Will Fitness Technology Replace Trainers?

Brick & mortar fitness clubs, gyms, studios and health spas are about to go through a massive wardrobe change.

With wearable technology sales forecasted to exceed 19 billion dollars by 2018, business leaders in the fitness industry are lacing up their running shoes extra tight in preparation of the expected growth among fitness wearables and their influence on gym member's expectations.

As Apple's HealthKit receives API requests in the thousands, app developers and mHealth companies are scrambling to answer the increased demands and active lifestyles of this new breed of consumer.

The important question to ask, that will truly make or break whether or not the local corner gym stays in business by 2019, is will these traditional gyms be able to adapt and change fast enough to satisfy these savvy mobile members?

To Wear Or Not To Wear?

The answers to a thriving future for the industry are now being powerfully delivered by thought leaders in the fitness technology space such as Bryan O'Rourke, president of the Fitness Technology Council and Harvey Spevak, president and CEO of Equinox Fitness.

These captains of progress are among key leadership that are driving increased interoperability and the acceleration of wearable technology as a fundamental part of a future gym member's ecosystem.

Spevak notes that the rise of digital health technology represents a massive opportunity more than a threat, and foresees that as more people integrate digital health devices into their workout, it will boost interest in those who want to get fit by making it easier for them to track their progress.

Equinox, which operates high echelon health and fitness clubs in nine different states, was the first national fitness chain to partner with Apple when it launched its HealthKit app last June.

The mega-brand took it one step further by engineering and integrating its own digital platform with Apple in 2014. This has proved to be highly successful in allowing their personal trainers to track, adjust, and truly customize a member's experience based on real biofeedback and physical activity data in real time.

What most people don't know is how to use that information,” Spevak said. “We can track our members' information. Starting this year we'll start giving them customized information around what programs and services are better suited for them.”

In Walks The New Member

The gym member of the future will be connected to the IOT 100% of the time; checking texts from their smart watch and getting push notifications from FitBit on their iOS while they run on a treadmill that's recording data directly into a smart fitness app.

In 2015, the waters in the digital health ocean will begin to swirl with the launch of Apple Watch that will change the face of the wearable technology with its empowering companion: HealthKit.

As Apple has taught us through its slogan “Think Different,” in regards to wearable technology, it's not always the first to market who wins the prize of more business, it's ultimately the one who offers a differentiated product that can seamlessly empower a consumer.

What if health and fitness clubs are fearful or resistant to this wearable fitness technology? 

Well, we all saw what happened to Blockbuster.

Trainers & Personal Accountability

As wearable technology like FitBit, Google, and Apple start to grow and gain mass-adoption, the integration of every workout made and tracked digitally will be highly appealing to gym members.

Will fitness wearables slice into a personal trainer's profit and clientele? Absolutely not.

As long as professional trainers are embracing the technological changes and expectations of mobile members, using CRM software like amSTATZ and FitBit to track and maintain a close relationship with their clients, the only danger to losing business is if a trainer doesn't care enough to deliver what their clients truly deserve.

Even as digital health is still in its infancy, the technology and the overall experience are only going to get better and eventually will serve millions of gym members every day- driving more positive habits, improved accountability, and better compliance in their workouts.

The Future In Fitness

When digital health technology and the fitness industry join forces in the battle against obesity and inactivity, everyone wins- including personal trainers.

About the author: Josh Trent,NASM-CES, CPT, HLC, is a corrective exercise specialist and participatory sports technology expert with over 9 years in the fitness industry. His passion is to accelerate wellness evolution through the power of the Digital Health and Quantified Self movements. You can follow himon Twitter@wellnessforce, or through his website www.wellnessforce.com.

Questions? Start here

  • Thanks for this interesting article and vision.

    From my experience and market knowledge, I think that the growth of connected devices is an opportunity for the personal trainer to improve the knowledge of each person and to create better workout, but that will never replace him. We can believe the device manufacturers’ speachs when they say “my virtual coach integrated with my super device will plan the unbelievable sport plan for you”, but who wants give his health to a machine or to an algorythm ? Who want to give all his confidence to a software for give him the better council on exercise to perform in front of his current situation (eg without risk of injury when I have a problem to my legs after an accident, when I loose motivation due to stress in my job…) ?

    It’s for this cause about the need of a real human like the ideal guide that we build in FitMove startup the global solution which try to combine the real expertise and sensibility of each personal trainer, with the technology devices like support for better measure and traceability on the performance. Our vision about the future of the gym clubs (to reduce the incredible rate of 60% of deserters each year), of the personal trainers (to improve their capability to give more quickly and more easily the good exercise with support of technology) and of the persons (to do sport in safe context with a fun approach for maintain motivation and visibility on real progress) is the union of the real personal trainer with the connected objects.

    • Olivier,

      Thanks so much for your comment! Really enjoyed reading your mindset about trainers not being replaced as I couldn’t agree more. I think where we are going in the future of the fitness industry is for all coaching and health professionals to deliver exceptional accountability and service to their clients by utilizing digital health and mHealth devices/apps. Imagine how intimate a relationship can be when the data becomes the disciplinarian? Now we’re talking!

      • In our approach for maintain a good level on the relationship between the person and his personal trainer, we introduce a regular real meeting between them each 2 months for adjustment where they can talk about personal goal, current problems (personal life, job, family, stress…) because I think also that a human relationship en direct live is important in the support of the person which can’t be only based on data disciplinarian. In our vision, it’s the mix between remote relationship and relationship direct which will be the good choice for support at an acceptable price for the customer with a good level of quality for the personal trainer.

        • So I’m just checking out your site now Olivier and really impressed by what you guys have going on!

          • Thanks. This is the first step of our vision and we try in this phase to give the better tools before to open a remote sport coaching platform between personal trainers and individuals, focused on the health sport for allow regular sport activities at each person who have problems to maintain motivation and who don’t need to become export of exercises because guided by a real coach.

          • Nothing will ever take the place of a real coach. In the age of virtual fitness, human connection will always be pivotal in creating results for our clients!

          • Olivier how is progress for you and the team? Just saying hello and checking in 🙂

          • Hi Josh, during a challenge, we selected 5 coaches in France for join us and we start an experimentation of the service delivery for free in 5 cities in France during next month with 40 to 50 person assisted remotely. We’ll analyse the user feedbacks and the experiences with FitMove apps for validate the minimum features and delivered value to each person before opening of the final offer planned end of this year.

          • How is it going Olivier? Just swinging back around to see the FitMove train is full steam ahead?

          • Hello, we feel great. FitMove started a pilot in France with some personal trainers for test delivering of remote coaching to a first population of 30 individuals. The feedbacks are good and we improve the applications for validate the coaching processes. If all go in the planed way, FitMove will sale the global service with a first coaches network at end of 2015… and will go search funds to deploy it more and more 😉 You can follow us on http://www.fitmove.co and http://www.facebook.com/fitmove (perhaps could you become a tester 😉 )

          • Would love to give it a go!

          • Excellent! SO glad to hear! 😉 Will be watching for great news!

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