Smart fitness equipment is already boosting our workouts like never before – and there are so many other ways that it will revolutionize how we see health and fitness in the future!
It seems like everyone I talk to these days has a Fitbit, an Apple Watch, or some other kind of wireless activity tracker. These apps are incredible for keeping people motivated to be active and helping them track their fitness levels and weight. Best of all, this data can be easily transferred between apps and devices through centralized databases like Apple’s Health app, creating a virtual (if somewhat limited) representation of an individual’s health and fitness.
As incredible as this fitness tech revolution has been, it’s really just in its infancy. Technology has already completely changed how we communicate, learn, and create – now it’s time to see how the future of fitness equipment will redefine fitness, athletics, and health.
Redesigned Fitness Equipment
It’s incredible how much data has been gathered through accessories like Fitbits, SmartWatches, and home fitness equipment with Internet connectivity – but think of the potential uses of traditional athletic equipment that has been equipped with sensors and measurement tools!
Shoes may be one of the most basic pieces of fitness equipment, but they are also one of the most important athletic investments that you will ever make. Because of their huge role in proper gait, support, technique, and injury prevention, ensuring that you get the best shoe for your needs is key, whether you’re training for a half marathon or just walking your dog in the evenings.
Imagine shoes that can create a virtual map of your foot, highlighting what your gait pattern looks like, the amount of force you exert, and alerting you when it’s time to invest in a new pair of footwear.
Looking beyond just their physical attributes, imagine the widespread use of shoes like Lechal footwear. Lechal offers shoes and insoles that connect to Google Maps using Bluetooth. Program in your route before you leave the house, and your shoes will vibrate as you reach each turn, taking away any need for you to keep checking your phone while out for a walk or run! Lechal shoes also count every step you take more accurately than a pedometer worn on the wrist, calculates your distance travelled, and can be programmed to keep you moving at a set pace.
Specialized Fitness Equipment
For athletes who specialize in a single sport, having intensive feedback about specific motions and skills is a key component of improving over time.
For these athletes, developments in fitness technology like the FWD Powershot hockey training system tracker may be the best way to get individualized information about their gameplay and abilities. The Powershot software can be added to any existing hockey stick (it installs at the very top of the stick) and analyzes the speed, angle, weight transfer, and form of the player’s shots which can then be transferred through Bluetooth to Powershot’s mobile app for easy viewing.
Whether it’s for hockey or any other sport, having this kind of information at a player’s fingertips can be invaluable in improving their form and performance. Detailed, instantaneous feedback on performance available during a big game or throughout practice sessions may completely change the level at which amateur and professional sports are played in the very near future!
While having a coach to give you personalized feedback is the ideal, being able to watch and monitor your own form is still very helpful when it comes to exercising effectively and safely.
Samsung’s SMART TVs currently offer a great way to exercise at home with visual feedback that’s way more effective than trying to watch your posture in a reflective window or a too-small dresser mirror while trying to follow free workout videos on YouTube (we’ve all been there, right?).
The Samsung SMART TV’s Fitness VOD app is meant to act as a personalized workout regimen that leads you through different routines to help you reach your fitness goals. Their set-up includes a virtual mirror that uses your TV’s camera to reflect an image of you performing the same action as your fitness instructor. This can help you to identify areas of improvement and recognize your successes, and can be a great form of feedback as you exercise!
Just think about how much further this technology can go! Instead of just reflecting an image of you onto the screen, perhaps a 3D scanner will be able to accurately monitor your body’s position and provide instantaneous feedback on your form.
One of the coolest things about the developments we’re seeing currently in Fitness technology is the huge amount of data that is being collected. This data has the opportunity to be consolidated into an incredible wealth of information about every aspect of our health and fitness – all that’s left is for this data to be made more targeted, organized, and accessible.
Activity and Sleep Trackers
As I mentioned above, wearable activity trackers are becoming nearly ubiquitous, especially since iOS 8 made every iPhone 5S and higher into a pedometer! Physical activity is important for brain health and physical fitness, and decreases several health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke. Many activity trackers like the Fitbit Surge also function as sleep trackers – another important determinant of your physical and mental health.
