Technology and Fitness - Things are Changing and Fast

How many people utilize online trackers for health and fitness ? That was one of several questions posed to me by "Steve", an IHRSA member, as part of IHRSA's "Ask an industry leader program". Here is his question in its entirety:

“How many people use online trackers/health social networks for health? Are there any sites you know of? Any research in this area? Do other health clubs recommend this to customers?”

For those of you who follow me you've read my prior posts on wireless devices and wellness in addition to technology's impact on the future of the fitness industry, which touches on this and other topics. Well developed research is not readily available to the general public but there are some interesting metrics to consider when asking the question. During 2009 the Nike+ Human Race, participants ran a combined total of 802,863 miles and during the inaugural 2008 Nike+ Human Race  more than 750,000 runners participated in the event, which took place in more than 24 cities worldwide. Over 2 million users rely on the Nike Plus web site (read Wired's article "The Nike Experiment. How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics"). That should give you an idea. Recently Adidas joined the rank with an even more powerful solution Micoach. There are many others.

The trend in fitness and wellness towards online tracking with personal and mobile devices being integrated continues. Mobility in general is exploding with over 4 billion devices growin to nearly 15 Bilion devices attached to the Internet in the next four years with (mobile smart phones in the US will reach 150 million users in 2011) . In fitness and wellness the category has become better defined recently. On one hand there are the simple calorie-counters, like Philips DirectLife and fitbit. More complicated devices, like Polar's FT80 and others strap onto your wrist like a small computer. Other advanced systems like Progio have special devices that work with heart rate technologies to enable tracking and deliver educational and workout content. In the middle are devices for casual marathoners: the Nike+ iPod system, and now Adidas' latest mid-range system.

Social media is connected to many of these solutions, with Nike Plus for example enabling people to connect, compete and share their performance through an online platform.

Outside of the integrated solutions like Nike Plus or Adidas' new system,, and other online soutions provide workout, calorie counting and other tools and solutions to help people get fit. Many of these solutions are offered under a "freemium" model with premium upgrades available.

Interestingly many health clubs do not integrate these online offerings, although this is changing and some like  Vitabot which provides nutritional tools online work with health clubs to deliver nutritional online solutions to their members. Good life fitness, a successful fitness chain based in Canada offers at home fitness solutions to deliver workout content online and provide some basic tracking and motivation. Major chains like 24 hour fitness and lifetime among others are in the midst of testing and or introducing integrate online offerings as well. Expect these trends to continue and watch this video  (below) on the advancement of tracking in medicine.