This article was published on July 16, 2017

The final frontiers for health and fitness? remote and virtual

The final frontiers for health and fitness? remote and virtual
George Beall
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George Beall

The health and fitness market is now a multi-trillion-dollar industry. It’s tremendous success comes as no surprise, either; between the popularity in fitness classes, all the athletic apparel that’s sold, the ubiquity of tech fitness wearables, and a more wellness-minded populace in general, the sector has ballooned to a 2015 net worth of $3.7 trillion worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

Because of this, it may seem like the opportunities in the health and fitness market are close to being exhausted, but that’s nowhere near the reality for this segment of the economy. In fact, the sector has seen annual growth for the last few years, and it’s projected to keep growing.

But where are the frontiers for health and fitness? Where could the industry possibly have room to expand? There are two key areas to focus on: remote training, and reality that’s both virtual and augmented.

Screen-based training, customized

The benefits of a good sports trainer are well documented: when you work with one, your performance improves, you’re more motivated, and you’re more likely to keep up with your workouts. Still, it’s not always easy to find the right trainer.

What if the right one for you doesn’t live nearby? Or what if you’re both busy and your schedules don’t jibe? Until recently, these problems were often insurmountable. Now, however, the solution is in your back pocket.

Online sports training is the overlap between the growth in the health and fitness market and the growth in online education. It makes perfect sense, and it removes so many barriers that many people had to personalized sports training. Geography is irrelevant, and training can take place on demand and from anywhere.

It’s a setup that offers benefits for students and trainers alike. For students, the right trainer is available no matter where you’re located. You’re able to train when it fits your schedule, independent of gym or park hours. And you can negotiate your price with your trainer directly, rather than going through a gym that sets non-negotiable prices.

As for trainers, their clientele is no longer limited to the communities in which they live — they can now access clients all over the world! They also don’t have to schedule classes that many interested students won’t be able to attend for a multitude of reasons. Finally, they’re able to set their own fees and are not limited by what a gym stipulates they can charge.

“InhomeSports is one app capitalizing on this trend, offering live, two-way video conferencing at the push of a button, connecting students and instructors anywhere at anytime.” said Michael Krouse, InhomeSports’ CEO.

Some skeptics may bring up the impersonal nature of training through a screen: how can any real improvement be made if a trainer is not able to see a student in person? It’s a valid question, for sure, and yes, for some sports and techniques, not being able to see a student’s form in real space may present some new challenges for both the trainer and the trainee.

However, they’re challenges that can be overcome with some persistence and with increasing comfort with the remote format. What’s more, improved form is only one of many reasons why a student may seek a trainer. Things like motivation, advice, drills, and more can all be done remotely with little or no interference or awkwardness.

The role of VR and AR

For decades, kids and adults alike have enjoyed playing video game versions of their favorite sports; hockey, football, basketball, and more have all been successful on platforms like Sega, Nintendo, Playstation, and others.

However, as fun as those games were, they were never intended to be actual training tools to improve performance on a real field. Thanks to the leaps and bounds in virtual and augmented reality tech, though, some video game-type simulators can improve athleticism in real life.

Want to work on your tennis backhand but can’t get to the court? Want to practice stopping ice hockey shots on goal but can’t get to the ice rink?

Want to improve your chip shots without paying greens fees? All of these things and more can be done using a VR simulator. Similarly, augmented reality, or AR, can provide virtual targets, positioning guides, and many other images to help training athletes make improvements.

Growth is coming

If you look at the numbers from the Global Wellness Institute, screen-based sports training and training technology aren’t even on their list of key sectors, or subdivisions of the health and fitness market that made more than $43 billion USD in 2015. This indicates that there’s lots of room for growth, and we can probably expect to see it in the next year or two.

If you’ve been frustrated by the lack of available sports training options near you, or if you’re a technophile and athlete who is ready to try a new approach, check out these two relatively new options for improving your performance.

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