01.07.20

How home technology is transforming wellness and fitness

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Yesterday marked 100 days since lockdown in the UK began, with many other countries in Europe having been in lockdown even longer. Amy Wallington looks at how technology is changing to adapt to our new at-home routines and how it is playing a part in keeping us fit and healthy during the pandemic.

Just less than four months ago, our lives were turned upside down with governments across the world announcing lockdowns, with everything closing down. We haven’t experienced anything like this in most of our lifetimes. Although life changed dramatically, technology meant that many of us were able to carry on working while at home. If that wasn’t the case, technology has allowed us to at least keep in touch with loved ones and carry on doing some of what we used to be able to do pre-Covid-19.

Zoom is a platform used in almost all households now, a service many didn’t know existed just six months ago. But since the pandemic hit Europe and we went into lockdown, households have been using Zoom to keep in touch with family and friends, holding weekly quizzes, as well as using it in the new way of working. Many gyms, personal trainers and exercise classes have also jumped on the Zoom bandwagon, live streaming fitness classes from their living room and encouraging other to join in from theirs.

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If you didn’t know who Joe Wicks was before the lockdown, I’m sure you do now. Joe Wicks kickstarted the UK to keep fit at the beginning of lockdown, aiming his daily workouts at kids but also ensuring the whole family can join in. This then sparked a trend with personal trainers, fitness instructors, yoga teachers and gyms to do the same with their clients, using platforms like Zoom and YouTube. The trend is clearly catching because since the pandemic began, sales of exercise equipment and downloads of fitness apps are all on the rise, hinting at a permanent change in the industry. 

Keeping fit and healthy during a time like this is extremely important for mental health and general wellbeing. Even Boris Johnson allowed us one hour of outdoor exercise during the lockdown period. Technology companies are realising this need for people to continue their fitness regimes while stuck at home, and many people are taking up exercise for the first time. 

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One company that has benefitted from the lockdown home workout trend is FitnessAI, who has created an app that uses artificial intelligence to build personalised workout plans for each individual. Having collated data from nearly six million workouts, the AI is able to optimise sets, reps and weights for each time that individual does a workout. 

Originally a gym only app, FitnessAI saw the shift in workout trends when lockdown was implemented and changed its offering to meet the at-home fitness demand. Since the shift, the company says it has noticed changes in their traffic and has also reported large increases in different types of workouts compared to when it was used by gym only members. 

That is just one such company seeing the advantages of the shifting trends to the ‘new normal’. Back in May, Samsung unveiled Samsung Health, a comprehensive in-home fitness and wellness platform available on 2020 Samsung Smart TVs. A prime example of technology adapting to our new way of life, Samsung Health is a user-centric wellness platform designed to revolutionise the concept of at-home workouts. 

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Samsung Health. Image: Samsung Electronics

Syncing across various digital devices, including smartphones, wearables and now Samsung Smart TVs, users can enjoy free premium classes, new wellness routines, and challenges that allows the whole household to get involved.

This platform was developed to address the needs of consumers stuck at home with little or no motivation or ideas about how to keep up their fitness and wellbeing. “The whole intention of Samsung Health is to motivate our consumer to live healthier lives by meeting them wherever they are, across Samsung platforms,” said Won-Jin Lee, executive vice president of service business at Samsung Electronics. 

“We knew that to do this, we needed to develop a user-centric and immersive platform that offered a variety of in-home fitness and wellness options. Given the current climate, we hope that the launch of Samsung Health makes it easier for our consumers to prioritise their physical and mental wellbeing on a daily basis.”

Just this week, lululemon athletica announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire MIRROR, a home fitness company that created an interactive workout platform that features live and on-demand classes, for $500m. Recognising the current rise in home workouts, lululemon said that it hopes to close the sale by the end of the second financial quarter of the year.

The innovative technology from MIRROR allows high-end homes to have a floor-length mirror in their home that also turns into a personal trainer / fitness instructor to give in-depth workouts in the comfort of their own home. 

Lululemon acquire MIRROR
Image: Lululemon & MIRROR

Mimicking a fitness studio, the mirror allows you to see yourself working out while following an instructor displayed on the screen, using the same technology as a mirror TV. Users are also able to sync a Bluetooth heart rate monitor or Apple Watch to track their heart rate in real time with it appearing at the bottom of the mirror. 

With its best-in-class content and versatile platform, MIRROR positions lululemon to accelerate its vision and build upon an ecosystem that will fuel the company’s power of three growth plan, which includes driving the business through omni guest experiences. MIRROR will bolster the company’s digital sweatlife offerings and bring immersive and personalised in-home sweat and mindfulness solutions to new and existing lululemon guests. 

Announcing the acquisition, lululemon’s CEO, Calvin McDonald said: “In 2019, we detailed our vision to be the experiential brand that ignites a community of people living the sweatlife through sweat, grow and connect. The acquisition of MIRROR is an exciting opportunity to build upon that vision, enhance our digital and interactive capabilities, and deepen our roots in the sweatlife. We look forward to learning from and working with Brynn Putnam and the team at MIRROR to accelerate the growth of personalised in-home fitness.”

The news of the transaction builds on an already established and successful partnership between the two companies, which began in mid-2019 with an initial investment in MIRROR by lululemon, and also includes a content partnership which brought sweat and meditation classes to the MIRROR platform by lululemon’s global ambassadors. 

Brynn Putnam, founder and CEO of MIRROR and a former lululemon ambassador added: “We are thrilled to officially become a part of the lululemon family. As part of lululemon, MIRROR can further strengthen its position and accelerate its growth by leveraging lululemon’s deep relationships with its guests, ambassadors and communities, as well as the company’s infrastructure, including its store network and ecommerce channels, to acquire new users.”

I expect we will see more deals of this nature in the coming months, and particularly technology companies partnering with fitness brands to bring wellness to the home. Covid-19 has changed the way we all live and the ‘new normal’ could see an even steeper rise in home workouts, even when gyms reopen. For many people that lead busy lives, going to the gym is not an option. All the time consumers can remain at home and fit in a workout whenever suits them, it will be a popular option.