There are a lot of ways to use your Fitbit creatively, but it’s basic function is still the most important. Knowing exactly how active you are and how much sleep you are getting can be a huge influence on maintaining and improving your daily activity levels.
In the future, the data collected from all of these trackers may become incredibly useful in targeted interventions for those at greatest risk for developing chronic diseases that result from inactivity or lack of sleep. This data could also be used in an electronic medical context, giving doctors and healthcare providers better insight into patients’ habits and well-being.
Body and Health Analysis
It is almost impossible to truly gain an objective understanding of what your body looks like and how healthy you are. People like to exaggerate both the best parts of themselves and their areas of need, which can make it difficult to develop and carry out fitness plans that will give them the results that they want.
Scales like the Withings Smart Body Analyzer can already give you a pretty good idea of your day-to-day health by measuring your weight, body fat percentage, and heart rate and sending this information to an app where you can monitor your health trends over time. This is especially helpful for those who are gaining muscle, as muscle weighs more than fat and a digital scale alone might indicate a gain in weight without demonstrating the accompanying loss in body fat.
Much like current digital scales can’t compare to smart scales, smart scales really are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring and understanding the health of different body shapes.
A future measurement system that not only took into account your body fat percentage but also transformed data into an accurate virtual representation of your body and its measurements could help people to identify exactly what their fitness goals should be.
Putting Fitness Tech to the Test
Having limitless amounts of data is incredible, but ultimately useless unless it is harnessed effectively and used collaboratively between devices. If the next season of fitness technology uses the data that has already been mined effectively, there really is no limit to what could be accomplished!
One of the biggest struggles that current health and fitness studies face is finding the funds and participants required to access the data they need. With fitness equipment measuring more and more aspects of health, it is possible that this information could go towards research in the medical, health, and fitness fields.
Currently, the foundation for this kind of cooperative research experience has been laid by Apple’s ResearchKit open source initiative. ResearchKit has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite a perfect system yet. There’s a lot of methodological research concerns that still need to be addressed, but once they are the possibilities for research could be endless.
By removing the financial and accessibility restraints that are currently so prevalent in scientific research, these fields will be able to advance at a much faster rate. The more information that is gained from studies, the faster and better fitness technology will become – a never-ending cycle that benefits everyone involved!
With easier access to data and research information, comes a better ability for coaches both real and virtual. I personally don’t think that anything will ever beat the influence of a dedicated human coach, but I think there is also a lot of room for improvement over the current “virtual coaches” offered by many of the fitness apps currently on the market.
As fitness technology allows for more and more data to be collected, the virtual coaches used by fitness tech programs can become more nuanced, and will hopefully be able to eventually rival real coaches in their explicit instructions and immediate corrections of your form.
As well, this information could be integrated across machines at gyms – potentially allowing you to get a pre-constructed workout designed specifically for your needs that could be put into practice without you having to figure out which weights to increase, or how many reps to do.
Coaches are a valuable and necessary component of most fitness endeavours, but the real value of the future’s fitness tech will be the control that it will give you over your own fitness, health, and body. Once you have access to information about your body and fitness level, and can interpret and organize the data, you are essentially unstoppable.
When push comes to shove, you are the only one who can create change for your body – no amount of fancy technology or expert coaching can influence you if you aren’t motivated to get fit.
Having data and fitness tech readily available and accessible will empower athletes and couch potatoes alike to take control over their health and fitness and improve it to the level that they desire through methods that work for their individual needs.
Future fitness tech will help to keep people safe, keep people healthy, and inspire an understanding of the achievability of fitness. Currently, people just aren’t aware of how their body works, and what physical activity and targeted exercise can do for them. Fitness technology has the potential to make everyone an expert on their own body’s needs and strengths, which could completely change our society’s current (and terrifying) health trajectory.
Is the Future of Fitness Now?
It’s definitely a tricky balance – fitness equipment and health tracking technology is fun, but sometimes it can take away from the joy of playing a game of pickup basketball or just going for a run to clear your head. Having access to all of the data about your health is often inspiring for many, but can also be a chore for others. Do you currently use any fitness technology? What developments in fitness tech are you most excited to see in the future?