Fitness and Tech

The Evolution Of Technology In The Fitness Industry

Fitness has changed a lot through the years. These days, it’s not just a case of going for a run. Now, we have things like smart and fitness watches to help us to monitor our fitness. We have gym machines that we can use to give us a workout from the comfort of our own homes. The rise of VR is even coming into play to truly enhance the fitness experience.

Of course, it all had to start somewhere. The fitness industry didn’t start out with all of this technology. So what has changed through the years, and what may we expect to see in the years to come? That’s what we’re here to explore today. Here’s our guide to the evolution of technology in the fitness industry.

When Did The Fitness Industry Start?

The Beginning

Human beings have been active since the dawn of time, though this was mostly out of necessity rather than an innate desire to work on their fitness and wellbeing. It certainly isn’t what it is today. People had to be active to chase after their food so that they could survive. Not only that, but predators would lurk around every corner, so someone would need a really good set of running legs to ensure that they weren’t a creature’s next meal!

Of course, there was also another element of fitness to consider – sport. In the early days of humanity, gladiators and battles were pretty popular. These activities were often witnessed by many people in large arenas and would generate a decent prize for the winning individual. Sometimes it was even a fight to the death. For this reason, competitors would need to ensure that they were fit – this is the earliest that you would really see a ‘gym.’ In fact, the word gym is Greek for ‘gymnos’ – it means naked, and it’s often the way that men would train. 

As time went on, gyms would become more popular as a way to help people to become more physically active. 

The First Pedometers 

Pedometers have primarily been popular since around the 1960s thanks to the Olympics in Japan, but they’ve actually been around much longer than this. Early sketches resembling pedometers were done by Leonardo da Vinci, though it is widely believed that the first ‘pedometer’ was made in 1780 by the watchmaker Abraham-Louis. These early pedometers were a pendulum type of watch, so they didn’t look like the mainly digital ones that we see today and the technology inside was very different, too.

Of course, these pedometers were certainly not how we know them today. In 1965, pedometers gained prominence in Japan. They were known as manpo-kei, which translates in English to 10,000 steps meters. Later in the 70s and 80s, the United States started to make more pedometers but downsized them so that they were easier to fit in your pocket.

Today, pedometers work pretty differently, continuing accelerometers that will measure a person’s movements in a far more precise manner. They can be inaccurate, but far less so than the pedometers of the past. They are also usually built into smartwatches – more on that later! 

The First Gyms

So, what marks the beginning of the ‘gym?’ Well, it is largely believed that the very first private gym was started by Franz Nachtegall from Denmark, who created a private gymnastics club. It was basically an early gym, and it would contain a wide variety of things including vaulting classes, weighted medicine balls and dumbbells. You wouldn’t see anything like an elliptical back in 1799 – those would come much later! 

Skipping a few years, the early 1800s saw the introduction of fitness for medical purposes, thanks to Pehr Henrick Ling. It was designed to help people to overcome physical ailments through exercise.

In 1848, the first commercial gyms were created by Hippolyte Triat who opened a gym in Brussels, then later opened another in Paris. It contained a wide range of different fitness gear, such as dumbbells, ropes and barbells. The YMCA would come to do something similar in 1850.

These were the earliest gyms that we know of, but gyms have changed and evolved a lot even since then. Through the years, things like Pilates studios have been introduced (1926) and other specialist gymnasiums for certain activities. Big names like 24 Hour Fitness would be introduced to the world in the 1900s, and eventually things like fitness trainers and machines would make their way onto the scene. 

The First Gym Machines

Gym machines started to become really popular back in the 20th century, but there were prototypes of machines even as early as the 1800s. In fact, Doctor Gustaf Zander created a machine in 1857 to help his students learn gymnastics. The first machine was made of wood and would have levers and weights in order to create resistance.They would usually just be operated using the power of the individual’s muscles, though in the 1890s electric motors were added to help power the machine. There were a number of machines made, some of them even resemble things that you may see in the gym today! These original models were expanded upon and adapted through time as technology changed.

The real rise in the popularity of gym machines happened in the 1900s. For instance, the very first electrically powered fitness bicycle was created by Dr Keene Dimick in 1968, and was known as the Lifecycle stationary bike. It was pretty expensive, but it was a huge success – the bike even propelled the Life Fitness brand into popularity.

