Hey Everyone. This is a guest post from Dave England.
The first Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer (EFX) was released in 1995 by Precor, featuring a rear drive design which offered a lower-impact alternative to the treadmill.
Some of the earliest rowing machines date back still further, with a patent being issued in 1872 for a hydraulic damper based design. But it wasn’t until the mid 1950s that the rowing machine became more practical, comfortable, and capable of improving your rowing power on the water.
Fast forward 60 years and the same basic machines are still going strong, albeit with some significant improvements to the design and technology in the console.
Precor continue to make their EFX ellipticals, and rowing machines now offer a variety of resistance types beyond the pneumatics of the 1950s and ’60s.
However, with the creation of the internet and growth of big tech companies like Google and Facebook, what developments can we expect to come out of the fitness industry in the next 60 years? Will ellipticals and treadmills still exist or simply have advanced to a new form?
I recently came across a review of the Max Trainer, which is the latest multi-award winning piece of cardio equipment to come from Bowflex after the success of their TreadClimber.
As with the Treadclimber, the Max Trainer is a combination of two different movements, taken from two different machines to form a more effective calorie burning workout.
In just 14-minutes Bowflex claim you can burn more calories than on a treadmill, elliptical, or stairclimber. The top-of-the-line M5 model even offers workout tracking that can sync to an app on your smartphone.
So is this the future of fitness? Creating new, more efficient machines that require less of our time each day?
I believe not.
The key reason for the Max Trainer being so efficient at burning calories is the nature of the workout program. It focuses around a full body, high intensity interval (HIIT) workout with short periods of very intense training, which won’t be suitable for all ages and fitness levels.
It’s incredibly space efficient and offers a variety of resistance levels, but the entertainment options are virtually non-existent.
This raises the question of whether home gym equipment needs to do more than just improve our fitness. Would having a touch screen color console with internet access, or a 15″ HDTV screen make your workout more effective, or just serve as a distraction?
For steady state cardio with longer workout times, I agree that it can help you stick with the program longer. But in our experience, anything other than music provides no added motivation when using one of the high intensity workouts.
So what’s the answer?
I mentioned earlier about big companies like Google and Facebook revolutionising the tech space, but recent acquisitions and developments in personal fitness tracking have also seen them take bigger positions in the health industry.
Since acquiring the daily fitness app ‘Moves’ in 2014, Facebook has been relatively quiet in its acquisitions, but they also acquired virtual reality company Oculus in a multi-billion dollar deal, releasing a brand new headset in June 2015.
In mid 2015 Intel also acquired a company called Recon Instruments. Prior to the deal Recon were developing a head-worn fitness device which would work in a similar way to Google Glass.
But while personal health trackers and head-worn devices could lead to an improved outdoor fitness experience, they don’t do all that much for indoor workouts.
Over the next 20 years I believe indoor fitness will move closer to emulating an outdoor experience. We already have certain indoor cycling bikes and iFit where you can virtually follow a real-world route via the console screen, but it’s not entirely immersive.
However, I don’t believe that any of the existing fitness equipment – rowing machines, ellipticals, treadmills, etc. – will support such technology, leading to the creation of an entirely new machine.
With Google, Vuzix, Intel, and a whole host of other companies now investing in head-worn devices, I believe that in the near future one of these products will become lightweight and aesthetic enough to be worn on a regular basis.
From there, I would like to see a collaboration with VR company to create an immersive visual experience where you could choose to run through different environments, selecting the season and location.
Although this would still be a long way from matching the real-world experience, if your favorite run is along the Arc De Triomphe in the Spring, this would at least be able to offer the sights and sounds.
Currently, most workout programs for indoor fitness equipment might allow you to change the incline or resistance, but that’s about it. The experience itself is fairly uniform across most models.
So in conclusion, the future of fitness looks set to be a combination of wearable tech and VR, with a big focus on seamlessly integrating performance monitoring into your workouts. Your stats automatically synced to your account in the cloud and accessible from your smart device.
This may lead to commercial gyms just having to purchase one piece of equipment, then you can carry your wearable device to any gym in the world and have the same unique workout experience without worrying about how well equipped the local gyms are, and would cut down on any fitness equipment you need to take with you when travelling.