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Augmented Reality Is Augmenting Fitness

A panoramic view of the gym

As a result of the pandemic, the fitness industry underwent some major changes. Gyms, yoga studios, and fitness centers were forced to shut their doors. Consumers had to turn to home gyms and exercise regimens as well. However, many innovative fitness studio owners embraced alternative fitness options. Some held exercise classes outdoors. Others introduced virtual fitness classes that allowed the use of technology to help stay in shape. In many ways, the pandemic was instrumental in advancing the entire FitTech industry. And in a post-pandemic world, it appears the sky is the limit for this evolving sector.

Of course, gym owners and fitness instructors were not the only ones to adapt to the times. One of the more intriguing developments in the FitTech industry involved the combination of exercise and augmented reality. AR fitness is expected to boom over the next decade as new technologies and capacities emerge. At the same time, consumers appear to be much more interested in exercise and augmented reality offerings. Having become accustomed to virtual fitness platforms, this next step does doesn’t look so intimating. This is why many experts in the field predict AR fitness as a major new trend in the years to come.

“I’m excited about Augmented Reality because unlike Virtual Reality, which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.” – Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

Exercise and Augmented Reality

When it comes to fitness programs and exercise, virtual reality fitness platforms have been around for some time. (Read up on how VR technology has been innovating the fitness industry in this Bold story.) In virtual reality, an entirely new environment is created in which someone performs an activity. In contrast, exercise and augmented reality creates a different situation. Augmented reality combines the actual physical environment present with enhanced virtual components. In the process, completely new environments are provided that can make exercise more engaging. At the same time, the presence of the actual physical environment allows users to still be aware of their actual surroundings.

AR fitness is therefore considered both safer and more fun than virtual reality exercise. This doesn’t mean that virtual reality fitness cannot provide healthy exercise as well. In fact, roughly 15% of all VR games qualify as medium intensity exercise activity. However, virtual reality is commonly associated with dizziness and safety hazards when exercising. AR fitness is less commonly associated with these problems. It also invites gamification of physical fitness just like virtual reality does. For these reasons, many in the FitTech industry believe the combination of exercise and augmented reality hold great promise.

“We brought augmented reality to the marketplace with Nintendo 3DS. We made it fun; we made it social.” – Reggie Fils-Aime, Former President and COO, Nintendo

Why AR Fitness Will Become Popular

It’s no secret that many people became less active during the pandemic. Statistically, roughly a third of individuals performed less activity on a daily basis over the course of the last year. At the same time, approximately 44% of individuals chose not to exercise because the activities were boring and repetitive. This resulted in progressive increases in obesity and sedentary lifestyles, especially among younger adults. Even with virtual reality games, improvements in these statistics have not significantly changed. However, AR fitness may be a solution that can help address these public health problems.

The combination of exercise and augmented reality provide a number of benefits that encourage physical activity. Most importantly, AR fitness makes exercising fun. But it also offers other advantages. Like virtual reality, AR fitness offers opportunities to exercise in social settings with others through virtual platforms. It also improves existing types of fitness through gamification. In fact, exercise and augmented reality have the potential to create completely new engaging types of fitness games. Finally, AR fitness can be performed in the comfort of one’s home at a time that’s convenient. Each of these benefits support its potential for rising popularity in the near future.

“[AR Fitness is] quickly expanding beyond games into a bunch of other use cases, and we think that this is eventually going to be a big part of the next major computing platform after phones and after PCs.” – Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO, Facebook

Are All the AR Fitness Pieces in Place?

There are many telltale signs that the combination of exercise and augmented reality will boom in the years to come. During the pandemic, home fitness sales reached an all-time high at $2.3 billion. This figure effectively doubled the sales generated the year before. Currently, AR fitness is projected to grow at nearly 40% in the next five years. Certainly, the pandemic has helped fuel these predictions. But at the same time, many other pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. As this occurs, the use of augmented reality with fitness platforms will undoubtedly expand.

Cartoon images of people working out with giant watches
Is AR fitness the next big thing? Nope. It’s big now.

In terms of these foundational components, technology plays a major role. In the last couple of years, AR fitness glasses and headsets have become much more lightweight. This makes head movements much less cumbersome and more comfortable in the process. In addition, controllers for exercise and augmented reality systems are improving. The development of dual-sided, wireless controllers that detect 6 degrees of movement is also fueling growth. Finally, next generation platforms and the access to 5G networks will further advanced these systems. Once all of these infrastructures and components are in place, consumer adoption of AR fitness systems will undoubtedly increase.

The Potential of Augmented Reality in Exercise

According to people like Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, augmented reality is expected to be the next big thing. Given their track record in anticipating new technological developments, it’s hard to argue with their insights. If their predictions are correct, a large portion of the population will embrace exercise and augmented reality platforms. And their adoption of these AR fitness offerings is expected sooner rather than later. No longer will it be enough to have a Fitbit or other smart fitness wearables. According to them, the new fad in fitness will involve augmented reality that will be attractive to all.


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