In fitness, as in fashion, trends come and go. However, there are always certain trends which make a lasting impact. In the case of exercising, this comes in the form of integration of technology. While part of this is driven by the looming presence of technology in our lives, industry experts believe there's more than meets the eye.
Gone are the days when going to the gym is just about pumping iron. "The average gym-goer is a lot more educated about fitness than they were 10 years ago," says Colin Symmonds, clinical director and senior physiotherapist at Joint Dynamics in Hong Kong. "Nowadays, they are looking at fitness as a way to enhance their lifestyle. Their requirements of the trainers and the equipment are much higher than they used to be."
Brad Wharakura, manager of group fitness for Hong Kong at Pure Fitness, agrees and adds that technology can also be used to entice a new generation of gym-goers. "It's fun and engaging," he says. "[It] becomes a reason to encourage [them] to work out."
Julia Lohmann, managing director of HYPOXI Hong Kong, notes that hectic lifestyles in the 21st century have led people to crave more effective workouts.
Enter the smart fitness revolution. The trend has been slowly but steadily gaining momentum, having begun around a decade ago. It has now taken the fitness world by storm. Despite varying approaches to technology integration, industry experts wholeheartedly agree: technology is adding new dimensions to the way modern people exercise.
It should come as no surprise. From mobile apps and wearable trackers to fully tech-driven exercises, the options are endless.
At Pure Fitness, technology takes centre stage in the new 270-degree immersive studio spin class. Created with Les Mills, a New Zealand company that is considered the world's largest provider of choreographed exercise-to-music group fitness classes, Pure Fitness Lan Kwai Fong is one of a handful of permanent immersive studios in the world.
When the studio first opened earlier this year, it was the talk of the town, with celebrities and socialites among the first to give the class a trial run. Since then, it has skyrocketed with gym-goers around town eager to immerse themselves in the experience.
For Wharakura, the appeal of this technology-driven workout lies in the fact that riders are removed from their smartphones during the workout. "There are no distractions [so] the focus is on the intensive, immersive workouts. You feel like you are being transported out of your everyday life," he says.
Akin to a video game, riders in the 270-degree immersive studio spin class are whisked away to an artificially created universe, leaving the hustle and bustle of city and work stress behind them.
Other gym-goers find motivation in competition. Torq Cycle, a boutique spin studio, uses a leadership board to encourage healthy rivalry while allowing users to have a better gauge of how hard they are actually working out.
Mike Maiers, an instructor at Torq Cycle, says the leadership boards help riders become "more specific in training". Using data received from each pedal stroke, riders at Torq are encouraged to push themselves through different "zones" which represent how much effort is put into the workout.
"It gives you direct feedback," Maiers explains as riders' efforts are translated as data on the big screen. While an individual may feel like they have given 110 per cent, the board may indicate otherwise. "How you feel and what is being shown on the board [can be] completely different."
Exciting and useful, Maiers says, this feedback can become addictive for some. "It becomes a number crunching game."
For Lohmann of HYPOXI, one major benefit of the integration of technology into workouts is that it has opened up doors for a wider variety of people to keep fit. With the aid of technology in specialised HYPOXI machines, the low-impact exercise is suitable for people of all ages and of varying fitness levels.
"It is a very moderate exercise," Lohmann stresses, adding, "we have clients from 16 years old [using the machines with parental consent] up to 75 years old".
To ensure the most effective workout possible, Lohmann and her team conduct an initial assessment on the client so that they can tailor the workout to fit the individual.
The benefits of technology are certainly manifold. On the other end of the spectrum, the integration of technology has opened new doors allowing individuals to monitor and take care of themselves as they exercise.
At Joint Dynamics, Symmonds and his team focus on prehabilitation and technique development.
Using specific international systems, he is able to monitor and track "people's ability to move". According to Symmonds, he uses the relevant data and analysis from the machines to help plan appropriate workouts for clients to ensure they get the most effective workout while preventing injuries.
While technology has made its mark in the world of fitness, it still has tremendous potential to grow. Industry experts are excited to see what will be offered as technology keeps developing. The future of fitness, it seems, really does lie with technology.
A CLOSER LOOK
Upon entering the studio, riders are greeted by a 270-degree screen wrapping the room. When class is in session, there is no light in the room apart from the projections. Riders’ senses are heightened as they immerse themselves in the workout, leaning forward and sideways or dipping up and down to match the images projected.
Similar to America’s infamous Flywheel, each bike at Torq is synced to the leadership board which monitors and ranks each rider. The metadata transmitted to the board is calibrated based on each rider’s individual weight and power as determined by a warm-up ride, and is emailed to the individual post-class allowing them to compare performance and monitor improvement.
Users only need to cycle or run lightly while being connected to the HYPOXI machine. The regimen focuses on centimetre loss, rather than weight loss, by improving blood circulation in targeted areas by applying under and upper pressure through a vacuum in the machine. Celebrity fans include Robbie Williams and Cheryl Cole.
Movement technology systems are used to focus on exercise on prehabilitation and technique development. For example, the Athletic 1080 system tests important physical performance factors, such as mobility, stability, force, speed, power and endurance. Clients’ physical performance and hidden potential and problems are highlighted. The OptoGait system uses infrared light to analyse movement according to the way clients’ feet hit the floor or treadmill when running or jumping.