Fitness Apps – The Future of Training?

The previous blog saw us discussing online personal training – this week, we’re sticking to the ‘online’ theme as we look at fitness apps. The virtual world is growing and growing, and with all of the fitness apps, YouTube exercise videos and online PT’s out there, it looks like our gym facilities could quickly run out of fashion! Of course, many people will always prefer to stick to the more traditional method of heading out to their local gym to train. However, with so many alternative methods now out there, surely our gyms are going to have to offer something extra special and unique to retain members – otherwise we could be losing them to the virtual world of fitness apps!

One side of the argument is that there’s no reason to set foot in a gym thanks to hundreds of new fitness apps and online workouts. Personally, I’ll always prefer going to a gym to train – it’s a way of escaping the house and switching off from life’s demands. A gym can provide the facilities and equipment needed to get an effective training session done. If guidance is needed, there are fitness professionals around to help and most gyms have programs to follow if requested. However, for some, financial worries and having the time to travel to a gym, or having to look after children may be a barrier. In such cases, it may be that a following the guidance of a fitness app is a good alternative to still being able to train effectively.

The aim of this blog is to raise your awareness, as a fitness professional in the industry, as to how people may select fitness apps from the hundreds that are out there. If we know what people are looking for from a fitness app then we know what we are competing with from a gym or online trainers point of view.

  1. People look for apps that get personal; apps that offer support via email, phone, or FaceTime. Some of these apps offer daily or weekly check-ins with trainers and a few offer real-time feedback. However, these apps are costly!
  2. People want to enjoy their training, or at least feel good after they’ve exercised. This helps exercise to become more of a habit.  If enjoyed, they’re much more likely to stick to it.
  3. There are so many different physical capabilities out there. Can apps modify programs effectively to suit their users needs? This is what people are after – progression, (regression where necessary) and overload to strive closer to their goals. Remember, people like experiencing success, and reaching set goals is a great achievement.
  4. Variation is key to training. Not necessarily just doing different exercises but periodising training so that there are phases of high/low volume and low/high intensity. This helps to aid progression and avoid that dreaded ‘plateau’ word.
  5. Convenience is probably the greatest reason of all people buy-in to fitness apps.

I believe that points 1-4 above, can all be more effectively delivered from a Gym, Personal Trainer, or an online Personal Trainer. As stated in point 1, individualised and personal support is important – apps can deliver this to a certain extent, but it’s more expensive. Then, if people are having to pay extra for a more personalised app, they may as well fork out for a gym membership where they can receive support and guidance from the trainers on the gym floor.

Within a good gym, which is well staffed with experts, guidance on programs, exercises, variations etc should constantly be on hand – as it is with good online PT businesses. It then comes down to convenience, and unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that training via a fitness app in your back garden is more ‘convenient’ and time efficient compared to getting in the car and driving to a gym 10 minutes down the road. The way to overcome this is to help people become more aware of their health and fitness, and place a higher value on it.

Everyone can find 30-45min a day, especially if enough value is placed on the reason for making that time available. The downside of it is that, from a gym industry point of view, it means changing the way many people think about training and how important they value exercise to maintain or build fitness. Changing people’s mind-set is a long and slow process in eventually making something into a habit. It may be that fitness apps bridge the gap between people not exercising at all, to following the guidance of a fitness app at home and eventually looking to join a gym once they get that ‘exercise bug’. Personally, I don’t see how fitness apps could ever replace gyms, but they are certainly worth being aware of so we know what we are competing against.