The 21st century is a strange place thanks to massive levels of technology—even something like going to the gym isn't safe from the reaches of disruption. However, the thing to keep in mind is that technology, instead of making our lives more complicated, seeks instead to make our lives simpler. If anything, it might help to make us healthier people in the long run.
According to Tech Target, as many as 40% of gym-goers lapse on their membership within the first year. By leveraging the social interactivity of internet connection with accountability in the form of groups for training, some companies are trying to bring about a disruption in the traditional field of fitness. For many, it's a fresh take on a tedious practice, and one that's likely to generate a lot more benefits for the demographic it's aimed at.
The traditional method of "social fitness"
Social fitness in the traditional sense refers to things like registered Zumba or spin classes where people come to work out together as part of a course. Club Industry notes that having a gym that encourages socialization and has an inviting atmosphere is likely to increase membership retention among users.
The reason for this is simple. Humans are social creatures and having others to help us believe in ourselves is a core fundamental aspect of the self-improvement process. It doesn't matter if we're seasoned pros at working out or if we've just joined the gym the day before; having someone who we can count on to go through the journey with us helps us stay the course.
Additionally, having someone who's trained in helping a gym goer out, whether it be through dietary advice or the adjustment of form, also increases a gym's participation rates. Technology allows social fitness to go one level further.
Remote workout sessions over the Internet
What if a company were to combine spin classes with Skype, and have the individual working out call a trained personal instructor to guide them in what they should and shouldn't do? What would be the reason for going to the gym then? There are already companies out there who have tapped into a methodology to build around the idea of allowing a user to pay a subscription fee to work out from home.
Peloton, for example, has managed to single-handedly disrupt the fitness industry by offering people the option to work out from the comfort of their own homes while still staying connected to professional trainers. By bridging the gap between personal trainers and users, and offering a premium workout experience, Peloton has brought a gym into the home in a way that is unique to the 21st century.
The contract of social accountability
People who are trying to kick a habit usually form support groups because humans have a psychological tendency to do better when they have the moral support of a group of people who are going through the same thing. Dr. Anand Thakkar, Chief MD at Chicago Weight Loss Clinic, has implemented a similar system whereby users are held socially accountable for losing weight. In the case of fitness, the same phenomenon holds. People join spin groups not just because of the social aspect of the meeting, but because of the shared struggle that each person goes through while there and their shared accomplishment as they each lose weight.
Social accountability in fitness goes hand in hand with social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, allowing people to share photos of their post-workout selfies and their healthy meals. This contract of social accountability keeps many of us from falling off the wagon and by turning your home into a gym, you potentially lose that aspect of social responsibility. Or do you?
Creating user accountability through technology
Social media is one of the most significant cultural changes we've seen in the last decade, but by itself, it's not enough to ensure user accountability. The company Beachbody capitalizes on user accountability by creating groups where members are encouraged to show off their progress and be accountable for what they've done while on the program.
Beachbody has a massive following because of the way it markets itself as a method of getting fit while not having to go to the gym. The added icing on the cake is that people who are successful with the Beachbody program get to serve as an inspiration to others who are just joining the program and get a cut from the people they bring into the organization through their marketing efforts.
The fitness regimen of the future?
Already, thousands of people have switched from hitting the gym three to five days a week and have moved their workouts into the home. One of the primary reasons behind this trend is the way many people today view social interaction as more of a chore than something to look forward to.
As more and more people become comfortable using technology to interact with others remotely, the fitness industry will have a more significant segment of the population that are into working out with remote groups headed by a trainer.
Intel has offered the promise of a gym of the future that uses IoT technology to customize workouts as users enter the gym. Ultimately, this will come down to whether users trust the AI or a real human to advise them on their workout regimen.
The balance of accountability and data
Quantifying workouts has gone from just hitting the gym a certain number of days to checking metrics on how far a user has run, or how much a user has lifted over months. The upside of a gym in terms of offering a social meeting place is still valid, but it's quickly being eroded by companies that are utilizing new technology to bring that experience into the home. On the upside for gyms is that users tended to discard wearable fitness devices, with almost a third of users removing them after a mere six months of usage.
Gyms need to innovate if they want to stay ahead of the curve regarding users and their needs as time goes by. Technology provides both a problem and a solution to the industry.