Training in the living room
Nowadays, certain industries tend to disappear, either because technological advances make them obsolete or because they used to meet a need that is no longer essential. But on the other hand, some industries must reinvent themselves time after time, adapting to change and overcoming adversity. In the latter category, we find the Fitness Industry. At first glance, we might think that its operation is quite simple: a group of clients attends a club with machinery designed to exercise the body in exchange for a monthly fee. However, the reality is that this is one of the most innovative industries of the last decade.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges it faced in recent times was the quarantine lockdown during the Covid 19 pandemic. Gyms remained closed even after the isolation period was over due to the potential risk of contagion. Franchises like Planet Fitness (NYSE: PLNT) reported losses in the millions during 2020 and began to generate slight profits in 2021. The paradigm shift was so abrupt and sudden that some were not prepared to migrate to the digital world immediately. In contrast, others had already understood the need to create a community with their associates, using the potential of social media and streaming platforms such as Twitch by Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN) for live broadcasts and deepening the concept of fitness training from home with online instructors.
When it comes to creating virtual fitness communities, an emblematic case in the industry is Peloton Interactive Inc (NASDAQ: PTON). This 10-year-old startup, which was initially funded through Kickstarter, currently has a valuation of $4 billion and a high percentage of active subscribers. The service offered by the company consists of selling home training equipment (such as stationary bikes and treadmills), equipped with Smart technology and Wi-Fi, linking them to a monthly subscription network that provides access to pre-recorded and live classes, and even monitoring the physical condition of its subscribers, so that teachers can readapt the training plan. The company made significant profits during the quarantine but gradually saw its growth slow down as things progressively returned to normality, as well as a large percentage of enthusiasts preferred outdoor training and new emerging technologies that allow training from home in an immersive and fun way.
Advances in virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence applied to Fitness generate fascinating results. We have, for example, the case of Zwift, a training simulator that allows us to ride a bike at home while we connect to the Metaverse and choose to train or compete in different modalities with other users. The idea is that the training is practically like a video game; in fact, we completely forget that we are training, and we immerse ourselves in the adrenaline of the competition, while artificial intelligence is responsible for making the corresponding calculations to send information to the Metaverse such as cadence, power and speed of each cyclist, and thus develop the competition while showing us in real time very relevant data such as our heart rate or the number of calories burned.
But in this industry, not everything leans towards virtual reality since, on the other hand, there’s also a trend that bets on outdoor training. Perhaps the annoyance caused by confinement during the pandemic, combined with a global trend to increase and encourage the use of green spaces in cities, made many people choose to train, feeling the wind and the sunlight on their faces. For this other group of enthusiasts, there are also technological solutions to achieve a more enjoyable and efficient training. For example, Garmin Ltd (NASDAQ: GRMN) is a leader in physical activity monitoring products, offering mainly smart watches and bracelets, which provide real-time data such as heart rate, calories burned, distance travelled and a host of other useful information.
Faced with the industry’s evolution, gyms could not remain stagnant and decided to adapt to the new circumstances. Some have already incorporated augmented reality and even sensory machines so that running on a treadmill or riding a bicycle is no longer an automatic and repetitive process. On the other hand, they also offer outdoor classes in disciplines such as running, yoga and Zumba for all those who enjoy a more natural life. As for more administrative issues, some gyms are replacing obsolete loyalty programs with Blockchain-based technologies. This way, customers earn tokens by meeting goals in their workouts, consistently attending classes, and referring new members. They can then redeem their tokens for benefits inside and outside the gym and exchange them for cryptocurrencies.
As we can see, the Fitness industry not only evolved but opened new fronts to capture more and more followers. Even giants like Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) are enlisted in the move with its online fitness platform Apple Fitness +. The industry is so broad that it seeks to meet the needs of all types of people and attract those outside of Fitness with fun methods and rewards. And when it comes to health and wellness, all those technological advances that accompany us to be better every day are welcomed.