When most people think about working out, the first images that come to mind are probably some combination of darkly lit weight rooms, clanking barbells, or grunting body-builders in muscle tees slamming weights on the ground. While these archetypal images of fitness are not necessarily “wrong”, they undermine the exponential digital growth the fitness and wellness industry has experienced in the last decade.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has departed from the traditional association that being fit means being a gym rat or a vegan: individuals now pursue their health initiatives on varying levels thanks to the rise of digital technology.
The impact of the technology surge in fitness has undoubtedly changed the landscape of the industry. Rather than relying on traditional methods of fitness, individuals are now granted a wide variety of options to stay healthy and fit in addition to more tools and software that can effectively gauge their effort and progress.
The main players that have helped cultivate this landscape are none other than wearable devices and cloud-based services. The technologies, though they can be used separately, typically work in tandem. Wearable devices utilize advanced sensors to collect an array of personal biometric data, giving the user real-time updates of their activity levels, as calories burned, distance traveled, or heart rate levels. User data is immediately collected and analyzed through wireless cloud-storage facilities, creating backlogs of activity data that can always be accessed from an array of the user’s devices.
Due to the widespread adoption of common fitness technology, individuals now approach fitness with a broader perspective, which has made them more conscious and motivated to pursue overall healthier lifestyles.
Explosion of wearables
For the better half of the last decade, wearables have solidified their place as the clear front-runner of all fitness trends and technologies.
Wearable fitness trackers have become so common that many devices, like smartphones, now come with them as a pre-installed application. Similarly, movement or strength tracking mobile applications consistently rank among the top downloaded fitness-related apps.
In the United States alone, 49% own a wearable device either from a specific fitness brand or on their phones. These figures correlate to the normalization for anyone to use a wearable regardless of their fitness levels.
Wearable technology has secured its place as the top fitness trend for the last several years while continuing to indicate high projections for the future. In fact, by 2022 the wearable device market is projected to quadruple, making them edge out smartphones as the highest-selling electronic device meant for consumer use.
A major contributor to this growth lies in their newly modified convenience. Although most commonly used as a device around the user’s wrist, biometric trackers now come in alternative wearable options like shoes or sports bras, glasses, or even as stylish jewelry and more.
However, this surge of wearable technology carries more implications than merely keeping users more informed about their own personal fitness levels; how we use this data has changed the narrative and individual interaction with fitness as a whole.
A change in perspective
Technology has changed the spectrum of fitness to a constant as opposed to a segmented part of our days. A crucial aspect of gauging our fitness progress is not just what we do when we work out, but how our overall lifestyle and daily activities measure up compared to our exercise routines.
Until this adoption of fitness technology, the idea of fitness on a 24-hour scale was for the most part ignored. Before our Fitbits shamed us into getting 10,000 steps per day, it was much easier to dismiss how taking the stairs instead of the elevator could actually make a difference. Before our trackers buzzed every hour reminding us to get up and move around the office, many would not think twice about staying glued at our desks for hours on end.
Technology has brought a consciousness to fitness that changes our individual perspective, and therefore, attitudes towards it. This can be directly attributed to our access to data, and consequently how we can use this data to make collectively healthier decisions on a grander scale.
Furthermore, the importance of cloud-storage of our data is equally essential for maintaining this view and continued motivation. By tracking our progress concisely over time, we can tangibly see how small changes to our days make a difference or eventually form into new habits. Since motivation is especially easy to lose when we do not see results, maintaining a continuous archive of our biometric data negates this critical problem.
Additionally, cloud technology allows us to integrate data from various applications that can build a fuller picture of our well-being. For example, we can integrate data from food tracking applications, so they can monitor calories in vs calories out to gain an overall understanding of their daily activity.
Social impact of wearables
In addition to changing individual views, the impact of these technologies have also transformed mainstream perceptions of fitness in the following ways:
Fitness is “trendy”
Since wearables have made individuals take a more vested interest in their fitness, they can be credited with helping make fitness “cool”. The subculture of fitness plays a massive role in the mainstream media, whether through celebrity fitness influencers, athletic-inspired popular fashion, or the latest fad diet.
