This time of year, many of us are thinking about starting out on a positive note when it comes to health, fitness, and wellbeing. And technology fans are in luck, as there are more ways than ever to scratch the fitness itch while also getting our fix of the latest gadgets and devices.
Where lockdowns may have limited our ability to get to the gym, or in some cases even out of our houses, in 2020 and 2021, an abundance of at-home exercise solutions appeared. These will still be very present in 2022. However, other devices and trends are aimed squarely at those who are excited about getting out in the open air again.
Fitness technology is always an exciting area, with everyone from giants such as Google and Apple to any number of innovative startups constantly finding new ways to collect and interpret data to help us hit goals and improve our health. So here’s a rundown of what’s on the cards in 2022:
Meditation and mindfulness technology
Disruption to our way of life, school closures, large-scale shifts toward working from home, and general anxiety have led to four in 10 US adults worrying about their mental health since the start of the pandemic in 2020. This has led to an increase in interest in relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness and a surge in technology-based solutions. More than three million people are said to use meditation apps daily, and popular health platforms, including Fitbit, now include functionality designed to help track and improve stress and other mental health factors. Apple is said to be working on including features that will help to detect and diagnose conditions including depression and anxiety using its Apple Health platform, as well as the capability to detect cognitive decline, which could act as an early warning for the onset of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The wearable revolution has helped countless people take control of their physical fitness, and 2022 could be the year where we see its impact in mental healthcare too.
Workplace wellness technology
Technology solutions designed to monitor wellness in the workplace will come to the fore during 2022 as employers become more aware of the importance of encouraging fitness and wellness among their staff. We can expect to see tech being deployed by more employers – particularly larger ones – in order to gamify health activities such as gym attendance or taking desk breaks for gentle physical activity. Platforms such as Gympass combine fitness apps with gym memberships and classes, so employers can offer a choice of programs to their staff. This allows them to choose solutions that fit their specific requirements. Other apps like Zevo Health are designed to work with teams that are either office-based or working from home and integrate with wearables and fitness platforms they are already using to integrate their workplace wellbeing programs with their overall fitness regimes.
AI personal trainers
Anyone can benefit from a personal trainer – a fitness professional giving us personal attention and a personalized plan to fight the flab and increase overall fitness. Unfortunately, they don't come cheap. Luckily, personalization is a task where artificial intelligence excels, which has led to the development and release of a number of AI-powered personal trainer applications. Apps like Artifit use AI techniques like computer vision, where cameras track body movements during exercise and then offer real-time user feedback on their posture and technique. You can also use augmented reality (AR) to get visual overlays on top of video recordings of your workout, showing you where you are going wrong and how you can improve. Mirror is an AR and computer-vision-equipped mirror that offers personalized fitness advice and coaching as you watch yourself exercise in the reflection. AI has huge potential when it comes to developing personalized workout routines, as it is able to accurately predict safe and optimal workout schedules taking into account age, fitness levels, and body mass. Take Weight Watchers, for example – now rebranded as simply WW – which offers its own machine learning-powered personalized wellness programs that take into account users' diet as well as physical activity and sleep.
Better and smarter wearables
Wearables are one of the most important health and fitness tech trends due to their ability to let anyone easily collect and monitor their own health and performance data. This year we will see the first physical fruits of Google’s acquisition of wearable pioneer Fitbit – a deal which Google has been keen to point out is about "devices, not data." This means we could see the first Fitbit devices running on Android software instead of Fitbit's dedicated (and somewhat flaky!) OS. Blood oxygen (Sp02) monitors are a common addition to several lines of wearable fitness devices this year – as the metric is recognized as a useful indicator of whether a body is fighting a viral infection. And for people who don’t like wearing watches, smart fitness tech is appearing in an ever wider range of devices, such as rings and earbuds.
Better and smarter home fitness technology
With Covid-19 still very much a concern, many of us will continue to forgo public gyms in favor of at-home workouts, at least for the early half of 2022. The craze for home fitness technology saw some manufacturers such as Peloton do extremely well during the pandemic, and if CES 2022 was anything to go by, that trend shows no sign of slowing down. A number of competitors have emerged to Peloton’s gamified exercise bikes, including the SoulCycle At-Home, which has the unique selling point that the rider is encouraged to synchronize their cycling workout with the sound of music. If you prefer running to cycling, NordicTrack and Echelon are among the manufacturers that have created a range of smart treadmills, combining on-demand as well as live-streamed fitness classes. The addition of touchscreens, network connectivity and interactive streaming functions has transformed the home exercise equipment of 2022 from simple mechanical devices constructed from steel frames, weights, and pulleys into sophisticated, smart, and connected technology pieces.