In the 1970s, machines like the variable resistance cable machines, rowing machines, leg extension machines and treadmills started being made. These machines would evolve over time, including more advanced technology. Speaking of which…

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Technology Used In The Fitness Industry Today

Now that we’ve covered the history of technology and gym machines, what about the technology we use today? What kind of technology is shaping the fitness industry for the better? Here’s everything that you need to know.

Advanced Gym Equipment

Gym equipment has come a long way since the early days, when things were made out of wood and springs back in the 1800s. Today, equipment is far more advanced. One of the biggest things taking the market by storm today is the introduction of smart fitness equipment. You can even link your gym machines to your fitness trackers.

So, what’s the deal with smart fitness machines? These machines include technology that will give you oodles of data. You will get analytics on your performance – has this session on the treadmill been better than the last one? How many calories have you burned? It’s basically like a machine and a fitness coach all boiled into one, allowing you to constantly improve and adapt since you know what things need to change during your next session. 

Things like treadmills and electric bikes will even show you maps. With these, scenes from around the world will appear as you are moving, almost as if you were actually running or cycling through those locations in real time. It adds a real sense of immersion. Most machines like ellipticals and stair steppers will also include programmed workouts to guide you through the best ways to burn off those calories.

Most workout machines today are fully adjustable based on your height and weight, so nobody is excluded from using them. Machines such as the elliptical have even been designed to mimic actual movements in real life, making your workout both seamless and effective. 

Wellness Apps

Over the past few years, wellness apps have become increasingly more popular in the fitness industry. These apps encompass a range of different things. If you’re struggling with your mental health or need to unwind, then there are mindfulness apps for that. If you’re looking for a structured workout program but can’t quite afford to invest in the services of a personal trainer, then there’s something for that too. 

There are a few key kinds of apps to take note of in the fitness industry:

  • Apps for Fitness

As the name suggests, these apps are designed to give users ways to track their activity both in and outside of the gym. They are often geared towards a specific kind of activity, such as running, strength training or pilates. They are made to help users to keep on track and set sustainable goals based on their aspirations for their health and fitness. 

  • Mindfulness Apps

Mindfulness apps are a good choice for people looking to minimize stress and anxiety in a productive way. They often provide meditation sessions based on a person’s unique mental health concerns at the time.

  • Nutrition Apps

If you are looking to reform your diet and nutrition, these apps are your best choice. These help you to track things like macros and calories so your diet can align with your fitness goals. One key example of this kind of app is MyFitnessPal, one of the most popular nutrition apps out there. Some of the apps also provide recipe suggestions.

  • Sleep 

Sleeping apps are pretty handy since they allow the user to keep track of their sleeping patterns and they suggest ways to improve sleep quality. They often work hand in hand with wearable devices, and some even use recordings of sound to figure out what’s happening during your sleep.

Particularly tech-savvy gyms may choose to have their own app created, too. These apps keep gym-goers connected to the latest news in the gym, may link to machines, and help them to connect to others in their gym. Some of these apps allow individuals to book slots for classes – something particularly helpful for individuals that may be a bit nervous about making phone calls! 

Data released this year has established that wellness apps are becoming even more popular in 2021, especially thanks to the national lockdowns imposed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. At this time, home workouts were the only option for many people, so gyms had to find a way to be ahead of the curve. Wellness apps were a great opportunity for gyms to continue to offer some kind of service even though they couldn’t interact with their clients face to face.

The fitness industry is recognizing the demand to link their services with smartphones, and it’s capitalizing on the increased popularity of these apps, sometimes even to bring in a whole new revenue stream.

VR (Virtual Reality)

VR is taking the fitness industry by storm. Virtual Reality is helping to kick workouts up a notch, and makes exercise far more engaging. Not interested in leaving your house today? Hop on a spin bike at home and join a VR class on your device without even having to leave your house.

One big problem with fitness is that for uninitiated individuals that want to improve their fitness, it can be pretty boring. People often don’t want to spend an hour on a treadmill when they know that they can be at home enjoying a gaming session with their friends instead. There are even studies that have found that one of the main reasons that people choose not to exercise is because they find it uninteresting.

