From Trackers to Apps, Gyms Flex High-Tech Muscle

From the WebMD Archives

photo of man using app

Ready to elevate your gym routine? Many fitness clubs are taking exercise to the next level with innovative technology.

"It's a great time to be a club-goer," says Meredith Poppler, a vice president at the Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. "Clubs and equipment manufacturers are embracing new technology across the board. It's affecting everything -- from how you check into the club to how you track your progress and use equipment."

Smart Tracking

Many gyms use smartphone apps and in-house equipment to help you set goals, track workouts, and see how far you've come.

You can track personal details, such as weight and body fat, as well as workout details, including heart rate, how long you exercise, and how many reps you do.

Some gyms use smart machines with Bluetooth technology to sync your workout and transfer details automatically to your smartphone. Some sync with apps like Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, so all your info is in one place.

Instant Motivation

Many clubs now use fitness trackers to track your heart rate, VO2 max (highest oxygen uptake), and other biometric data as you work out -- and motivate you by making it public.

At Orange Theory, your heart rate monitor broadcasts your circuit-training performance on a public board. The friendly competition may be the juice you need to push harder. At Swerve, your stats are added to your team's performance. If you do well, so does your team.

Social Engagement

Fitness clubs are cashing in on the power of community for encouragement, support, and motivation. At Retro Fitness, you can join member challenges and connect with fellow exercisers in over 150 gyms. "SoulCycle, Barry's Bootcamp, CycleBar, and CrossFit are just some examples of fitness organizations that use social media to connect users to one another," says ACE-certified health coach Ilya Fishman. Some, like SoulCycle, use social media to connect you with instructors, who often post song recommendations, schedule changes, and fun personal details.


Virtual Reality

Many gyms are embracing smart screens, headphones, and high-tech glasses for a fun, immersive experience. Cardio machines have screens that turn dull workouts into engaging, imaginative experiences. "Instead of looking at a blank screen, you can see yourself on a track, racing against zombies," says Poppler.

Smart screens are popular in group classes. Some gyms pair them with headphones to stream music or your instructor's voice. Others give you virtual reality glasses to transport you to another dimension.

"Right now, digital transformation is huge in the fitness realm," says Laura DiBiase, a specialist at Perfect Gym Solutions. As technology continues to advance, you can expect more realistic, fun games that are actually intense workouts.

Tech Tips

Try these tips for safe, happy, high-tech workouts from Fishman:

  • Be mindful. A machine can't tell you how you feel. Pay attention to your body. If something doesn't feel right, stop.
  • Low-tech is fine. Technology is an add-on, not a be-all, end-all. If you love your low-tech routine or you forget your high-tech equipment, it's OK to exercise without it.
  • Enjoy the ride. Don't let numbers stress you out. Use technology to keep you on track, but don't let it squash your fun.
  • Pair tech with friends. Sharing and comparing your workouts via social media is great for motivation. Organizing a gym meetup via a group text can get you to the gym when you don't feel like going.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD Magazine.

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 5, 2019



Meredith Poppler, vice president of communication and leadership engagement, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.

Laura DiBiase, digital marketing specialist, Perfect Gym Solutions.

International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association: "Health Club Industry Data & Consumer Trends."

Ilya Fishman, owner, Notion FitnessMATRx.

Swerve Fitness: "What Is Swerve?"

Klaudia Rudny, spokesperson, Retro Fitness.

Digiday: "How SoulCycle's instructors spin a smart social strategy."

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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