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The home gym has returned and is now more connected than ever before

The home gym has returned and is now more connected than ever before
Image from the website Mirror.co

A new generation of connected home exercise equipment features streaming classes and on-demand online personal trainers.

The concept of “The Quantified Self” refers to a thoroughly modern cultural phenomenon: tracking and storing all sorts of data on ourselves through digital tools, generally for the purpose of self-improvement. The phrase is said to have been coined by Wired magazine editors, Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in 2007, the same year fitness tracking wearable technology company Fitbit was founded. In fact, Wolf gave a Ted Talk on the Quantified Self back in 2010.

 

Those were the early days of wearables and sensors, well before the first million smartwatches were sold and the popular Fitbit tracker of the time was a clip-on design you would attach to your clothes.

Thanks to the last decade’s technological progress, you can now easily measure and store data including how many steps you took, how many kilometres you ran, what your heart rate is, how many calories you consumed, how many you burnt, how long you slept, the quality of your sleep, and so forth.

Now, the combination of digital tools and vastly improved internet connectivity are also giving rise to a new kind of connected home gym, one that promises to quantify, motivate, and connect users to workout communities and personal trainers, all from the comfort of our homes.

If the 21st century is all about tech, the 20th century was marked by the rise of personal fitness. Books, magazines, programmes built around developing fitness grew in popularity, with a peak in the 80s thanks to aerobic home exercise videos, DVDs and all-in-one exercise equipment for your home. Despite seductive TV infomercials and famous fitness ambassadors, at-home exercise machines required one thing their celebrity brand trainers couldn’t help with, discipline.

Gym memberships have also been steadily increasing since the 80s. As an example, in the United States only, from the early 2000s, the popularity of gym memberships has nearly doubled from 32-million in 2000 to 60.8-million in 2017. However, being a member of a gym doesn’t necessarily mean working out and exercising regularly. Although averages differ by country, inactive gym members range between 50 to 80%, and according to World Health Organisation statistics, the rate of obesity has tripled since 1975.

Today, the connected home gym brings gym-club-like exercise right into our homes. The downsides include: They are quite expensive to buy and once bought, one would need to buy a monthly subscription to keep connected to live classes as well as being able to stream pre-recorded training sessions. They’re also primarily available in the US with some making their way to the UK and Canada. While this may be the present for certain middle-class Americans, it is very much still only a future possibility for most of the world.

Here is a list of some of the connected gym tools on the market – although currently, none of the machines mentioned below are available in South Africa, and based on information available on the manufacturer’s websites, they have no plans to expand to any part of the African continent any time soon.

The Peloton Bike

It’s a cult following in the US. In 2019, the company reported that it had sold 577,000 units across its two offerings, the Peloton Bike and the Peloton Tread. It also reported 1.4-million subscriptions to its streaming service, which includes a cheaper subscription for those who might not own a Peloton bike, but still want access to its selection of live and pre-recorded classes. With its large connected screen, Peloton owners get to select from different classes based on the exercise routine they want. For those looking to connect to a community, they can also join live classes with instructors on the screen, as well as profiles of other riders who are taking part in the class in real-time, displayed on the screen.

  • Price: $2245,00 – $2694,00
  • Subscription: $58,00 – $70,00
  • Availability: USA, Canada, Germany

Peloton Cycle Film | “Fitness Evolved” from Peloton Cycle on Vimeo.

The Peloton Tread

Basically the treadmill version of the bike, with numerous streaming classes, viewed through a 22-inch screen, live as well as pre-recorded. Naturally, both the bike and the treadmill track your progress and suggest ways for you to continually improve. The classes are not just running classes either, you can buy both the tread and the bike with a set of weights, and follow classes that combine their use with weights.

  • Price: $4295,00 – $4844,00
  • Subscription: $111,00 – $125,00
  • Availability: USA, Canada, Germany

Tonal Gym

This one perhaps resembles the all-in-one home gym the most while also looking nothing like it. Looking a bit like a flat-screen TV, hung on the wall in portrait mode, it is an entire contraption with arms you can pull out, down and up, all with sensors that can tell how hard you’re pulling, how strong you are, and whether you can do with a bit more resistance, all at the tap of a button. As with other connected machines, there’s a trainer on the machine’s big screen, guiding you. With the subscription, you can also choose from a variety of classes. The machine’s artificial intelligence can simulate a variety of weightlifting conditions and even act as a spotter in case you want to go heavier. And of course, it tracks and quantifies your fitness statistics in real-time.

  • Price: $2995
  • Subscription: $49
  • Availability: USA only

Mirror

When switched off, the Mirror looks like any other full-length mirror. Switch it on and a screen comes on. It is a little like having a mirror that is also a TV, except this one comes with a subscription to entire training courses and various instructors as well as an interactive interface. It offers different disciplines including cardio, yoga, strength, kickboxing, pilates and barre. They have also added one-on-one personal training, making full use of the mirror’s camera. So now a real-life personal trainer can guide you and check your form remotely, all from the comfort of your home.

  • Price: $1495,00
  • Subscription: $42,00

Hydrow

The common rowing machine found at any gym can offer an amazing all-body workout, but might not be the most riveting form of exercise. The Hydrow seeks to change that by bringing a connected 22-inch screen streaming classes from world champion rowers. It includes hundreds of customisable workouts and the instructors are constantly filming new ones, shot on bodies of water. In addition to following their form and speed, you can suspend belief and row along as though you too were out there in some idyllic lake. It goes without saying that on this Wi-Fi-enabled piece of tech, you can row along with other rowers also exercising in their homes. ML

  • Price: $1699,00
  • Subscription: $56,00

 

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