COVID-19 and the Fitness Tech Wave


Virtual fitness is on the rise. Thanks to the lockdowns and social distancing of the last year, gyms have been closed, and many people have had to shift to virtual fitness for their daily workouts. As a result, technology is increasingly finding a permanent place within people’s fitness routines. 

Over the past few years, there has also been a considerable shift in consumer mindsets: gym-goers are more curious than ever before to know more about their overall wellness, which encompasses everything from working out and eating right to mindfulness and sleep quality. 

This post explores how these two variables have come together to create a new virtual fitness movement, and how our fitness equipment is evolving in response.  

Home Gym Equipment

The rise of home workouts in 2020 created a large increase in home gym equipment sales. According to a global report from Research and Markets, the home gym equipment market is expected to grow at a rate (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of close to 9% by revenue between 2019 and 2025. 

The market is also witnessing the launch of new fitness devices that are digitally advanced and technologically intelligent. This is evident in the new companies that have joined the market in recent years: 

  • JAXJOX: Produces a wide range of connected, adjustable equipment. Its InteractiveStudioTM combines smart adjustable equipment, AI-powered performance tracking, and interactive personal training for a complete 360o training experience at home. The KettlebellConnect is one of JAXJOX’s top products. It is a smart kettlebell with multiple weight options that you can digitally adjust. The kettlebell also features sensors that allow users to track each training session’s content, duration, and intensity. 
  • NordicTrack: Next to Peloton, NordicTrack is one of the most popular stationary home bikes. The brand produces a range of intelligent equipment, including ellipticals, rowers, treadmills, and interactive strength training equipment. 

Companies like these that offer technologically advanced equipment are growing quickly. For example, NordicTrack had a sales increase of 600% in May 2020. 

Fitness and Wellness Apps

When my gym shut down last year and left me without my usual equipment and routine, my first thought was, “are there any apps that can help me?” As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one. According to the World Economic Forum, fitness app downloads grew by almost 50% in the first half of 2020. It is a significant increase that highlights just how popular home fitness has become. The number of workout app subscriptions available has also increased exponentially in recent months. 

The workout apps available include everything from weighted workouts to weightless workouts to yoga to mindfulness and meditation. According to Apptopia, an app insight company, the most-downloaded fitness app in 2020 was Calm, followed closely by FitBit, MyFitnessPal, and Headspace

Fitness Trackers and Wearable

While fitness trackers are not new to the market, the recent pandemic has only heightened sales. Smartwatches were forecasted to generate over 27 billion dollars in end-user spending by 2021, and the total end-user spending on wearables was expected to reach 63 billion dollars.  

Fitness trackers and wearables are popular because they provide valuable data for those that are serious about their progress and developments. These trackers help maximize your workout while also closely tracking your health. You can also use them to monitor a wide range of physical activities and biological factors, from home workouts to spin classes to sleeping patterns. 

In the world of smartwatches, Apple and Fitbit have both made valuable improvements to their technology:

  • Apple: Added an electrocardiogram (ECG) function to watches that allows for a more detailed analysis of the user’s health. 
  • Fitbit: Added more advanced heart rate sensors that use algorithms to reveal insights into your heart while giving instantaneous feedback to help you make the most of every workout. 

New pioneering workout gear is also allowing customers to meet fitness objectives faster. For example:

  • Sensoria Smart Socks: Record your running form. According to Sensoria, these socks can improve your speed, pace, cadence, foot landing, and shoe strength. 
  • Hexoskin Smart Clothing: Measures your heart rate, breathing rate, cadence, steps, and more. 

Online Coaching

Virtual training and coaching have become indispensable tools in the fitness world. Many health clubs and gyms are now offering professionally coached classes via streaming. 

Some of the most popular online coaching sites include:

  • Endomondo: Allows users to simulate the experience of having a personal training session with a coach via their headphones. 
  • PURE Fitness and Virgin Active: Use virtual reality and live video classes to bring coaching sessions to life. 

Beyond the fitness club scene, athletes are also finding creative ways to connect and share with their fans. For example, Floyd Mayweather created the Mayweather Boxing + Fitness app that allows users to box with him in virtual reality.

Though online coaching will probably lose some of its momentum when gyms reopen, there are some benefits of online classes and coaching over in-person.  Online classes allow you to set up workouts around your schedule instead of the schedule of your gym. They are also typically offered at a reduced rate compared to physical sessions. 

Fitness and AI 

As with most things, artificial intelligence (AI) has found its way into the fitness world. Machine learning and AI are significant components of modern fitness programs. 

Surprisingly, AI isn’t only available in the high end of fitness. You don’t just find machine learning guiding your workouts via the $4,000 Forme Life mirror or AI optimizing how hard you spin on your $2,500 Peloton. AI is also present in dozens of inexpensive apps to create a more personalized workout experience. 

For example, FitnessAI says its algorithm has been trained on 5.9 million workouts so it’s “sure to outperform any human personal trainer.” Similarly, Freeletics doesn’t claim to be better than a human trainer, but it does say it will learn from you and create a personalized workout from over 3.5 million different options to optimize your health. 

What Does AI Do? 

The AI in your workout equipment can predict what exercises you’ll be able to do and want to do by getting a very short profile from your account and comparing it to other users. 

The AI creates workouts out of sets of exercises. With each workout you do, the AI can learn based on how you react (or rate the exercise) and the results you get. It is also able to adjust workouts based on your available equipment. This feature is especially beneficial, given that most of us don’t have a full gym set up in our homes. 

AI vs. a Human Trainer

In some ways, having an AI-driven fitness coach is better because it has access to more data, knows more exercises, and can be more mathematical when tracking your progress. It’s also a lot cheaper; most equate to roughly the cost of one cup of coffee per week. 

Contrarily, a real human trainer can employ more psychology; you want to impress your trainer, you don’t want to let your trainer down, and you don’t want to leave your trainer hanging if you miss a session. A human trainer can also identify imperfections in your form and correct them in real-time, allowing you to progress more quickly and decrease the chance of injury. 

However, some AI is already learning to identify and correct your form. For example, some yoga apps can use your phone camera to monitor whether or not you are doing a pose correctly. 

Though the pandemic brought many workout routines to crashing halts, it also inspired the improvement and invention of new, exciting equipment for home and virtual workouts. With the rising popularity of technology in our fitness equipment and routines, we can expect to see many more cool, innovative tools in the near future.

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