The future of fitness: AI-based personal training

  • Aaptiv Coach is a new AI-based personal trainer
  • Mirror brings interactive fitness classes to your home
  • Tonal is a digital gym that fits on your wall
  • Future is a new exercise app that offers personalised 1-on-1 digital training
  • Can technology help us get in shape?

Everybody wants to look good. However, finding the motivation to exercise can be hard sometimes. In addition, our increasingly fast-paced, hectic lifestyles are complicating things even further, making it difficult to free enough time from our busy schedules to go to the gym. Then, there’s also the matter of maintaining a healthy diet, which is just as important, and arguably even more challenging than the actual exercise. Which diet works best for your particular fitness goals? What kind of workout plan should you choose? With so many questions to answer and so many different options available, it can all seem a little intimidating, especially if you’re a newcomer to the world of fitness. But fear not, it’s about to get a whole lot simpler.

Insufficient physical activity is recognised as one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide and can lead to a variety of health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and mental health conditions. According to a recent Lancet Global Health report, in 2016, approximately 27.5 per cent, or more than a quarter of all adults worldwide, didn’t get enough physical activity. Overall, women were 8 per cent less active than men, while high-income countries had almost double the prevalence of insufficient physical activity than low-income countries.

An infographic showing the prevalence of insufficient physical activity among adults, including a comparison between men and women and high-income and low-income countries.
A recent Lancet Global Health report revealed that approximately 27.5 per cent of adults didn’t get enough physical activity in 2016. Overall, men were 8 per cent more active than women, while high-income countries had double the prevalence of insufficient physical activity compared to low-income countries.

In recent years, people have been increasingly turning to technology to help them solve this problem, with a number of wellness, fitness, and nutrition apps and gadgets appearing on the market. According to a recent report published by Research N Reports, the value of the global fitness technology market is predicted to grow from $17.9 billion in 2019 to $62.1 billion by 2025.

  Een grafiek met de waarde van de wereldwijde fitnesstechmarkt in 2019 en de voorspelde waarde in 2025.

Aaptiv Coach is a new AI-based personal trainer

Aaptiv, the startup behind a popular audio-based fitness app, recently announced the launch of a new service called Aaptiv Coach, an AI-based assistant that offers personalised fitness and lifestyle plans tailored specifically to each user in accordance with their individual goals, current fitness levels, eating habits, and data obtained from wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.

A product of three years of development, the software’s algorithms were trained on data gathered through more than 22 million workouts that the company has streamed across the world to this day. This helped them learn how, when, and where people like to work out, as well as what they want from their classes. “The idea is how can we help people achieve their goals, whatever they are?,” says Ethan Agarwal, Aaptiv’s founder and CEO. “If you work out three times a week for 45 minutes, that is basically 2% of your week. But there are a lot of companies out there competing for that 2%: gyms, in-home biking startups, and more. But the way we see it, is that the other 98% of your time is where your habits are formed, where you need to start to build structure.”

Based on the data users share with the app, the Coach will tell them exactly what they need to do to achieve their goals. Users start by filling out a comprehensive questionnaire, which is then combined with their workout history to generate highly personalised daily, weekly, and monthly plans that fit into their routines, with no two users receiving the same plan. Users will also be able to choose whether they want to follow one of Aaptiv’s workouts, a workout led by someone else, or do everything on their own while measuring their progress with AI.

Mirror brings interactive fitness classes to your home

Mirror, a New York-based fitness startup, recently unveiled a new piece of exercise equipment that could revolutionise how people work out at home – a mirror. It’s not an ordinary mirror, though. When turned on, the 52-inch rectangular mirror turns into an interactive home gym, offering users the opportunity to stream unlimited fitness classes from the company’s New York studio in the privacy of their homes.

Users will be able to choose from more than 50 new live classes every week, delivered by some of the country’s leading fitness instructors. There’s also a comprehensive library of on-demand workouts for various fitness goals, including cardio, yoga, strength, boxing, pilates, and HIIT (high intensity interval training). Classes are available in four different levels, ranging from absolute beginner to expert.

