Next time you go to Shad, take a look around. Are many people meeting with a personal trainer, nutritionist or fitness staff? Probably not. Instead, everyone’s eyes are glued to their smartphones. From smartphone applications devoted to calorie counting to applications geared to virtual fitness competitions on number of steps taken, digital technology has completely disrupted the fitness industry.
Digital Fitness on the Rise
Wearable technology has increased from 5% to over 20% penetration of the North American population. Based on PWC’s Global Study on Wearables, over 60% of these devices are considered personal fitness devices . In 2015, global shipments of wearable fitness devices were 70.2 million units and the total market is projected to be $30 billion by 2018. The widespread use of wearable fitness technology and fitness smartphone applications has resulted in a shift to mass public use of previously insulated and premium services offered at fitness centers. For example, the mass public can now receive personalized fitness video training, coaching, consultation, guidance, and community and data tracking all for a low cost, or in some cases even a freemium model .
An Opportunity for Equinox
Some may argue that the rise of digital technology is a huge threat to the traditional fitness industry; however, health clubs such as Equinox view the rise of fitness technology as more of an opportunity than a threat. Equinox was the first chain to partner with Apple when it launched its Healthkit smartphone app in June 2015. The app syncs with members’ wearable technologies to track fitness data, analyze member behavior, and provide users with recommendations, tips and content to improve their fitness routines.
Key features of the app include :
- Track progression: The App has a feature called “Activity” which users use to aggregate calories, distance run and sessions completed. This data is synced from a user’s wearable fitness device. However, if the user does not have a wearable then they can simply snap a photo of the workout (treadmill dashboard for example) and upload the photo to the app. This will then be automatically added to the sessions tracker.
- Personalization: The App generates personalized content based on tracking data and workout history. It also suggests classes and workout regimens.
- Reserve equipment and classes with friends: The app allows users to reserve equipment such as a cycling bike on the go or coordinate a workout class with friends through the fitness social platform feature.
Furthermore, as shown in this video of Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Equinox is also actively considering ways to incorporate digital technology into its business model. One other example is through the Company’s new spinning classes called “The Pursuit”. The spin bikes are equipped with digital screens and sensory technology which incorporates gaming and digital visualization to inspire peak individual and group performance. The bikes essentially show gym members how they are performing compared to their peers. As a result, this inspires competition and encourages people to push harder.
So, What Else Should Be Done?
While Equinox has taken a step in the right direction by adapting its business model to incorporate digital technology, it is imperative that the company continue to innovate and focus on upcoming possible disruptive technologies in the fitness space. My view is that Equinox should focus on the following :
- Incorporating smart clothes in its gyms, including shoes, shorts, and pants
- Tracking other more sophisticated aspects of a user’s health profile beyond weight and BMI – perhaps cardiovascular health
- Incorporating skin and or sweat sensors which provide real time biofeedback to users – much more accurate than wearable devices
- Incorporating artificial intelligence to guide workouts and interpret data at fitness centers
By continuing to innovate and embrace the digital technologies in the fitness industry, Equinox may be able to use the digital technology as a growth opportunity rather than a threat to its business model.
What is your view? Does the rise of technology present an opportunity or a threat to the traditional gym market?
 Williams, E. (2015). Digital fitness: The hype is fact, so what are some strategies and tactics? Club Industry, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1722255717?accountid=11311
 Wearables, high rents pose a challenge to gym operators. (2015, January 10). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2015/01/09/igh-rents-pose-a-challenge-to-gym-operators.html
 Equinox Tries to Make a Gym App That Isn’t Pointless. (2014, June 18). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-06-18/equinox-tries-to-make-a-gym-app-that-isnt-pointless
 Equinox launches their app today, and we gotta say its pretty badass. (2014, June 16). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.self.com/story/equinox-launches-app-today-gotta-say-pretty-badass
 Tech Disruption and the Fitness Industry. (2016, June 10). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/tech-disruption-and-the-fitness-industry