The future of fitness: How technology is changing the way we work out


Convincing yourself to go to the gym can feel like a mental workout all on its own – but, data-rich devices and a new ‘immersive fitness’ trend could change the way we approach exercise.

If you’ve ever struggled to the gym, or put off getting fit and losing that vital half stone until some ill-defined later date, then let’s take an exciting leap forward into the future of fitness. Data-rich devices, and so-called “immersive fitness”, are starting to make once dull workouts fun and more motivating than ever before.

Picture this: you’re going for the burn up a hill trail in the stunningly picturesque Cormet de Roseland in the French Alps; the breeze is whipping your side while you smell mountain fresh air. Your senses are alive and you feel energised and, quite literally, on top of the world. You sense the competition hot on your heels as you rev up your speed for the final climb. It’s a tough ascent but you can do it; you have every faith in yourself. You manage to dig deep and give everything you have. Your instructor shouts motivating words as you see the end in sight. You make it over the finish line, feeling triumphant, and like you’ve just had the best workout ever. You remove your Virtual Reality (VR) glasses and start to cycle more slowly before coming to a stop for a very welcome warm down. Welcome to the world of future fitness and it promises to be a whole lot more fun than ever before.

Like many people nowadays, my fitness regime is multifaceted, combining daily dog walks, outdoor jogs, use of a home gym, and membership of a health club (Bannatyne Health Club). I have been using a fitness tracker (Fitbit) to track my efforts for several months; it monitors my heart rate and the number of ‘steps’ I take a day. This has averaged at around 16,000 steps a day, which amounts to about 6 miles. It can be a workout, walk on a treadmill or run in the park. If you want, you can also record and review your food and your weight. Niftily, if you’ve got an Amazon Alexa enabled device, you can also ask “Alexa how my steps have I done today?”

As an interesting digression, the number of recommended steps is 10,000, but, according to the latest NHS statistics, most people only do around 3,000 steps a day. That’s an average, and it’s likely that there are peaks and troughs throughout the year with the dark winter months ruled by a period of intense inactivity. Come darkest November, most people can be found binging on box sets, after all.

So, what can the future of fitness offer? In short: excitement, and an adventure combined with convenience, which could be the cure for a serious sofa surfing habit.

Health clubs like Bannatynes have started to adopt data crunching too. The MyZone app records workouts both in the club and outside and even displays people’s’ heart rates and progress on the big screen as they go for the burn in a spin class or body combat, for example. Things are starting to a whole lot more fun, and competitive. You’re encouraged to race against the person next to you, buoyed along by the helpful on screen data, the pacey music, the instructor’s motivating yells, and the dancing disco lighting. It’s all designed to put you firmly “in the zone”. Elsewhere, a line of rowing machines has a console that allows users to “race” against each other. The humble treadmill that has its origins as an instrument of punishment in the early 1800s to cure prisoners of their idleness is now a multimedia device. You can view your workout progress for the week, your heart rate, watch your favourite TV show, compete against others using the MyZone app, and even visit a virtual cycle route!

The health club has also adopted virtual classes by Les Mills, a global fitness giant from New Zealand and the creator of “immersive fitness” as the future of fitness. Les Mills opened their first permanent “immersive fitness” studio at 24-Hour Fitness in Santa Monica, CA. Les Mills’ “The Trip” class and studio is an experience that projects video and light shows (mostly shortwave colours, like blue, violet, and green) onto a screen at the front of the room, while instructors run the spin class, which synched to the music and graphics. It takes the participant through amazing virtual worlds including computerised landscapes and futuristic cityscapes. “Every sector is embracing new and interactive technology and the health and fitness industry is no different. As a company, we are investing to stay ahead of industry trends, and help members fulfil their fitness goals in a stimulating and fun environment,” says Justin Musgrove, chief executive of the Bannatyne Group.

“From virtual classes, MyZone which tracks members’ fitness and links to our app, through to our latest innovation the B:360 wristbands, which enable members to access the health club facilities, use the lockers, engage with MyWellness and enjoy the simplicity of contactless payment, the future has arrived and its revolutionising the health club experience.”

Getting fit will become a lot more about the individual and convenience. “Gym booths” with exercise machines may even start to appear on the high street, so that busy commuters can pop in on the way to work…

The future of fitness is all about immersion in another world away from the hassle of the day and of mundane reality. No longer will you be a fitness newbie or weekend warrior, but you’ll be able to become “Chris Boardman” on a racing track, or a super-charged bionic being in a virtual cityscape. I, for one, can’t wait!


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