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Digitalized Fitness: 5 Trends to watch for in 2018

Looking to beat your marathon PR this year? OR just thinking of regularly getting off your couch? Whether you’re aiming to shave off a few pounds or training for the next Olympics, digitalization in the fitness industry can help you build a clear path towards meeting your individualized fitness goals.

In fact, considering our increasing fascination with daily digitalization (how many of us only have to press a button to get our morning coffee?), it’s no surprise that a recent report on the digital fitness market states that “the global digital fitness market is expected to reach an estimated $27.4 billion by 2022.”

Does this mean we’ll virtually be playing alongside Messi on the pitches of FIFA 2020, smelling the freshly cut grass amongst the stadium’s roar? Not yet. But the recent and upcoming manifestations of digitalized fitness will definitely have us more likely to beat our personal records.

Wearables & Apps

Fitbit has been around for a decade, and hell, the first pedometer itself was created in 1780 to power a Swiss inventor’s self-winding watch. Time to move on, right?

Wrong.

The new generation of wearables is planning to include all the classics; watches that monitor calories burned, steps taken, sleep patterns, etc. But keep your eyes (or ears) out for biometric headphones that double as heart rate monitors, or smart running shoes and sensory outsoles that preempt running injuries by measuring your landing zone and impact rate with on-the-run coaching cues. No more skipping your runs on account of knee pain.

While these wearables seek to help you identify the most efficient workout routine for your body’s individual needs, they’re also mindful of your social status, coming in an increasing number of styles. The result? You can run from your new year’s resolutions, but you can’t hide.

These wearables each come with their own smart phone apps, but apps themselves have been noticeably helpful for the fit and soon-to-be-fit. For the latter category, “Couch to 5K”, or “C25K,” has become notoriously famous for helping millions of individuals make their way towards being able to run a 5K in a span of 9 weeks. Meanwhile, Austrian-founded Runtastic, among its many capacities, helps athletes immediately identify jogging or biking routes nearby so they can set their distance intentions and head off, rather than worrying about whether that whimsical left turn will add an accidental 13km to their lunch-break jog.

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of your list of excuses getting shorter.

Virtual Reality

In 2017, over $3 billion USD was invested in the virtual reality (VR) market, speaking to the general belief that this market is headed towards the masses. In fact, the German start-up ICAROS began creating a VR exercise system for gyms and home use back in 2015, and has since integrated their system into 200 gyms in 40 countries. The trick? Make users feel like they’re flying over mountains and lakes, when in reality they’re in the midst of a Pilates workout.

Idaho-based start-up Black Box VR utilizes a similar idea, creating 30-minute workouts for users while simulating a futuristic sport that is customized to the physical capabilities of the player. Players receive both instant and future rewards, in the form of points and fitness, respectively. Their nifty motto? “Your body is the controller.”

Meanwhile, California start-up Widerun has recognized the appeal of spin, combining stationary bikes with scenic virtual worlds. Call us crazy, but perhaps you’ll be more likely to stick to your workout routine when it includes biking through the snow-tipped Swiss Alps rather than next to that smelly, heaving guy at the gym.

In any case, each of these devices and all their necessary accommodations will put you back a few thousand dollars, so while these experiences are unlikely to digitalize your daily or weekly workout for now, it’s only a matter of time before you and your 6-pack will be gliding over the Appalachians.
 

Community Building

Making new friends as an adult is hard. You can’t just ask someone what their favorite color is and be instant best friends anymore. Luckily, digital communities enable us to connect with other people on (potentially) deeper interests, such as our intentions to become or stay physically fit.

For example, the Munich-based “Freeletics” app lets users connect with each other both in person and online. Local “Training Spots” bring simultaneous fitness seekers to the same, well, training spot, while coyer “Free Athletes” can digitally motivate their community members with a “ClapClap” or personalized comments.

“Sweatt,” a New York City-based app, has taken a different perspective on developing a fitness community. Described as “a dating app for fitness freaks,” Sweatt speaks to the truth that, considering so much of our free time is dictated by our health goals, it only makes sense to connect with individuals of similar lifestyles. As such, the app considers your age, location, orientation, and even more detailed specifics, like your favorite time of the day to exercise. Now, setting your alarm for a 5am run can be met with adoration rather than contempt.

Whether you’re cheering each other on with emojis or actually meeting in-the-flesh (do people still do that?), combining fitness goals with meaningful relationships will certainly be one of digitalization’s stronger contributions to a balanced life as digitalization trends advance.

Home Workouts

Over 1/3 of German adults are members of a gym, while the European market for gym memberships grew at almost 5% between 2016 and 2017. Nonetheless, juggling our professional aspirations, the pesky need for sleep, our obligation to personal growth, relationships (ugh), AND our desire to be physically fit can arguably only be met by superhumans. Seeing as though most of us are only boring regular humans (Elon Musk, you can skip this paragraph), home workouts are becoming increasingly popular as we try squeeze that whole “healthy living” thing in between more in-your-face demands, like dirty laundry or crying babies.

While digitalization may, in some ways, be to blame for the increasing speed of our daily lives (try telling your boss that you finished that report days ago – it should arrive to the client’s post office any day now), it’s also got a few redemptive qualities. For example, YouTube and other platforms have placed home-friendly workouts at the tips of our fingers. Unlimited variations of fitness classes can be streamed directly into our living rooms, most of which require no special equipment. Pop Sugar Fitness and Fitness Blender, for example, offer free classes and instructive videos on YouTube for at-home workouts that can be completed in 30 minutes or less.

Committed enough to invest in equipment? Peloton is just for you. The stationary bike offers “a private indoor cycling studio in your home,” streaming daily live spin classes from their NYC studio directly on your bike’s large, WIFI-enabled screen. Turning your living room into a spin studio certainly has its perks in terms of saving commute time and offering a catalogue of round-the-clock classes for all you night owls.

With more and more households consisting of two breadwinners and “home office” set ups becoming standard among progressive employers, innovations in “home gyms” have only begun to evolve.

Health-minded Bloggers & Influencers

Exercise is only half of it. Our fitness levels are largely determined by the food and drink we choose every day. In line with most digitalization trends, specialized bloggers who have come to be influencers regarding healthful lifestyles will increasingly determine the daily habits of motivated populations.

Quick and healthful recipes for the aware busy bee will attract greater numbers to online platforms, determining grocery store lists for everyone from the college student to the single father of three. Niche foodies, such as vegans, will find friends in Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker, while paleos can turn to Nom Nom Paleo.

With the digitalization of fitness comes increased connectivity, allowing ideas surrounding the best nutritional methods to be accessed and shared with ease. The only mystery that remains is wedged between the countless voices debating what, exactly, we should be eating. Chances are, that debate won’t come to a conclusion before 2019.