The Biggest Trends In Gyms And The Fitness Industry

Forbes Finance 2 weeks ago
Fitness trends are evolving
Fitness trends are evolving

With the concepts of wellness and mindfulness becoming ever more important for consumers, fitness has become a more relevant goal for many people. Work done by LatentView Analytics looked at approximately 150 million data points including information on products, product usage, product reviews as well as search terms and social media conversations over the last 10 years. The data revealed the following major trends about gyms and fitness:

-         Working out at home is not a trend. It is a seasonal fad that peaks in the winter months when people have made New Year’s resolutions and home workouts are not likely to grow overall. There are a few companies that have grown rapidly in the home workout market and they are rare exceptions. Most notable is Peloton but most other equipment makers are targeted at clubs or have not been nearly as successful as Peloton in reaching consumers buying home workout equipment.

-         Community in gym workouts is the top motivator for consumers to go to gyms. The data are not clear whether the social motivator for going to gyms is the obligation to a trainer or class or whether the social interactions consumers have with fellow members is the catalyst or whether it’s just having other people around. But social experiences at gyms is by far the highest motivating factor for joining and going. Having a professional setup in a gym is also rated highly.

-         Technology development in fitness is growing and consumers are driving that growth. Although technology is not spurring more interest in home workouts, fitness apps are widely used at gyms and in outdoor workout and fitness settings. Fitbit is the best known of such devices; interest in that specific product has peaked. (Google has agreed to buy Fitbit, no doubt to leverage the health information it has gathered. With revenues and earnings off its peak, the deal could be a good way to reinvigorate the brand.)

I recently caught up with my colleague, Kim Karmitz, who has been studying the fitness industry and is on a related panel of experts for the upcoming Fitness and Active Brands Summit next month. That conference is awarding innovative fitness startups and, not coincidentally based on the LatentView data, its awards are largely to fitness technology companies. The technology driving fitness now breaks down into three categories: performance improvement, experiencing the gym in new ways and marketplaces.

Coaching And Performance Improvement

Two companies are using new technology to help amateurs be better at their sport with real-time, personalized instruction that uses artificial intelligence (AI). In the video below, the female voice you hear is an AI program created by a company called Asensei which puts sensors in your workout clothes to monitor your movements. It can then give you highly specific instructions about how to move your body based on what it senses through your clothing. At the moment, it works for yoga and rowing and Asensei is developing other sport modules. Asensei is working with apparel manufacturers to incorporate its technology into branded garments.

A different approach to market is being taken by another company, Sensoria whose founder previously ran a $14 billion business at Microsoft. Sensoria has taken an “Intel inside” approach to developing a platform for wearables of all types that uses artificial intelligence to help amateur athletes perform their sports better. The video below demonstrates how Sensoria helps a runner perform better, faster, safer, with greater endurance. Sensoria’s software can be incorporated into any garment or footwear by a manufacturer.

Moving The Gym To New Venues

Two companies are changing the way gyms are experienced. One brings gaming into gyms. [Based on the non-scientific sample of people I’ve spoken with,] If you’re over 40, Black Box VR will not be very interesting. But if you’re under 40, it will be one of the most interesting, exciting things you’ve ever seen. A user in a gym puts on a virtual reality headset and attaches to weights made for the purpose. A video game begins in which there’s no hand-held controller, the user’s body movements control the game. As the user moves, the weights are lifted. Because of the weights a user gets a complete workout by the time a game is over. If you love playing video games but are not highly motivated to work out in a gym, this will bring you in and keep you there. Like other video games, it is always changing and evolving based on your skill. It is designed to be played either against the computer or against other people who can be either nearby or anywhere else in the world. The video below demonstrates.

Another company called Forte moves the gym class to any other location in the world. It installs hardware and software into workout studios and gyms to bring live and on-demand fitness classes to consumers when they can’t make classes at the gym. Interestingly, Forte has found that consumers prefer live classes because they are real and authentic over recorded or repeated content. Consumers want new content all the time and don’t want to watch a repeat of exercise classes they’ve already taken. It’s consistent with the LatentView data indicating that social experiences are a key driver of gym memberships.

Forte customer
A Forte customer participating in a class

Marketplaces

Like so many other sectors, gyms and fitness are seeing the development of marketplaces that match providers with users. One of those is Athlete’s Guide, a digital marketplace that connects NCAA athletes with high school athletes to help them train better and mentor the younger athletes. The company is the first to be approved by the NCAA to provide income for college athletes. The appeal of the experience is for high school athletes to work with a role model in something that the younger students are highly engaged with. Parents of high school students like it as a way to enhance their child’s skill as well as keep them involved with sports.

Athlete's guide workout
Athlete's guide workout

These technology-driven businesses are the kind of companies that are now driving the fitness business. Consumers interest in new fitness technology coupled with the continued desire for gyms is clearly how consumers want to manage their own fitness. Whether gyms and studios can keep up with the desire for new technology will determine their future success.

Karmitz says that data gathering is one of the economic drivers of new technology in fitness and gyms as we are already seeing in the acquisition of Fitbit by Google and that there will be more such deals. Karmitz points out that having Google enter the industry proves that big tech companies want to be players in the industry, won’t be afraid to invest big money and will push valuations up. She says the market now is in a land-grab mode, companies that can get on a path to gather consumer data and sell their technology profitably will be highly valuable in the future. That means timing is important now in the fitness business. No one knows how long this trend will last and companies that can embed their technology into consumer habits and gain share will become highly valuable. Their investors will be able to exit at very attractive multiples. Companies that don’t have the resources to grow now may miss the trend. As a result, we are likely to see a lot of technology innovation in the fitness and gym industry as well as a great deal of capital coming into the industry.

Tags: Business

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