During the class, users will be able to see themselves, their classmates, and their instructor in the mirror, which is equipped with speakers and a camera. For those worried about their privacy, there’s also a lens cap to put over the camera when not in use. The instructor will provide real-time instructions, as well as encouragement in the form of personal shout-outs. The workouts are constantly optimised in real time in accordance with users’ ability, goals, and preferences. Users can also sync a Bluetooth heart rate monitor or an Apple Watch to allow Mirror’s proprietary algorithm to keep track of their vitals and enhance the experience even further.

All of that comes at a premium, though. Mirror costs $1,495 and also requires a $39 monthly subscription. The company will also start offering personal 1-on-1 training at $40 per session, with treadmill and spin workouts coming soon after. There are also plans to scale beyond fitness content, into areas such as physical therapy, beauty, fashion, and education. “We have the ability to create personalized premium content across a wide range of verticals, with fitness being our first vertical,” says Brynn Putnam, Mirror’s founder. “Our goal is not to be the next treadmill in your life, our goal is to be the next screen in your home.”

Tonal is a digital gym that fits on your wall

The San Francisco-based startup Tonal recently launched a digital strength-training system that allows you to get in shape without ever leaving your home. What makes Tonal different from traditional weightlifting machines found at today’s gyms is that it doesn’t have any physical weights. Instead, it uses an electromagnetic field controlled by a computer algorithm to simulate weight and generate opposing force (up to 90 kilograms).

Shaped like a vertical TV screen, Tonal mounts on your wall and features two adjustable arms at the edge of the screen that extend outward at the push of a button. The arms can be fitted with different attachments, such as a smart bar or a rope, allowing you to do just about any leg, arm, back, core, or chest exercise you can think of. The system also features built-in personal coaches that guide you through your workouts. There are eight different coaches to choose from, all of whom are elite personal coaches in real life.

After a short assessment to determine your baseline strength, Tonal creates a personalised workout program based on your current fitness level and your goals. Its advanced intelligence monitors the speed and quality of each rep you do in real time and automatically adjusts resistance to ensure that you get the most out of your workout. The system also keeps track of your progress over time, modifying the exercises as you get stronger and closer to your goal. However, the pleasure of having an entire gym on the wall of your home doesn’t come cheap. The machine itself costs $2,995 and there’s also a $49 monthly subscription that gives you access to hundreds of hours of personal training sessions, recommended programs, and workouts.

Future is a new exercise app that offers personalised 1-on-1 digital training

Future, another fitness startup, recently launched a new exercise app that assigns you an actual human coach who creates a personalised workout plan based on your schedule and preferences. You start by answering a couple of questions about what you want to achieve, after which you’re offered a choice of several expert coaches who fit your needs. Once you make your pick, you’ll do a short, 15-minute video chat with your new coach to get acquainted and inform them about your schedule.

The company will then send you a welcome kit that contains some of the things you need for the workout, including an Apple Watch. Soon after, the coach will deliver your personalised daily routines for the first week, accompanied by video instructions for each exercise and pre-recorded voice clips with personalised pointers and motivation. The Apple Watch allows the coach to keep track of your activity and heart rate throughout the day. If they notice that you’re not doing your exercises, they’ll check in with you to see what’s wrong, try to motivate you, or even reschedule the workout if necessary.

After each workout, you’re required to supply feedback, which allows the coach to update the plan as you progress. “Future manages to be both deeply personalized (and personable!) while being super convenient,” says Instagram’s co-founder Mike Krieger, one of the company’s backers. “The always-available nature of it means travel or a shifting schedule is no longer an excuse to not work out.”

At $150 a month, Future is probably one of the most expensive apps ever made, but it offers a one-month money-back guarantee. According to Future’s CEO, Rishi Mandal, the app has already had some very promising results. In its beta test, 95 per cent of users kept using the app for at least three months, while 85 per cent pushed it to six months.

Can technology help us get in shape?

As our lives get busier, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the time and motivation to exercise regularly. As a result, more than a quarter of all adults worldwide don’t get enough physical activity, which can in turn lead to a variety of health issues, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer. However, technology has emerged as a potential solution to this problem.

A number of innovative fitness-related apps and gadgets have appeared on the market in recent years, transforming the way people work out, and allowing the fitness industry to shift its focus towards personalised workouts delivered straight to people’s homes. Today, it’s not even necessary to go to the gym anymore to get a good workout. Thanks to technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, you can now exercise anywhere and anytime, following a highly personalised plan tailored specifically to your fitness levels and goals.

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