There's a lot of talk about how virtual reality (VR) technology will revolutionize this industry and that industry, but what few are discussing is how much of an impact it's going to have on an already booming market: the fitness industry.
Stagnation in the Fitness Industry
We're currently in the season where fitness goals are rampant and aspirations for better health, physique, strength, and stamina are at annual highs. But when you look at fitness through the larger lens of society and what's really happening on a week-in and week-out basis, it becomes clear that a gap exists between what the fitness industry is offering and what consumers actually want.
As 21st century Americans, we lead busy lives. A lot of this busyness is unnecessary and self provoked, but that doesn't make it any less of a reality. The number of hours in a day has remained the same, but we've somehow discovered ways to do more of the mindless and less of what really matters.
Ultimately, our collective desire to fill our schedules with working, eating, sleeping, binge watching Netflix – you name it – has left us with little time to attend to some of the things that actually matter – i.e. exercise.
This reality of American busyness has revealed what few had previously recognized in the fitness industry: stagnation. For years there was little development in technology and approach. Sure, new products and brands emerged, but they weren't actually speaking to the pain points of the modern consumer. With the emergence of VR technology, however, that's all changing.
How VR is Changing Fitness for Good
VR is doing what no other technology has done for this industry in the past. It's making fitness totally convenient and surprisingly fun. If you've yet to experience VR technology and the role it plays in the fitness industry, then you're in for a treat. Let's check out three specific ways VR is changing fitness for good.
1. Exercise Gamification
Why don't people exercise as much as they play games, watch movies, read books, etc.? Quite simply, it isn't as fun. People are in the business of having fun and exercising goes against that core objective. This is where VR comes into play. It's essentially the gamification of exercise – merging fun and fitness.
"Coupling exercise to virtual reality results in a more enjoyable experience by contextualizing the exercise," says Daniel Mestre, a senior researcher focused on VR technology. "It notably distracts the participant from exercise-induced pain."
2. Virtual Cycling
Did you know that a single hour-long spin session can help you burn as much as 900 calories? That makes it one of the single most efficient home exercises around. But the truth is that most people give up on using a spin bike because it gets boring. The scenery never changes and you'd rather do something more engaging.
Enter VR. Companies like Widerun are working on systems that allow you to use VR in conjunction with both standard bikes and spin bikes to immerse yourself in real-world experiences. You can bike through the Swiss Alps, the streets of Paris, or the California countryside – all from the comfort of your own home. Sounds like a lot more fun than staring at drywall.
3. Sale of Fitness Programs
YouTube and DVD-based fitness programs have been hugely successful over the past couple of decades and experts are predicting VR technology will take things to an entirely new level.
Many companies are already working on VR-based fitness programs – such as Zumba – that allow people to participate in immersive group class experiences from their own living rooms. Look for some additional growth in this area in 2017.
The Future of Tech-Driven Fitness
In the future, look for technology to drive fitness forward and make it more convenient for busy Americans who find it difficult to find time to stay fit and healthy. While gyms will still exist, and millions will carve out time each week to attend group classes, there will be an increase in home fitness options. This will be thanks, in large part, to the emergence of VR technology and how it's able to transform otherwise boring activities into engaging, multifaceted experiences.