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Staying Fit in Exceptional Times

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We live in times like no other. The third of the world population is on lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, people are allowed to go out only for substantial reasons. We are working from home. Four walls and the Internet has become our new reality for the next weeks.

But it is not all that gloomy. People are re-inventing their routine and businesses try to catch up with the new demand for “everything online”. More than ever people want to stay fit even if they cannot go to the gym. This is an exceptional window of opportunity for the Fittech.

Like many others, the quarantine gave me a chance to re-engage in the daily exercise. Without the pressure of rushing into the office, I start my yoga practice at 7:30 am every morning. The sun beams into my room, the crisp morning air moves the curtains and small birds are chirping outside. Making yoga a part of my routine helps me stay positive throughout the day, even when I feel “imprisoned” in my own house.

It would be more difficult without small tech tricks and smart devices. Fortunately, the latest technology is capable to deliver high-quality, personalised work-out experience without leaving home. These are the latest Fittech trends that I find most promising for exercising at home.

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Trend 1: Smart coaching

Nothing can be better than a personal coach that helps you set your fitness goals and keeps you motivated. But coaching doesn’t always need to be in-person. Smart applications can do the job.

Applications (for example, FitMo) give you access to a comprehensive database of virtual coaches to help you start your personal journey to well-being. Structured as a matching platform, FitMo connects you with experts in Fitness, healthy eating, and stress reduction. A change in life, like the current crisis, is a good opportunity to embark on one of these transformative programmes.

Providers: FitMo, iFit, Aaptiv, Freeletics.

Business opportunities: Employers, who support their staff in transition to remote working, need programmes to promote workers’ well-being, mental health, and stress reduction. Tech providers that offer firm-wide plans to keep employees engaged, healthy, and performing at their best will get the sweet spot.

Trend 2: Smart planning and tracking

It is easy to get very busy and neglect your well-being in the hustle and bustle of the big city. But it’s even easier to lose motivation while staying at home. The routine sucks you in. Netflix and a big box of biscuits do not help either. Smart planning and tracking technology are key if you feel like you cannot get control over your life. Good habits are created in small steps. Technology can help you take these small steps and stay on track. It reminds you to make a regular exercise, hydrate yourself, practice mindful breathing, and go to bed on time.

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I personally like the Lifesum app. It allows you to track what you eat and balance your diet without becoming obsessed with calories. However, it is quite easy to view these apps as tyrants, not as friends. They also require a meticulous recording of everything you do or eat. This can become too fussy and time-consuming.

Providers: Lifesum, 8fit Workouts & Meal Planner, Loop Habit Tracker, Zero, Sleep Cycle.

Business opportunities: The wellbeing trackers embedded in the Internet of Things. Imagine your fridge reminding you to eat your “5 A Day”. Or a voice assistant gently saying that you haven’t got up from your chair for two hours. It might seem spooky, but for most people, especially in the times of “working-from-home”, this will become a must-have. Plus, you do not struggle with putting in all the information manually – one of the main reasons why people give up using planners and trackers.

Trend 3: Smart equipment

If you are a gym addict and cannot live without a good workout, you must have equipment that reaches the standards of a professional gym. It should be compact, easy to use, safe, and relatively inexpensive. It should also be interactive.

Luckily, a lot of Fittech providers offer their version of a “gym at home”. Smart equipment is often combined with live streaming workouts and personal coaching. Sort of “get three-in-one”.

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The Mirror is probably leading in this space. When switched off, it looks like a usual full-length mirror, but once switched on, the magic begins. The Mirror turns into an interactive screen where the user can watch live streaming or on-demand classes. He can follow the coach’s instructions and adjust his own movements. The Mirror has an in-built camera that tracks the user’s biodynamic data and provides valuable feedback. The Mirror is as close as you can get to the gym experience at home.

Another piece of technology, Tonal, substitutes the entire weight room with one slick wall-mounted screen. The Tonal AI calculates your suggested weight, makes personalised weights adjustments, and tracks your progress. No more pain of changing the weights – Tonal automatically adds the weight as you get stronger or reduce it if you start to struggle. The system offers personalised coaching, along with demos and customised workouts. In case you miss the weight-lifting during the lockdown, this is a brilliant option.

Providers: Mirror, Flywheel, Peloton, Tonal, FightCamp, Ergatta, Tempo Studio.

Business opportunities: All the smart equipment targets high-end customers and offers a whole lot of functionality in one pack. Wide-spread training at home requires a slimmed-down, affordable version of the Mirror. It might be less slick with fewer adds-on but should meet the basic need – having a gym-like experience at home. The transformative fitness equipment should start with low-end customers (the majority of the market) and eventually move upwards to completely replace traditional equipment. One example would be digital weights (like adjustable dumbbells), where you can change weight in a click. Or an easy magnetic resistance equipment that you can keep under your bed. Its cost should be comparable with the price of several months of the gym subscription. It should collect and send the training data to the smartphone and come with some streaming workouts. Once I find something like this, I am totally bought in!

Trend 4: Live Streaming Workout Classes 

Because the entry barriers in the market of online streaming are so low, we witness galore of offers starting from professional athletes to boutique studios to yoga amateurs. It is so easy to set up your own live-streaming classes or to join ones. In the midst of the pandemic, many gyms and fitness clubs offer online alternatives to their workouts boosting the propositions in the market.

Though I love live-streaming classes, I often find them less engaging than in-person workouts. It is a good alternative to nothing, but might be not so good compared with the real experience. Online classes that try to bring a spark of human presence will definitely win the hearts and minds of fitness aficionados.

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Many smart equipment providers, like Peloton or the Mirror, smelled the opportunity. They offer online workouts to animate rather tedious experience of lifting weights or running on the treadmill. Providers that offer personal interaction during the streaming will be ahead of the competition. For example, in the Tempo studio, the coaches see the data collected from your 3-D motion sensors and give you direct feedback, like if you were in a real class.

Providers: Peloton app, Fit Body app, Tone It Up, Alo Moves, Orangetheory, etc.

Business opportunities: Any live streaming classes that provide close to real-time feedback. This can be done through the trackers installed in the wearables or through the camera transmitting the user movements back to the instructor. Not only this allows you to adjust as you go, but it also gives a valuable human touch to the lessons. Despite being a bit more expensive, such classes will definitely pay off in the future (in case another pandemic lockdown or a very long winter).

More radical visionaries dream about marrying Fitness and virtual reality. Imagine the instructor right in front of you showing you the moves. Or picture yourself boxing in the ring with real Mike Tyson! Some pioneering companies (like Black Box VR) introduce the entire VR gyms that will make fans of video games cry for joy. This looks like “Ready Player One” comes true – but, unlike conventional video games, the more you play the fitter you get. The VR gyms still require expensive equipment and are not suitable for home workouts. Not yet. But in the next decade, as VR and AR devices get cheaper and easier to use, VR gym equipment, such as resistance machines or treadmills powered with hand-free VR controllers and VR glasses, will enter our homes and our hearts.

With the current crisis, more people realise that you do not need to go extra mile to stay fit. You can exercise at home with even more frequency and intensity, thanks to the innovative technology. For investors in Fittech this is a golden opportunity to support companies that will re-design the future of Fitness in the decade to come.

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Katia Ray
Katia Ray (Perevoshchikova) is a technology expert with years of experience in LegalTech and AI implementation programmes. She is passionate about application of AI to various areas, including law, sport, entertainment, management, etc. A contributor to LEGALTECH book (coming Q2 2020). Researcher at the University of Southampton and University College London, a former researcher at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow).

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