Health and Fitness Tech: An Industry Rich With New Innovations

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

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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

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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.

Portability

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.
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  • 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.
    meet-healthtag
  • 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.136667-fitness-trackers-buyers-guide-which-fitbit-is-right-for-me-image1-yrv5v9dfh8
  • 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.download-2

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.

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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?

Sources

http://theconversation.com/a-brief-history-and-a-look-into-the-future-of-fitness-technology-89884

https://www.self.com/story/fitness-tech-innovations-from-ces-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/2016/nov/15/data-driven-spinning-class-tech-fitness

 

12 thoughts on “Health and Fitness Tech: An Industry Rich With New Innovations

  1. Great post, Camille! I agree that “immersive fitness” through VR is an industry trend to watch over the next few years. Regardless, I think it will be difficult initially to steal market share from the popular fitness classes (Ex. Soul Cycle, Barre classes). While I have never been to a class like this, I understand that customers become loyal quickly. At such a high price point, however, technology will certainly disrupt at some point.

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  2. Love this topic, Camille! At varying levels, I have certainly seen the impact of wearable fitness trackers on motivation and dedication to exercise. The idea of trying to walk 10,000 steps each day creates an achievable goal that jumpstarts other motivation and dedication throughout the day. However, while I agree that VR may be the next trend in the tech-fitness industry, I personally find extreme value in the social aspect of exercise. Not only do group fitness classes provide a more upbeat environment, exercising with others allows you to competitively perform better and learn tips on how to improve. I feel that this will be a huge hurdle for full-on adoption of in-home and VR exercise options.

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  3. Great job, Camille! I really enjoy learning more and more about the “tech in health” industry – the capabilities of tech to keep track of all these measures of human activity to me is mind-blowing. If you read my latest post on startups, I wrote about the Motiv ring, which I think has a real chance to gain market share dominance from Fitbit due its non-obtrusive design.

    I was particularly intrigued by Swim.com and the Soul Electronics headphones! Before reading your post, I had never heard of them. The fact that technology can be someone’s personal trainer & keep track of activity under water…wow is all I have to say!

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  4. Nice post, Camille! I have experimented with different wearables over the past couple years. For me, health tech is revolutionary in the sense that I now have the level of awareness of my body that I would not have had 5 years ago. The data these wearables collect in a way coaches me to better treat my body and live healthily.

    I agree with Abby that there is great social value in exercising. Wearable is flexible because it makes me feel resourceful enough to work out on my own but at the same time, if I choose to train with an instructor in a group, the wearables nicely complement the training. I think VR will transform gyms/studios and allow them to expand beyond physical limitation. Perhaps eventually VR could create a virtual community to accommodate social needs and scheduling convenience.

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  5. Good post! I definitely agree with your thoughts that fitness, with the help of technology, is inevitably moving towards an immersive digital experience. Whether this will be VR, AR, or something completely different will be interesting to see. This trend is something we are already seeing today. If you’re not familiar with it already, “Zombies, Run!” is a mobile running game and audio adventure in which runners try to survive the zombie apocalypse.

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  6. Excellent post Camille! As you pointed out, so many people have health related goals and resolutions, so this is quite a large market. The fitness tracker market seems a bit saturated, but I think there’s a lot of potential for growth. For example, Apple’s initiatives to document health records using HealthKit illustrate the huge potential for improvement and innovation in this area. I definitely agree with you that VR could become the future of fitness tech. In fact, I often run on treadmills with virtual trails that simulate a VR experience. It makes exercising much more enjoyable! Excited to see what they will come up with next.

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  7. I loved this post! It has been around for a while, but its amazing the lengths that these companies are going to grab a piece. Peloton is one company that I’m really interested in. They designed their bike as an elegant and modern design, and specifically made it so it can not be folded up so it is a conversation piece in the house. They also have the subscription fees for content on a monthly basis, because people don’t realize that the bike is pretty much worthless without it and they won’t tell themselves that they aren’t going to use it! Also, the competition among the instructors as they get paid on a per-view basis means the classes are intense and competitive! I think that fit-tech is an area where you need to understand human psychology and the users, because it is a very unique market!

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    • I definitely agree that there is a huge human psychological component involved in the fit-tech industry. I would argue that the industry aims to capture consumers’ attention (similar to social media and internet companies), but there is more involved to get someone motivated to stay active than to keep them interested in cat videos. Definitely different challenges involved

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  8. Great post! As you discussed (and as Amy mentioned), the fitness wearables market is saturated. I think AR/VR could be the next step in this industry. Think about all the influencers and celebrities you see on social media now promoting their workout routines, imagine if you could tune in to a workout with one of them? Or as you mentioned, running or biking on trails across the world that you would never actually have the chance to visit. Also, there could be a use for professional athletes to use VR to learn plays, routines, or practice swing. Lots of potential in the space for VR/AR.

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    • I like the idea of leveraging VR for sports performance and strategy, I know how much that could help me and my team when preparing to play opponents on the volleyball court. Cool idea!

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  9. Very interesting post! As someone who has owned a Fitbit (and is contemplating the purchase of an Apple Watch), I’m so interested in the various forms of wearable fitness technology! The Spire Health Tag reminds me of the old step counters that you clip onto your pants, although the Spire Tag clearly does much more including tracking swim workouts (so cool)! After looking up the Spire Tag after reading this post because I hadn’t heard of it before, directly tagging it to individual clothing items poses a restriction to usage, as does the $735 price tag for a set of 15.
    I agree that VR is definitely in the future of fitness technology. I think it might be the more popular approach than the use of tech glasses in daily life (like Google Glass tried to do). I’m excited to see how the industry develops!

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