A 1956 picture from NYC explains everything we're seeing now

I had the pleasure of traveling to a series of conferences this fall -- IHRSA’s Europe Congress in Seville, the Wexer Technology Summit in London and at IHRSA’s ChinaFit event, to name three. Mostly I was talking about the potential for growth in the fitness industry over the next 5-10 (or more) years.

Kevin Kelly has a recently released book called The Inevitable. The subhead is “Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.” KK nails it on the 12, and in fact -- he argues that these forces are already in play. We’re already moving towards this future. Hence, it’s inevitable (i.e. the title of the book).

You’re seeing these forces at play in health and fitness too, specifically around:

  • Changing and diversifying consumers
  • Economics
  • Globalization
  • Rapid technological advances

That fourth one is the glue behind all these factors -- the first three on my list, but also what KK discusses in his book.

Let’s walk through this for a second.

The first thing I would say -- and some may disagree with me, but that’s OK (that’s why we write these posts) -- is that the global sick care system is essentially bankrupting our planet. We need to shift the focus on preventing and increasing exercise and understanding of exercise. These drive sick care costs down while driving overall lifestyle quality up. Aside from any revenue/profit motivation, that’s just good business.

Here are some of Kevin Kelly’s trends shaping our inevitable future:

Look at (4). Screening, or turning all surfaces into screen experiences. This is becoming a major factor in health and fitness. When I was in London for the Wexler event, I visited a Fitness First down the street from their HQ. I go into a well-lighted cycling studio, right? The attendees were watching a massive virtual broadcast of a cycling class. I would take this idea of “screening” and apply it out even further -- I feel as if our entire bodies, along with conventional surfaces, will ultimately become our “screens.” Here's a deck I've recently given on these issues.

Now move one over and look at (5): accessing. There are different ways to think about this, but one of the more conventional -- that we’re already seeing -- is stuff like smart home devices. Think of Amazon’s Alexa. Alexa already offers workout routines and integrates with some of the leading fitness trackers. So, sitting at home, you have instant access -- “access to services at all times” -- to health benefits. That’s a massive shift. Unstoppable streaming, also mentioned above, plays in here with getting videos directly to you. YouTube has had fitness plans for years; most all streaming services have a whole section of those today.

The overall picture is something like this. We tend to think often of technology as “disrupting” some current or conventional state. That’s not actually true. A rising tide lifts all boats, and by 2025, you’re going to have north of 1 billion global fitness users (that’s 15 percent or so of the entire planet). The different experiences and technologies will converge and work together to deliver the on-demand experience these people need.

Here’s something that might blow your mind: KK, in this book, admits that the best products of the next 30 years haven’t even been invented yet. I agree. Check out this photo, for example:

That’s 1956, NYC. You know what that is? An IBM 5MB processor. Yep, 5MB. Being loaded onto a truck. The phone you’re reading this on is 32GB, probably. And this is only 60 years ago. Can you imagine what people will say about us in 2076? Or even in 2046? Or heck, even in 2020?

Health and fitness needs to change, because it’s good for society and good for revenue models. The factors are in place for that change to happen. It’s just a question of how it all begins to play out.

See the original LinkedIn blog post here.

Bryan O’Rourke is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, author, executive and investor, who has successfully advised and driven global brands for over 30 years. He has presented as a keynote speaker at industry and corporate conferences on four continents. You can hire him to speak at your next event or facilitate your organization’s strategic meetings. He is widely published and quoted in periodicals like Inc. Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and is CSO of a well known Houston based health club chain. Bryan is presenting at at the IHRSA ChinaFit Management Forum event in Changsha November 15-18 2016. He and his partners are launching Vedere Ventures, a boutique private equity firm investing in and advising various health and fitness business models around the globe. To learn more visit bryankorourke.com or follow him @bryankorourke.