What might the fitness landscape look like in the not-so-distant future?

Jan 19, 2023 |3 min read

The world of health and fitness is rapidly advancing and expanding. This has been somewhat impacted by the lasting effect of the pandemic on people’s exercise regimes and brands’ corresponding response to meet these new needs through rapid development of home/app-based fitness solutions. However, the pace of innovation looks set to continue with the fitness world embracing general advances in visual and wearable technology and fitness industry disrupters exploring how to use human-exercise-power as a sustainable energy source.


Fitness Gamification

Gamification is defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (Deterding et al., 2011). Researchers have identified that the motivational features of gamified exercise, such as point scores, leaderboards, unlockable content, levels, badges, challenges and competitions can benefit people’s workout experience and intrinsic motivation to exercise.

Certain brands are already harnessing the power of gamifying fitness for those exercising at home or outside of the gym. For instance, PlayFitt; a home fitness app which has been developed with behavioural psychologists to get its users ‘hooked’ on an active and healthy lifestyle by providing the same dopamine rush for everyday fitness as levelling up on a video game. The app’s home screen shows users their daily goals, such as steps taken, number of push ups, squats and more. For each of the daily targets, the app rewards users with coins that can be used to purchase power-ups or gift cards for places like Starbucks and Lululemon from the in-app store. When a weekly goal is achieved, users earn trophies and are placed on a leaderboard within their league, adding a layer of competitiveness and motivation.

In 2022, Peloton released its Peloton Lanebreak class format on the Peloton Bike and Bike+ where the goal is to earn as many points as possible by controlling a wheel racing down a six-lane track using the bike's resistance dial and your cadence (how fast you're pedalling) with opportunities to earn points by hitting horizontal slashes in the lanes, called ‘Beats’.

Les Mills has taken things one step further into the world of virtual reality with their 2022 release of the Les Mills BodyCombat VR app which turns their signature martial arts inspired BodyCombat workout classes into a virtual reality experience using the Meta Quest VR headset. In the VR format, the BodyCombat class becomes an expert-guided, immersive fitness game where users punch and kick their way through various targets and obstacles in a range of different ‘dreamlike’ environments.

We are also beginning to see gyms and exercise studios embracing gamification by offering workout classes where music, visuals, wearables and instructors combine to provide an immersive fitness experience. For instance, GymBox’s Power Battle cycling class connects every bike in the room and uses motivating visuals on a large studio screen to push the class towards a goal based on effort levels/energy output. At specific points a leader board is presented to provide anonymised feedback on each person’s output vs others in the room for additional motivation.


What can we expect?

It’s likely that we’ll start to see more machines embracing gamification on gym floors and in gym classes, and that home-based machines, apps, and wearable technology will become ever more prevalent as more brands offer up gamified solutions to push users to their limits.


Exercise as an energy source

With the rising cost of energy and escalating environmental issues, exploring new ways to power our lives is becoming ever more prevalent and, consequently, we are beginning to see fitness industry disrupters exploring new and exciting ways to put our energy output from fitness activity to good use.

In 2021, Gold’s Gym opened its Berlin facility that is believed to be the greenest gym on the planet – it’s CO2 and climate-neutral, has wall tiles made from recycled computer monitors and is filled with real green trees and plants that absorb toxins from the gym’s indoor air. But what also sets this gym apart is its ‘Green Power’ area which has 150 spin bikes – a substantially higher number than a standard gym or studio - that generate electricity to power the gym from people’s pedal power.

There are also equipment providers playing a role in this area. SportsArt’s range of ellipticals, treadmills and cycles use up to 74% of the energy that users generate to offset energy consumption. Their mission is to make environmentally-sound exercise more accessible – encouraging home exercisers to adopt the green-powered equipment and providing tools, guidelines and strategies to support fitness clubs to implement sustainable equipment innovations.

The question is, how much power can really be generated from exercise? An hour-long cycle session may keep a light going for an hour or so, or help charge a smartphone, but in reality that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to modern-day energy use. Clearly, human power will never be the number one solution for our global energy needs, but it can still make a valuable contribution – with minimal investment. Compared to solutions such as solar and wind, which require large wind farms and big structures, human power can be harnessed relatively easily as gyms already exist and millions of people are already exercising daily.


What can we expect?

As the fitness landscape continues to develop equipment that can harness human energy, we can anticipate more fitness facilities adopting equipment innovations and increased awareness of the value of human power.