The Future of Online Fitness

May 18, 2018

By Tim Saye

The future looks very bright for the fitness industry. Year on year it's one of the largest growth industries worldwide and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.

The future is particularly exciting for those trainers that embrace modern technology to coach clients online, or in a hybrid setting.

Some recent statistics illustrate this movement nicely:

According to Global Market Analysts Markets and Markets the global fitness wearables sector is expected to rocket in value from $23bn in 2016 to $173bn in 2020.

In 2017 Flurry Analytics produced a massive study which told us:

- Health and fitness app usage “grew 330% in just 3 years” up to 2017.
- Highest growth in 2016 - 2017 came from studio and fitness content apps (49%). These apps are online coaching and training apps.
- Nutrition apps declined in usage by 26%.
- Over 75% of active users open their health and fitness app at least two times a week, and more than 25% of users access their fitness apps more than 10 times a week.

This is exciting data for all forward thinking online coaches. It tells us the fitness consumer market has become very accepting of the idea they can use a mobile device for content, training, and tracking.

This data also tells us that the use of such training and tracking technology is growing at a very rapid rate and will probably continue to do so for some time.

Even more important people are actively using health and fitness apps when they get them rather than simply downloading and forgetting about them.

This shows a hugely encouraging scene for online trainers and tells us that the demand for quality online coaching will continue to grow and grow.

One statistic that may stand out to many trainers is the 26% drop in usage of nutrition apps over a one year period. This is obviously a massive drop. Other stats also indicate that only 3% of people that use nutrition tracking apps such as My Fitness Pal continue to use them beyond the first week. From this 2 questions arise;

1- Why this drop in use?
2- What can we as trainers learn from it?

With my semi unique position as a former trainer, former online trainer and now fitness software owner I get to see things from a number of different angles. I strongly believe the drop off in nutrition tracking apps is down, in the most part, to 1 thing... Nutrition tracking apps are time consuming to use accurately. In simple terms weighing out your food and tracking every ingredient you eat makes getting in shape harder work and less convenient.

The lesson here for coaches is one of simplicity.

We live in a world of limited time and maximal convenience. We as coaches should do everting we can to help clients achieve their goals in the easiest possible way for them. Getting in shape in a convenient way is where the future growth is. Think photographing meals rather than weighing portions and inputting every food item in an app, think simple training programs to do at home as well as gym based options, think planning things around clients lifestyle rather than asking them to plan life around the gym.

This leads me nicely to the future of online training... Where is it going and what can we expect to see over the next couple of years.

Here's what I think;

- AI will improve data gathering and personalised recommendations.

Trainers will soon be working a lot more with data gathered from quality AI and making more personalised recommendations to clients based off this analytics.

- Aesthetics and user experience of software will become more and more vital.

People today expect technology to be intuitive and easy to use. Technology should make their lives easier and make achieving goals possible in a more convenient fashion. This has been one of the big factors in the development of PT Distinction V3 which is set to catapult the online training industry in to the modern age.

- Tracking devices will continue to improve. Software should aggregate these.

There's some exciting things coming in to wearable tracking devices. Measures of stress, readiness to train, peak times to train, automatic rep counting etc... will all become quite mainstream soon and give coaches more to work with in terms of helping their clients get great results. Software such as PT Distinction will integrate more and more of these devices to ensure coaches get as full a picture as possible for each of their clients.

- Virtual reality still has a long way to go.

With the huge investment from big companies in to virtual reality I'm sure it will have a big impact one day. I believe goggles will need to be much more like ski goggles or swimming goggles in terms of size and wearability to become useful in fitness. The ability to see what's going on around us as well as what's in the virtual world will also be very important if VR is to become mainstream in fitness. One day I'm sure it will come. That day is probably not upon us yet.

- Progress tracking and display will continue to play a key role.

Seeing progress towards their personal goals is one of the biggest factors that keeps people interested and consistent in their fitness pursuits. This means data and charting will continue to be very important and play a key role in retention for great trainers and health clubs. Having the flexibility for clients to track the things that are important to them is the key here.

- The more tech is out there the more value people will place on real human interaction.

The trend here is clear, as technology is improving we have less human interaction. As this is happening people are placing more importance on the human interaction they do get. This means going forward the trainers and teams that create the best human interaction and experience will stand out massively and retain clients far longer than those that look to give out a training plan and walk away without building relationships with their clients.