Last Updated on March 20, 2020

How Technology Will Shape the Gym of the Future

artificial intelligence fitness

The future of fitness may rely on artificial intelligence and a deeper deployment of robotics.

Most Americans have a love-hate relationship with the gym. For some of us, walking through those gym doors can feel like a world of opportunity—endless equipment and ample gym-goers to keep us motivated. But for many, our plans to go to the gym get derailed much quicker than we’d like.

Gyms are well aware of the hurdles that keep many members from coming back consistently. Whether it’s workout boredom or a lack of personalized options, the gym industry is tackling its shortcomings through technology that aims to engage exercisers in exciting new ways. Here’s a quick overview of the technology transforming gyms today, and predictions on how that will shape the fitness club of tomorrow.

Virtual Reality Hits the Gym

Virtual reality has already come to your stationary bike. In the coming years, expect more gyms and fitness equipment companies to embrace this immersive technology. Why are they betting big on VR? Many in the industry cite “workout boredom” and are hopeful that this experiential tech can provide a more dynamic, engaging gym visit.

One of those hopefuls is German-based Icaros. The brand has bet big on the ability of VR to keep exercisers excited about hitting the gym, creating a machine that simulates the feeling of ocean diving and flying. Users put their knees, forearms and elbows in foam cups, strap on a VR headset and hold onto a handle with both hands. By using your abdomen, leg and back muscles to tilt and navigate, you can experience a serious core workout similar to a plank—all while you virtually fly or deep-sea dive.

Haven’t seen the Icaros in your gym yet? At $10,000 including shipping costs, it’s not surprising that only 200 entertainment centers and gyms have bought in so far. But the company is developing a less expensive model, which could make it an easier sell for home or widespread gym use in the coming months.

Meanwhile, VR is also hitting spin class. Les Mills’ The Trip takes bikers on an immersive 40-minute journey through multiple digitally-created worlds. Available as in-person and virtual experiences, The Trip is undoubtedly a fresh option for those bored of their normal gym environment.

Life Time Studios and the Connected Gym

Facial recognition has already made its way into the iPhone. And if Life Time fitness clubs has its way, this tech will soon be coming to a gym near you. Its CEO predicts that within five years, 3D facial recognition will be used at the gym to identify you, take your body measurements and provide customized recommendations for exercises.

Facial recognition is just one aspect of Life Time’s “connected gym.” The company is already reshaping the fitness studio experience by providing exercisers with a variety of state-of-the-art tech tools such as heart rate trackers and computer-based automatic metabolic testing. Its members can also use Athlinks to track results for triathlons, running races, swimming, cycling and mountain biking events. The technology creates a list of every opponent you’ve raced against, providing a digital record of wins and losses, and even time differentials.

Gyms May Start Holding You Accountable

We all know that people tend to flock to gyms right as the New Year begins—and fall off the fitness wagon by February. Planet Fitness is betting on the power of AI to keep you on track. The gym chain’s online fitness coach provides workout recommendations and nutritional info based on your body’s current physical state. The goal? To enhance the benefits of having a human trainer, not replace them.\

Equinox gyms are also looking into tracking apps to keep members hitting the gym. According to Equinox, members who opted in for the gym’s digital coach were 40% more likely to go to the gym regularly than those who did not use the tool.

A recent study showed that Millennials, a key gym-going demographic, are willing to spend hefty sums on boutique fitness clubs. But they also demand the same seamless experience from their gym that they encounter in other aspects of their life. Where does this leave the traditional gym chain? Hungry for innovation.

Only the future will tell if AI, 3D simulators and Internet of Things will deliver the gym experience that today’s exercisers expect. But if other industry trends are any indication, personalization and engagement are two steps in the right direction. Now, if there could only be an AI solution for sticking to your New Year’s Resolution…

Cory is a veteran health industry writer and content creator. His work has been featured in major publications such as MyFitnessPal, Healthy Living, and Low Carb Fanatics. His health industry writing career spans over nearly two decades.

In his free time, Cory enjoys snowboarding, fictional writing, and online chess.