Will Fitness Technology Replace Trainers?
Article by Josh Trent. (Josh Trent, NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with a decade in the fitness industry. Follow Josh on Twitter@wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.)
Brick & mortar fitness clubs, gyms, studios and health spas are about to go through a massive wardrobe change.
With wearable technology sales forecast to exceed 19 billion dollars by 2018, business leaders in the fitness industry are lacing up their running shoes extra tight in preparation of the expected growth among fitness wearables and their influence on gym member’s expectations.
As Apple’s HealthKit receives API requests in the thousands, app developers and mHealth companies are scrambling to answer the increased demands and active lifestyles of this new breed of consumer.
The important question to ask, that will truly make or break whether or not the local corner gym stays in business by 2019, is will these traditional gyms be able to adapt and change fast enough to satisfy these savvy mobile members?
To Wear Or Not To Wear?
The answers to a thriving future for the industry are now being powerfully delivered by thought leaders in the fitness technology space such as Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council and Harvey Spevak, president and CEO of Equinox Fitness. (See accompanying column in this newsletter.)
These captains of progress are among key leadership that are driving increased interoperability and the acceleration of wearable technology as a fundamental part of a future gym member’s ecosystem. Spevak notes that the rise of digital health technology represents a massive opportunity more than a threat, and foresees that as more people integrate digital health devices into their workout, it will boost interest in those who want to get fit by making it easier for them to track their progress.
Equinox, which operates high echelon health and fitness clubs in nine different states, was the first national fitness chain to partner with Apple when it launched its HealthKit app last June. The mega-brand took it one step further by engineering and integrating its own digital platform with Apple. This has proved to be highly successful in allowing their personal trainers to track, adjust, and truly customize a member’s experience based on real biofeedback and physical activity data in real time.
"What most people don’t know is how to use that information,” Spevak said. “We can track our members’ information. Starting this year we’ll start giving them customized information around what programs and services are better suited for them.”
In Walks The New Member
The gym member of the future will be connected to the IOT 100% of the time; checking texts from their smart watch and getting push notifications from FitBit on their iOS while they run on a treadmill that’s recording data directly into a smart fitness app.
In 2015, the waters in the digital health ocean will begin to swirl with the launch of Apple Watch that will change the face of the wearable technology with its empowering companion: HealthKit. As Apple has taught us through its slogan “Think Different,” in regards to wearable technology, it’s not always the first to market who wins the prize of more business, it’s ultimately the one who offers a differentiated product that can seamlessly empower a consumer.
What if health and fitness clubs are fearful or resistant to this wearable fitness technology? Well, we all saw what happened to Blockbuster.
Trainers & Personal Accountability
As wearable technology like FitBit, Google, and Apple start to grow and gain mass-adoption, the integration of every workout made and tracked digitally will be highly appealing to gym members. But will fitness wearables slice into a personal trainer’s profit and clientele? Absolutely not.
As long as professional trainers are embracing the technological changes and expectations of mobile members, using CRM software like amSTATZ and FitBit to track and maintain a close relationship with their clients, the only danger to losing business is if trainers don't care enough to deliver what their clients truly deserve.
Even as digital health is still in its infancy, the technology and the overall experience are only going to get better and eventually will serve millions of gym members every day - driving more positive habits, improved accountability, and better compliance in their workouts.
The Future In Fitness
When digital health technology and the fitness industry join forces in the battle against obesity and inactivity, everyone wins - including personal trainers.