The cult-like social media fitness following and engagement speaks to how popular fitness as a whole has become. Wearables provide users with ideal content for sharing with their social networks, allowing them to connect with others who share their interests. Since engaging with varying aspects of fitness is so accessible, more and more individuals are encouraged to do so.
Lastly, the hype surrounding these latest gadgets has almost made them a status symbol. People love showing off their new Apple Watch or Fitbit, and in doing so, inspire others to want to buy these products as well.
The gamification of fitness
Although “making fitness fun” sounds like a tired cliche, wearables have brought an entertaining element to working out that appeals to our competitive sides. We can compete against ourselves to beat our personal “calories burned” record during a run or challenge ourselves to climb an extra flight of stairs per week.
Most wearables also allocate awards for personal milestones, like lifetime miles traveled or most steps taken in a day. These small yet validating achievements can still be the extra momentum needed to maintain our goals.
On an interactive level, wearables allow you to compete against others. You can connect your wearables with your friends to compete throughout the day or sync your device with your fitness club’s network to see how your stats match up. This can turn essentially any gym activity or class into a game, and fitness clubs can similarly go the extra step by offering prizes or incentives based on member activity.
Fit-tech revolutionizing the fitness club experience
Unsurprisingly, health and fitness centers have made a general move to adopting cloud-based technology. This trend stems from the push for facilities to become more consumer-oriented, putting increased pressure on clubs to keep up with heightened expectations for their members.
Most gym attendees probably do not even recognize that cloud-based technology underlies most of the services that convenience them. For example, if your gym allows your sign-up for classes online, download a playlist you liked from a class, or provides for a mobile application, you are using the cloud. Most modern equipment provides for blue-tooth capabilities to easily sync your workout details to your club’s mobile app or your personal applications. Many gyms function entirely on cloud-based gym management software to safely store crucial information and avoid operational glitches.
USE CASE: Orangetheory, one of the most popular boutique clubs worldwide predicates its entire gym-model on cloud-based services. Orangetheory requires all members to wear its signature heart rate to monitor every class, which automatically syncs their data to the Orangetheory mobile app. The application allows users to easily access real-time progress reports as well as track workouts over time.
Other functionalities of the app include communicating directly between management and clients, settling outstanding payments, cooking classes, and rating instructors.
Bridging the gap between fitness and healthcare
The impact of this technology is not limited to individual health and wellness goals; it has already demonstrated to cross-over into imperative fields of healthcare and disease prevention.
For example, Fitbit recently established a partnership with Solera Health in the fight against Type 2 Diabetes. The relationship between the two respective organizations began in 2017 when Solera began offering Fitbits to its members who had enrolled in their own National Diabetes Prevention Program, which used digital coaching and support to help at-risk individuals minimize their threat of developing the disease.
The success of the program indicated that members who had used Fitbit devices lost more weight as well as exhibited more activity than participants who did not use them. The success of the primitive partnership laid the groundwork for the more extensive collaboration set to debut this year.
Using data acquired through Fitbit’s platform, more individuals will not only be identified as at-risk for diseases like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or varying heart diseases, but the scope of information provided by wearable trackers is a great first line of offense in actively combating those risks.
Potential for fit-tech in the future
With fitness technology showing no signs of decline any time soon, the potential for the future shows great promise, especially considering the inevitability of this technology improving over time. Wearables and cloud-based services will continue to make people more active and cognizant about how their personal decisions impact their overall health and well-being.
On a macro level, widespread acceptance and utilization of these technologies demonstrate a cultural shift towards pursuing healthier lifestyles. Like Fitbit’s involvement in fighting Type-2 Diabetes, bridging together fitness and medicine illustrate the promise of fitness technology and its untapped potential for the future.
About the author
Laura is a Digital Marketing Specialist for Perfect Gym Software. She is a native-born Los Angeleno who recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland who spends most of her time at the gym, on an airplane, or online shopping.