This is where VR comes in. With VR, you can make fitness a lot more fun, by essentially convincing people that they are in a world other than their own. Perhaps they’re in an alien land and have to run to get away from a huge monster, for instance. There are many opportunities with VR to encourage new people to get into fitness, and the fitness industry is most certainly capitalizing on this.

One particular example of this is the Oculus Quest Fitness App. This app utilizes VR and makes it into a game that people can enjoy while they are trying to get fit. It’s a distraction from what they are actually doing, and this makes it very effective. People are no longer thinking about the fact that they’re staring at the screen of their treadmill, instead they’re trying to make their way out of a horror escape room! 

Virtual Workout Sessions

If you can’t get to the gym or would prefer to work out from home, what can you do? Well, it turns out that you can do quite a lot of things! Virtual workout sessions are currently on the rise in the fitness industry, especially after the Coronavirus pandemic where people were unable to attend classes in person.

Virtual workout sessions are performed across a number of different mediums. If you have a personal trainer, you are usually advised to get some home gym equipment for your workouts and attend a Zoom call to have the class. These sometimes come alongside coaching via messaging or email too. There are even some personal trainers that run exclusively online.

In addition to this, there are also online classes that you can take. Once again, these classes usually take place on a meeting based application such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. The instructor begins the class – which can be on a wide variety of different activities, from dancing to kick boxing – and you will follow their instructions from your home. Alternatively, some instructors may do pre-recorded classes that you would pay for in advance and then do at your own leisure on a weekly basis.

It’s very difficult to mention virtual workout sessions without first bringing up YouTube, of course! On YouTube, you can find a wide variety of different workout classes, particularly in specific niches. There are yoga classes, dance classes, and pretty much anything else that you can think of in between. What’s especially great about many of these classes is that they don’t actually cost any money, which can be good for people that may be struggling to afford to pay for traditional classes and gym memberships. Instructors will usually earn money this way through donations through sites such as Patreon or they will get ad revenue from the YouTube video. 

Either way, virtual workout sessions are a lucrative market for people that wish to teach fitness. With online classes, you can reach people throughout the globe rather than being restricted to only doing classes for people that live locally. That can present a lot of opportunities for practitioners, especially if you specialize in a form of exercise that may not be particularly popular in your local area.

Wearable Technology

Everywhere you look, you see wearable technology being advertised or worn. Wearable technology is one of the biggest things to hit the fitness industry, and it’s an excellent way to keep people motivated with their fitness journey.

Fitness trackers can come in a number of different forms. Most of them are watches that are attached to your wrist, though you can also get wearable tech that can attach to your clothing. 

Wearable technology is useful for the fitness fanatic in a number of different ways. First of all, it can act as a pedometer. If you want to get your 10,000 steps a day, it’s never been easier than with a fitness tracker on your wrist. These handy devices will often beep or vibrate when you haven’t walked much in any given hour, prompting you to walk more to improve your step count. It helps you to keep track of how much you have done.

In addition to that, they help you to log and track your workouts. After logging a workout right from your wrist, you can then view the analytics for the exercise – how many calories you burned, the amount of steps that you took and more. 

Wearable tech isn’t just helpful for physical fitness either. Many of them come with built-in mindfulness apps that you can use to help you to relax when you are stressed. They often connect with food logging apps too so you can keep track of all of your wellbeing data in one place. Some of them come with ECG functions to log your heart health, and most importantly, almost all of them come with a heart rate monitor. 

These watches aren’t only for fitness, they’re for lifestyle. When you aren’t in the gym, you can use them to play music easily, to read text messages and to take phone calls. Pretty neat, huh? They are sure to become even more popular in the years to come, especially as many of them can now link to smart workout machines.

Personalized Workout Plans

Fitness isn’t a one size fits all kind of thing. It’s something that needs to be personalized based on the individual’s goals and characteristics. That’s why personalized workout plans are far more popular today. Most of these link directly with wearable fitness trackers, allowing a person to figure out what the next steps in their fitness regime will be based on their previous workout performance. Workouts are generated based on the fitness data from the trackers, machine learning algorithms and AI technology. 

As time is passing and technology is becoming more advanced, these personalized workout plans are only becoming more in depth and personalized. This is perfect for individuals looking for a workout regime that is ideal for them.

Fitness Technology Of The Future

Now we’ve explored the fitness technology of the past and of the present, how about the future? How are things expected to change over the coming years and decades? We’ve made so many strides even in the past few years that it’s easy to imagine that the future will come with a bunch of huge changes too. So what are these changes likely to be based on what we currently know? Here’s a few potential scenarios.


