• November 6-8, 2020
  • MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA

TECH AND THE HEALTH CLUB: BRIDGING THE GAP 

Technology is bringing together the digital and physical world as clubs and their clients embrace the future of fitness.

By Jean-Michel Fournier

 

January 15, 2020

As we start a new decade technology continues to make an impact in the fitness world. As a result, we will aim to share what we see as the present and future of fitness in technology — what we call Fit Tech.

Most FIBO Focus readers are probably familiar with the Les Mills brand already, but maybe less so with Les Mills Media. Les Mills Media is a division of Les Mills International and as head of media at Les Mills I lead our worldwide consumer business, the entire B2B and direct-to-consumer digital portfolio of products, as well as our worldwide music management.

At Les Mills it has always been in our DNA to be an innovation-led company where we are always striving to stay ahead of the curve. Staying ahead is mandatory when appealing to the two largest generations of fitness users, Millennials and Gen Z, who now make up 80 percent of the fitness market.

The “Generation Active” has different tastes than their predecessors – favoring working out in groups, a broader range of options and smart integration of technology – so it’s a given to innovate and necessary to adapt club and fitness offerings to win their business.

One of our big goals is to offer our health club partners and their members a 360-degree fitness solution that seamlessly blends the physical and the digital. We call it the “consumerization of clubs.” It means virtually expanding the four walls of the traditional fitness facility and enabling members to exercise where and when they want. Technology has the potential to allow for this in a more seamless and inexpensive manner for the end user.

Fitness is a very human-centric industry — people want to enjoy their fitness. Our internal research also shows Generation Active prefers group exercise as a means of socializing. Therefore, the future of great live class experiences could be a fusion of amazing, energetic instructors plus tactile audio technology plus augmented video to create immersive virtual environments.

Digital technology can boost the live class user’s multimedia fitness experiences through potential use of immersive “haptic” audio, which creates a tactile augmented reality. Layering tactile music that users can feel, with an immersive visual experience through the use of augmented high-resolution video projected on wide viewing format screens, is the first big step toward creating a more experiential live class experience.

A recent demonstration from Microsoft of its HoloLens 2 showed how the device can now spawn high-definition holograms of people that can translate speech instantly into any language, anywhere in the world. This unlocks the possibility that soon our favorite instructors could become, quite literally, on-demand, able to appear wherever we wear our augmented reality headsets, in whatever language we require.

In addition, the trend for fitness-at-home continues to grow. We know that 85 percent of club members also exercise at home, so our sector must evolve to meet these growing expectations for integrated fitness solutions. Our video streaming platform, Les Mills™ On Demand (LMOD), gives consumers access to more than 800 amazing workouts from the most popular Les Mills programs. Users can stream them anywhere, from any digital device. LMOD has seen significant growth in recent years and we think this category will have a huge impact on the future of fitness as emerging technology matures.

In the short term, expect the immersive experiences pioneered by group cycling class The Trip™ to expand into other class formats – both virtual and live – with high-quality video enhancing the class experience. Imagine a dance workout set against the backdrop of a cheering crowd in a sold-out stadium, or a yoga class surrounded by screens showing a spring alpine vista. Expect to see these very soon.

Additionally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be transformative for fitness and wellness, particularly when integrated with wearable and ingestibles to help us make data-driven decisions around when and what to eat, how long to sleep and when to work out. It also has the potential to transform how health clubs serve their members.

In the same way that Netflix learns what TV shows users like and then makes recommendations, consumers increasingly expect experiential workouts, personalization and smart recommendations to support their lifestyle, so AI will have a huge role to play in supporting members’ every wellness need.

For example, the Polar Vantage, Polar’s flagship sports watches (photo above), recently received some hefty updates, mainly focusing on sleep and recovery, breaking down sleep into the REM, light and deep stages, while also giving the user a look at how well their body has recovered from the day before. I believe Google is going to institute some major technological upgrades to Fitbit to reveal more robust and additive features that it hopes will make it a more appealing consumer alternative than the Apple or Garmin wearable products.

Those who bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds to offer an integrated fitness experience will be the big winners. Clubs are the heartbeat of our industry and it’s vital that they stay at the center of the fitness journey.

As consumers extend this journey to include digital, we’ve implemented ways to retain the clubs as a part of the digital fitness experience. That’s why we’ve partnered with Netpulse, where we can enable clubs to own their members’ fitness journey wherever and whenever they want to work out. Clubs are able to offer a co-branded LMOD subscription to their members at a preferred member rate, helping to boost member loyalty and keep them in the habit of exercising when they can’t make it to the gym.

Our mission at Les Mills is to create a fitter planet and the technologies we’ve talked about will play a really important role in helping to democratize fitness and take it to the masses. But at the same time, this is a very human industry – it’s about physicality and movement – and great people will always be at the heart of the very best fitness experiences.

About the author

Jean-Michel Fournier is currently the CEO of Les Mills Media, a division of Les Mills International, a global fitness company based in New Zealand with offices around the world. As head of media at Les Mills, Jean-Michel oversees their worldwide consumer business, the entire B2B and direct-to-consumer digital portfolio of products (including Les Mills On Demand), as well as their worldwide music management portfolio. Jean-Michel is a seasoned entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, advisor to the French government for economic development and a graduate of Harvard Business School. He is currently domiciled in Silicon Valley and spends a consistent amount of time in New Zealand and Europe tied to his role for Les Mills Media and current advisory roles. He can be reached at jmf@lesmills.com.