Virtual gyms – the future of fitness?

Future fitness

Technology is changing how we run almost every aspect of our lives and exercise is no exception. Apps that let you book classes on a daily or monthly basis, or let you work out in the privacy of your own home are helping us get fit on our own terms, rather than those of the gyms, which traditionally locked us into expensive annual contracts.

The new technology broadly falls into a number of different camps – those that aid gym use in one way or another, others that allow you to exercise independently, and those that help you track your fitness and activity levels.

No expensive contract

One of the biggest changes is the rise in apps which allow you to book gym classes at a range of gyms without locking you into a long term contract. For example has 300,000 plus users, and lets you buy day or bundles of passes. You can also choose from a monthly membership to a particular gym or an unlimited monthly pass giving access to a range of gyms and classes.

Similarly London-based offers access to 40,000 classes at 280 participating studios, gyms and spas, in return for a monthly fee that can be paused or cancelled at any time.

And is a fitness service and app that partners with bigger chain gyms allowing you to visit them – without a monthly contract with the gyms themselves.

Outside the gym

If you prefer to exercise in the comfort of your own home, office, or on the go, then smart phones lead the way. You can download apps offering classes on everything from Pilates and step aerobics, to HIIT workouts and everything in between. Personal trainers also offer online training services at a fraction of the price of meeting them at the gym or in the park.

If you’re a runner or a cyclist for example, then new technology lets you record your speed, route and pits you against other athletes using the same app. Many of these apps also link into wearable technology such as those made by Fitbit, Sony, Apple and Jawbone, allowing you to monitor and keep a record of your activity.

In the gym

Gyms themselves are spending a fortune to keep up with new technology. A Virgin Active spokesperson says: “We recently relaunched our website and created a new app that allows members to book their favourite classes from their mobile phone. Our app is just a small part of the story though. We’ve invested heavily in our clubs to allow our members to be able to link their own fitness apps and devices to our club equipment, so members can track and measure their exercise routine both in and outside of the club.”

Fitness First has also just launched its CustomFit app allowing members to create personalised workouts, check class times, set goals, access a library of exercises and video demonstrations and track progress.

The future

Fitness First also commissioned a report by Futurologist Ian Pearson on how the future of exercise might look. He predicts by 2045 they’ll be drones taking 360 degree images of people working out, sent real time to digital eyewear so gym goers can see and improve their performance. Also ‘gymbots’ being used as sparring partners and to show perfect form.

On a lighter note he also predicts the ‘gamification’ of exercise, with users able to run through a forest whilst on their treadmill and be joined by friends from other locations in a virtual world.

Says fitness director Lee Matthews: “You could be white river rafting with your friend who lives in Australia, all from the comfort of your gym in England. Equally, members could choose to run the London Marathon with Mo Farah or cycle with Victoria Pendleton”.

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