Technology is disruptive. It changes the way we work, socialize, shop, and enjoy our time. Fitness tech plays a big role in how the fitness industry changes. Technology can improve the member experience and allow consumers to take control of their health and fitness like never before.
Innovations in tech will continue to drive the digital revolution. As fitness tech advances, it will continue to become the norm with likely widespread adoption. It even has a role to play in preventive healthcare and health monitoring. In this article, we try to understand how technology is changing the industry and the best fitness tech we have seen in 2021.
Skip ahead to:
- 2021 update: the state of fitness tech
- How fitness technology is changing the industry
- Why fitness businesses should embrace technology
- The 9 best fitness tech of 2021
2021 update: the state of fitness tech
No matter which direction you look, we’re heading towards a technology-centered society. For instance, you go into a restaurant and because of the Covid-19 crisis, they no longer have menus. You sit down, scan a QR code, order food and pay on your phone without leaving the table. We could continue giving examples across all industries, but you get the idea.
Global end-user spending on wearable devices is expected to hit about 81.5 billion US dollars this year. This includes things like Apple watches, wristbands, and smart clothing. With the rise of IoT, advances in technology, and an increase in human need for wearable technology, the value of wearables in health and fitness continues to skyrocket.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, fitness tech startups continue to emerge and thrive. The fitness tech startup Tonal launched back in 2018 and is quickly becoming a household name with its high-end wall-mounted device that uses a digital weight system to create a gym experience at home. From December 2019 to December 2020, Tonal experienced a staggering 800% increase in sales. The numbers are staggering and really show that the combination of technology, a good concept, and home fitness are a winning mixture.
How fitness technology is changing the industry
Technology is disruptive in most industries; it has the power to transform. While it’s not a bad thing, it’s easy to get left behind. During the pandemic, digital transformation saved the fitness industry. With virtual classes and digital personal trainers, technology gave many businesses the ability to make money despite closing their facilities.
Now with the first lockdown behind us, you can see how the industry is changing. With fitness businesses adopting digital services and home fitness equipment being a popular purchase, the industry is shifting. Key drivers of this change are changing consumer priorities, the pandemic, and the opportunities that technology allows.
The Covid-19 pandemic has pulled focus on health and the need to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Consumers want to feel in control of their health and fitness. When you look at data points in fitness, it can be difficult to know what it all means as a non-fitness professional. Gadgets like wearables and smartwatches, often break down complicated data into understandable information with action points that your standard person can implement.
Another way that fitness technology is transforming the industry is the increasing reliance that consumers have on it. They rely on it to guide them and implement changes that will bring about health and fitness benefits. The way consumers use fitness technology will evolve just like the way fitness businesses use tech will also grow. We will continue to see tech-driven changes at gyms and fitness studios.
For expert insight into how technology is shaping the future of fitness, listen to Bryan O’Rourke on The Fitness Founders Podcast. He talks about the growing influence in technology and how major tech companies are making moves in the health and fitness space.
Why fitness businesses should embrace technology
As the fitness industry continues to change, those who don’t embrace technology will likely get left behind. Members now expect some level of tech integration within your services and facilities. When you lack in these areas, it can drive customers to go elsewhere.
In the last few years, there has been a massive influx of forward-thinking and innovative health clubs and gyms. With new brands and interesting concepts, they are putting a fresh spin on health and fitness. But this innovation has created an even more competitive fitness environment that values advancement.
New technologies have made way for huge opportunities for growth, including how members track their progress to the member experience and the option to create multiple income streams. You can tailor fitness services entirely to an individual using fitness tech. The reality is that the fitness industry favors the digitally aware and those with digital hybrid offerings above traditional fitness facilities.
In terms of the member experience, technology creates convenience, contactless luxury, and digital integration with your health club. A smooth mixture of online and offline services is increasingly in demand. Not to mention, the opportunity you have to monetize digital-only and virtual fitness services. As the fitness industry continues to change, investing in technology and digital services alongside a creative concept will drive success in a competitive landscape.
The 9 best fitness tech of 2021
Before the pandemic, fitness tech was one of the fastest-growing sectors. Now the pandemic has created rapid growth in the market. At-home fitness, wearables, virtual fitness classes, and multiple lockdowns have pushed many people to embrace fitness tech even more. Let’s take a look at some of the best fitness so far this year.
Wearables continue to be a top player in the fitness tech market. The wearable device industry is dominated by Apple, Fitbit, Xiaomi, and Samsung. Apple remains supreme with the highest share of wearable devices in 2020. Fitness activity trackers, smartwatches, and even smart clothing can collect precise information and data.
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With advances in artificial intelligence and analytics, these devices can allow users to design workouts specifically tailored for their needs and fitness goals. As the spotlight on home fitness continues to shine, more people are pairing virtual fitness with wearables to digital workouts. Innovation in smart clothing has really only just begun with a huge opportunity to expand over the coming years.
