted in many parts of the world, it seems like we developed a taste for at-home workouts delivered via apps. The cost-of-living crisis affecting many parts of the world is also likely to be an influencing factor here, as costly gym memberships are frequently one of the first expenses that people look to cut in order to reduce spending.
In recent years, we have seen the development of more powerful and sophisticated features – such as the Artifit AI-powered personal trainer app that uses computer vision via your smartphone camera to give real-time feedback on form and posture.
We are also likely to see more traditional health and fitness-focused organizations jump on board the AI-powered app trend – another example is WW (formerly Weight Watchers) which has created its own app-based ecosystem that uses AI to monitor diet and activity metrics, including movement and sleep patterns.
As lives become busier and more people find themselves working longer hours or taking on multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, apps and home-based workouts make it easier to squeeze workouts into our hectic daily routine where a trip to the gym might not be possible.
Smart home gyms
Another trend driven by the Covid-19 pandemic has seen home gym equipment evolve to become part of the internet-of-things (IoT), meaning we can now have home gyms packed with smart, connected versions of exercise bikes, treadmills, and other fitness equipment.
Peloton is undoubtedly the best-known name in this game – buying its equipment and subscribing to its services gives users a chance to take part in live classes featuring real-time interactions with other users as well as trainers. You also get the chance to compete for positions on the leaderboard, adding a level of gamification.
Peloton may have paved the way for smart home fitness hardware, but other players are emerging hot on its heels, keen to also become household names during 2023. JaxJox creates smart kettlebells and dumbbells that allow you to alter their weight with the touch of a button, while TheTrainer+ from Vitrivian offers a “gym on a platform” that includes a whole set of weight training and resistance exercises using one connected platform.
Despite the fact that many of us are now able to access gyms and outdoor training opportunities, it seems that the convenience and accessibility of working out at home are hard to beat. This is why I think that smart home gyms and fitness equipment will continue to be a strong trend throughout 2023.
Don’t forget mental health too!
Often overlooked, but there's one lesson that we need to learn in order to cope with the tough times ahead of us, it’s the importance of looking after our mental health.
Headspace and Calm are two well-known apps that aim to encourage mindfulness and reduce stress as a tech-driven answer to the challenges of the modern world. Both have seen their user numbers increase in recent years, and I predict this will continue into the next year.
Just as we see home workout apps and smart gym equipment dedicated to improving physical fitness, we can also expect a surge in similar products and services focused on yoga, individual therapies, mindfulness, and de-stressing.