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Gone are the days when your workouts have to feel like a monotonous chore—walking on an endless treadmill, suffering through sit-ups, and counting jumping jacks are so 2015. Instead, you can use virtual reality to put yourself right into a video game workout or game your way through a series of planks. And we owe all this newfound fitness fun to technology.
“In many ways, technology is driving fitness,” says Mohammed Iqbal, founder and CEO of SweatWorks, a design development agency focused on delivering bespoke digital products to the fitness industry. “While the use of technology has been commonplace at fitness centers, the evolution that has been happening over the past 10 years is the personalization of fitness and moving it closer to your home. The addition of a wearable, such as an Apple Watch or Fitbit, exponentially expands the influence of all-day tracking into your fitness journey.”
Iqbal says that brands have started investing in their digital experience significantly over the past four years as the trend toward on-demand and at-home fitness has continued to grow. And the timing couldn’t be better, considering the pandemic’s far-reaching effect on the fitness industry—gym closures, restrictions on community team sports, and fewer people getting outside for physical activity means sticking to a fitness routine is harder than ever.
“Covid-19 has accelerated the evolution of wearables and digital fitness by at least three to five years,” says Iqbal. “What Covid-19 has enabled is faster adaptation of technology with consumers.”
One of the best benefits of the union of technology and fitness is that it leads to innovative and fun ways to work up a sweat—some are so fun, in fact, that you’ll actually be excited for your next “workout” instead of watching the clock. Here are some of our favorites:
If you’ve ever taken a boxing class or religiously popped in a Tae Bo video, then you’re going to love this new twist on a boxing workout. BoxVR helps improve rhythm, agility, hand-eye coordination, and stamina with its adrenaline-pumping virtual reality boxing workouts. The app—which works with Oculus, Steam, or PlayStation VR, and needs to be purchased separately—transforms your living room into a virtual boxing ring where you’ll jab, uppercut, weave, and deflect punches in routines that are choreographed to awesome beats by professional fitness instructors. The workouts range from three-minute warm-ups to hour-plus endurance classes. The app also tracks your progress and calories burned to help keep you motivated—as if being transported into your own video game isn’t motivation enough?
Walking is the most underrated form of exercise, despite its numerous benefits—it improves cardiac health, boosts mood, improves posture, and enhances circulation, and it’s a great low-impact option for people with knee, ankle, and back problems. But sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to go for a walk. Enter 99 Walks: a monthly walking challenge app that inspires people of every age and ability to get up and get moving. You can use it to walk outdoors, walk around your house or the mall, or walk on a treadmill. There are daily classes, monthly rewards (stainless steel bracelets with inspirational messages), pace data, meditations, podcasts and music, virtual teams, and a supportive community to engage with. Soon, you’ll be walking with purpose.
Not only is the same old fitness routine mind-numbingly boring, but your body quickly starts to get used to the moves—and that’s when plateaus happen, making it impossible to hit your goals. Instead, confuse your muscles and take your fitness to the next level with ClassPass, an app that aggregates the best workouts from studios and on-demand platforms around the globe. Don’t be overwhelmed by the fact that there are 50,000 weekly digital options to choose from (that can all be done in your living room either with real-time instruction during a live class or on-demand to fit your schedule), because you can easily sort based on genre, length, and studio. You’ll have fun switching things up and exploring such categories as HIIT-style workouts, strength-training, yoga, Barre, Pilates, kickboxing, and more.
If doing a dull cardio workout makes it seem as though time is standing still, maybe it’s time to try dancing! Sure, you could just create a playlist and have a living room dance party, but wouldn’t you rather learn some new moves and make sure you’re hitting all your muscle groups? Verv—a holistic health and wellness app featuring fitness classes, nutrition info, sleep stories, healthy recipes, and meditations—recently launched hip-hop style classes led by expert dancer and trainer Mike Peele (who has appeared in videos with Beyoncé, Madonna, and Rihanna, among others). Each workout lasts approximately 20 minutes and can burn 400–800 calories. And the routines are so high energy, you’ll forget you’re not rocking out at a concert.
Anyone who believes there’s nothing more dreadful than an ab workout has never tried a dynamic core workout with Stealth, the device that lets you work 29 muscle groups while playing video games. You’ll use your body as the game controller while you twist and turn to compete for high scores. How? By using your abs, glutes, legs, low back, obliques, arms, and shoulders to balance in a plank position. Simply place your smart phone on the board, pull up the app, and you’ll have an unlimited number of gameplay options at your fingertips. Since no two workouts are the same, you’ll never get bored.