2. Fitness trackers
Although the fitness tracker and wearable market overlap somewhat, the fitness tracker market has experienced extensive growth. Drivers of expansion include increasing health and fitness awareness and the continued growth of smartphones. It’s estimated that the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.9% from 2021 to 2028.
The growing demand for fitness trackers has led to brands taking a step further with each product release. For instance, Fitbit released Sense in 2020. The advanced smartwatch features stress management, sleep tracking, ECG monitor, GPS, skin temperature sensor, and several exercise modes. Fitness trackers are becoming an all-in-one solution for all things health and wellness.
3. Smart scale
Smart scales are advanced systems that allow you to monitor body composition and metrics like body fat and muscle mass. Before smart scales, you would have to use a specialist machine to get all these types of metrics. Now, smart scales are in the home and allowing consumers to access a ton of health and fitness information.
There’s a rising demand for health trackers across the globe to help end-users make good health decisions. While there are some major players in the market like Fitbit and Eat Smart, there are still some issues with connectivity and syncing to multiple fitness apps. Smart scales like the Withings Body+ and Garmin’s Index S2 will continue to have a place in the world of health tracking.
The global treadmill market is estimated to reach $5,932.0 million by 2030. Treadmills are now a fitness solution with all the connectivity you could ever want or need. The recent home fitness boom has seen many people invest in high-tech fitness equipment. Nowadays, treadmills have far more features and options for runners to get the most out of their cardio workout.
The Covid-19 crisis increased demand for treadmills, especially in the home which had a positive impact on the treadmill market. Some of the top treadmill brands right now are NordicTrack and Bowflex. With ultra-large touchscreens and live and on-demand workouts, treadmill innovation continues to emerge.
5. Rowing machine
In recent years, indoor rowing has surged in popularity. With rowing-only fitness studios popping up, interest in rowing is growing. Rowing is a form of interval training that offers users a quick way to work out for optimum impact with minimal time. Both in-studio and at-home rowing has really taken off. You can also learn to row relatively quickly and easily. So, there isn’t a huge learning curve and as it’s low impact, many people of all abilities can row.
Popular indoor rowing machine brands are NordicTrack and Hyrdow. Hydrow’s Connected Rower features a large screen for live and indoor classes. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled and connects to your WiFi to download content. Interestingly, it focuses on creating a water experience instead of a fitness studio setting.
6. Stationary bike
When you think about the indoor bike craze, you probably think of Peloton or SoulCycle. Peloton has been one of the big winners of the coronavirus pandemic with stocks up and huge revenue growth since the beginning of lockdown. While Peloton has a cult following for its indoor bike, connectivity, and live classes, there are fast-growing competitors.
SoulCycle At Home, Bowflex, Echelon, and NordicTrack are all coming to the market with forward-thinking products. A Peloton bike is often considered a splurge coming in at just under $2,500. The Bowflex C6 comes in at just under $1,000 with no subscription for a more no-frills approach to riding.
7. Smart home gym
The global smart home gym equipment market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.2% between 2020 and 2026. The increasing adoption of home fitness driven by the pandemic is fueling the growth. Smart treadmills and rowing machines also fall into this category. But what we’re seeing is whole smart home gym solutions like Tonal and the Mirror who are taking smart gym equipment to the next level.
Mirror’s rival, the Echelon Reflect, takes up no floor space and allows you to monitor your form and follow classes in real-time. With smart strength training equipment, kettlebells, dumbbells, and home gym options like the NordicTrack Vault, several brands are tapping into reflective technology and home fitness.
8. Workout earbuds
Although workout earbuds seem like such a small part of a workout, there continues to be great innovation within the market. With waterproof, sweatproof, and comfortable workout earbuds, you can still listen to music no matter what you’re doing. From simple earbuds to Bose Frames Tempo audio sunglasses, there’s a large variety on the market. The glasses are comfortable to wear and designed for long outdoor bike rides.
9. Heart rate monitor
Another type of fitness tracker that is a popular choice for fitness facilities and end-users is a heart rate monitor. From everyday use to advanced heart rate monitors, there’s a range of products with varying features. We’ve already seen how F45 Training uses a heart rate monitor to help maximize member results and create an effective full-body workout.
Heart rate monitors are available as chest straps, armbands, or even in certain smartwatches. Key players in this space include Polar, Garmin, and Wahoo. The Polar H10 is a chest strap-style heart rate monitor. It’s easy to use, accurate and has built-in memory for one exercise.
Technology transforms industries and the fitness sector is no different. We’ve already seen digital-only fitness studios, virtual classes, and surges in smart home gym equipment. As consumer awareness of health and fitness continues to rise and reliance on technology for convenience grows, no doubt innovation in fitness technology will emerge. With more fitness businesses adopting digital hybrid business models and integrating technology into their offerings, the best fitness tech will get more advanced and innovative.