Drones are pretty popular these days, but are they about to make their way onto the fitness market? Some people theorize that the answer is yes. Drones are set to be far more prevalent than just something that you use at your leisure in the future. There are even a number of different drone prototypes that have been released onto the market already for the fitness industry.

One example of this is the Joggobot. This particular drone was designed for runners and it would link up with their smartphone. It helps them to stay motivated on their runs, featuring two modes – a companion mode and a challenger mode. It was found to be incredibly useful, though it had a number of kinks. Technology such as this is likely to be more refined as the years continue to pass, resulting in more drone technology being used in the fitness industry.

So how are drones likely to be used in the fitness industry going forward? For starters, the Joggobot has illustrated that drones can be a huge asset for runners. Drones are also very effective at helping people to film things from a distance, so they are likely to be used to record feats in fitness. They are likely to be used alongside personal training sessions to further enhance the experience. They could potentially be used to measure progress, and are likely to be fairly commonplace in the years to come. 

Digital Fitness

If the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted one thing to the fitness industry, it’s that there’s more of a need for gyms and fitness practitioners to be versatile. Technology creates a lot of opportunities for fitness instructors and gym owners alike, so it’s quite likely that we will see more of a hybrid in-person and digital approach to fitness in the years to come. By doing this, gyms and fitness professionals will be able to reach a much wider audience, expanding business by a potentially substantial amount. It’s going to truly revolutionize the fitness industry, and it will provide more options for people that don’t enjoy leaving the house in order to get fit. We are sure to see the rise in apps far more in the years to come.

Virtual Reality Will Become Even More Popular

In the coming years, virtual reality and associated technology is sure to become even more popular. Even as we speak, the fitness industry is working on more ways to create intuitive and immersive fitness experiences. The technology is likely to become even more in depth as time goes on, with the ability to experience the color, temperature and terrain of different simulated environments. Users will be able to truly feel like they are in these environments, transporting them from their home treadmill to some alternate universe or to the Pacific Trail. 

Even now, we see more of how VR is changing the fitness industry, with companies such as Oculus VR creating technology that will allow the user to follow along with workouts as if they are actually in the room with the personal trainer. Of course, there are a lot of improvements needed to VR before it can become truly commonplace in the fitness industry, especially when it comes to workouts like yoga and pilates where form and posture is so important. Nevertheless, it’s something that we’re likely to see more often in gyms in the future.

AI-Enabled Technology

Artificial Intelligence, or AI for short, is already such a big part of people’s lives today. It’s there when we speak to devices like the Amazon Echo or Google devices, and it has really changed a lot about how technology operates today. What it can also change is the fitness industry. In fact, it’s very likely that AI is going to make big strides in the fitness industry in the future. New gadgets and software are being made all the time that incorporates the use of Artificial Intelligence.

So how is AI likely to come into play in the fitness industry in future? Well, fitness apps will come with AI software that allows the device to cater workouts towards the wearer based on previous activity, interests and more. It’s likely to be widely used in marketing and sales tactics for the fitness industry too, generating more customers. It’s likely to be built into fitness wearable devices, and AI fitness coaching may become more popular too. AI will never replace in person coaching, but it’s certainly something that is sure to revolutionize the industry in the coming years.

Smart Home Fitness Technology

Fitness equipment has come a long way, but the best way to modernize the industry is to keep changing things. Basic gym equipment is fine, but why settle for less than the best? It’s quite likely that fitness equipment is due for a big remodel, likely incorporating smart home fitness technology. This is tech that will have all the bells and whistles attached. Perhaps you’ll be able to watch Netflix on your next elliptical machine, and it can give you even more in depth statistics than ever before. The home workout as we know it is going to see some big changes, and many large brands are already paving the way for this to happen.

With all of these technologies combined, we’re sure to see a very different looking fitness industry in a decade to come, but it will surely be for the better. As we head towards the future, health and fitness will become more popular than ever before thanks to these new technologies.


Technology is certainly not the same as it once was! It’s constantly changing and adapting based on our needs, and this can be seen quite clearly in the fitness industry. One thing is for sure – we’re excited to see how things are going to change in the future! 


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