We’re officially into the second month of 2018, so for many people, this means that New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten. According to this Statista survey, 45% of people had a health related resolution for 2018. Health resolutions are not a new trend, but what is relatively recent is the idea of data-driven fitness. Arguably, one of the largest influencers in this field is the rise of wearable technology, which is known for tracking not only steps taken in a day, but heart rate, sleeping patterns, nutrition, and other factors involved in a healthy lifestyle. Other players include data-driven spin classes, personalized nutrition apps, and interactive streamed workouts. Perhaps aligned with the rise in popularity of “athleisure” attire, the rise in fitness tech is having a powerful effect on the health industry as we know it.
It’s been around a while
As careers became more and more sedentary with the rise of modern desk jobs, physical activity began to take on more of a recreational role, rather than being a natural facet of life. The fitness movement in the 70’s and 80’s was an early contributor to the rise of electronic exercise. VCR workout videos were incredibly popular, and gym memberships with access to electric machines (such as treadmills and ellipticals) became less obsolete. In later years, at-home workouts for all ages gained popularity with interactive video games (think: Wii Fit and Xbox Fitness), that marketed the comfort and convenience of not having to leave your home.
Convenience of At-Home Exercise
This fitness movement continued to gain traction as the industry improved focus on the possibility of convenience and flexibility of exercise. Technology improvements continue to revolutionize the way people schedule fitness into their lives and track progress toward personalized goals.
Companies like Peloton, which we learned about in @clarezhou ‘s True Ventures presentation, feed off this marketed convenience. An individual can reap the rewards of attending a spin class with a motivating teacher from a streamed session, without having to find a time to fit a class into their busy schedule.
One of the relatively newer attributes of fitness tech is portability. A device that has become an extension of our minds and bodies has the ability to monitor activity and progress toward goals. There are countless health and wellness smartphone applications, each generally having the ability to track movement, heart rate, and sleep patterns. Here are two examples of notable platforms that I think sought further differentiation:
- Swim.com. While many platforms struggled with tracking water exercise, Swim.com syncs with many available wearable technologies to provide swimmers a way to put metrics to their workouts.
- MyFitnessPal had 80 million users when it was acquired by Under Armour in early 2015 for $475 million. This platform helps users track nutrition to achieve health goals such as weight loss or improved fueling for athletic performance.
Rise of Wearable Tech
My dad is an avid cyclist who has for years been using a Garmin Heart Rate Monitor synced with his Strava account as a tool to track and share his bike rides (miles ridden, routes taken, pace, elevation change, heart rate). This was one of my first introductions to wearable and portable fitness technology; however, wearable tech has expanded much further than heart rate monitors in the recent decade. I wanted to highlight a few big players in the market:
- Soul Electronics Run Free Pro Bio Headphones are designed to provide an athlete with training guidance and analysis mid-workout. It is like having a personal trainer with you while on a run by yourself.
- Spire Health Tag can “make your clothes smart.” When embedded into clothing, the waterproof tag with over a year of battery life can track activity, heart rate, sleep, and breathing patterns. A recent partnership with Swim.com resulted in a smart swimsuit, to track metrics of a swim workout.
- Fitbit. I’d be remiss not to mention one of the leaders in fitness tracking. With varying levels of sleek designs ranging from the Fitbit Flex to the FitBit Blaze (with comparative capabilities to the more pricey Apple Watch), the company has had a major impact in the wearable fitness tech industry.
- Suunto 3 Fitness. With similar capabilities to the Fitbit and other smartwatches, The Suunto 3 takes it a step further by taking personal metrics and fitness level into account to create a 7 day workout plan, and real-time guidance on safe heart rate zones.
Looking Ahead– A Personal Take
Ultimately, the technological progress involved with data-driven exercise impacts a countless number of industries. As the fitness technology movement continues to gain traction with the aid of the rise of wearable tech, I see the future of this industry turning more toward virtual reality.
Imagine hoping on a stationary bike and taking a ride through the fjords of the Norwegian Coast without having to hop on a plane. And why stop there, when you could go on a run on the rocky surface of Mars? Or swim at the bottom of the ocean? Though the first generation of smart glasses (think: Google Glass) seemed to be a flop, I predict that the rise of the virtual and augmented reality industries will shift demand for these, and other types of wearable tech. I expect to see more hyper-real fitness simulations than a Mii running around an animated path in coming years. As VR gains popularity in the tech sphere, I am excited to see the immense impact it will have on fitness tech.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on fitness technology, present and future?