Wellbeing

Welcome To The Future Of Fitness: Trends You Need To Know

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Fitness has come a long way since Olivia Newton John urged us all to get physical (physical) and vibrating fat belts seemed like a good idea. No longer relegated to a room of sinister-looking machines, gyms and fitness services are catering to niche demographics by offering something for everyone, from CrossFit to Prancercise.

We’re prepared to pay for the privilege of a healthy heart rate too, with Australians spending an estimated $8.5 billion on gym memberships each year. But with the gym market expected to reach saturation in five years, niche providers are already tapping into unique, technology-driven ways to keep ahead.

We look at what you can expect – activewear aside – from the fitness of the future.

Everyone will be able to access it

Technology has already made fitness far more accessible with the rise of the budget 24/7 gym, but the growth of collaborative apps will make finding your next class, gym or workout Uberishly easy.

Fitness Australia’s Andrew McCallum says the access revolution is already happening in Australia, with the rise of online training programs as well as apps that help you find, book and pay for classes, facilities and training sessions in your area.

You’ll be able to track your health to a ridic degree

You can already track your sleep, exercise, food, weight and activity, but what about tracking your stress levels, UV consumption, sleep apnea and blood pressure?

Heart rate monitor smart watch for sport. Athlete wearing heart rate monitor. Runner using sports smartwatch on running workout outside. Female athlete tracking activities using wearable technology.

These are things that Fitbit, Microsoft and Apple are already looking into. The Apple Watch already reminds you to stand up when you’ve been sitting too long, and the possibilities for these apps to provoke you into acting like a model human is enough to make any parent proud.

Your gym won’t just get you fit, but living longer than ever

While the growth of Australia’s fitness industry is so spectacular, it’s still a baby in industry terms, emerging only in the last 20 to 30 years.

Andrew says the boom is due in part to a movement away from organised sport to activities that focus on winning at health, not just at your ball sport of choice. He adds that we’re also working longer and more irregular hours, and simply don’t have time to hit the courts once a week with Sheryl and Gazza.

“While my father, in my younger years, used to go and play tennis two nights a week, people don’t have time for that [now] – they’re working longer hours or they’re working more variable hours, so they don’t have time for that regular sporting interaction. So the fitness industry has in many ways replaced that.”

Baby boomers approaching or entering retirement are also investing more in their health than ever before. Andrew says this is a niche demographic that will continue to grow. “People are living longer than they were… so they want to be active throughout their retirement: they want to travel, chase their grandchildren around.”

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The gyms of the future won’t just be somewhere you go to run on the spot, but where your entire health can be assessed, treated and restored.

“I think moving forward, the fitness industry will be seen as an industry that’s providing health and preventative health services – and that’s really where it needs to go in terms of becoming an established, credible industry,” says Andrew.

Already, some gyms are complementing their fitness facilities with a crazy range of additional health services, including exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dietitians. Andrew points to Toowoomba’s Willows Health and Lifestyle Centre as one example, which has its own Allied Health centre.

Competition will come back in a weird way

Gyms and fitness services are beginning to tap into our naturally competitive spirit, not only through CrossFit styles of training, but through technology.

Virtual cycling games like Spivi Studio, for example, get cycling class members competing in teams by projecting their efforts onscreen in a race simulation. According to the Spivi website, cyclists “can see their personal avatars on screen, track their training goals and gain better results over time”.

This is ‘exergaming’ way beyond your dusty Wii Fit, where personal data and the instant gratification of social media will be increasingly used to motivate, guilt and compel fitness junkies to compete on a virtual plane.

You will actually want to exercise

For the large part of the population that finds exercise tedious, virtual reality could be the answer.

Already, some people are using headsets like Oculus Rift to slip away from reality while working out at the gym. “There’s no time to think about distance, heart rate or calories when you’re running through the Himalayas, pursued by hungry yetis,” writes GizMag’s Will Shanklin.

There are already startups exploiting virtual reality to help people exercise, including Munich’s Icaros fitness machine, which requires users to don a chunky virtual reality headset while suspended facedown on the kind of contraption that makes your Swiss Ball routine look respectable.

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Image: Icaros fitness machine, Gizmag.

But even without the novelty factor of technology, fitness centres will be places you actually want to go to, especially for younger folks more concerned with selfies than cardiovascular health.

He points to places already emerging like Go Health Clubs, which market themselves as an “entertainment business [where] fitness is the bi-product”. DJs, concert sound and lighting create a workout experience similar to a nightclub – but with wheatgrass shots instead.

And if the recent trend towards nostalgic fitness is anything to go by, workouts of the future might also look back wistfully to a simpler time. Dodgeball, anyone?


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Megan Anderson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and online editor for Going Down Swinging, who spent the last year writing her way around Europe. You can find her on Twitter here.