The wearable technology trend has been steadily growing for several years, but the Covid-19 pandemic saw an explosion in popularity. With members looking for new ways to stay fit and healthy, their attention naturally turned to technology that might help them.
That’s why members spent more on new wearable technology in the last two years than on any other new health and fitness equipment or service.
Wearable tech is extremely popular and it’s here to stay. Is it time your gym focuses on supporting it?
What is wearable technology?
Wearable technology is the term given to any smart device – or piece of tech – that can be worn on the body. Most commonly – and particularly relevant to the health and fitness industry – it refers to fitness tracking devices, usually worn around the wrist or across the chest.
They can track and monitor anything from step count to heart rate, and are most often used to record activity metrics during normal day to day use, and during workout sessions.
Fitbit wrist trackers were one of the first mainstream pieces of wearable tech, followed by smart watches like those from Apple and Garmin. They come in all shapes and sizes.
Why are wearables important to members?
Members turn to wearable technology for two core reasons: they’re fun and they’re helpful.
Firstly, tracking step count, monitoring calories burned and measuring hills climbed is a great way to make working out more enjoyable. We all like the idea of a challenge, the gamification of training and exercise, and the tasks that wearable tech can set for us encourage us to keep active.
‘Beat 10,000 steps today’. ‘Your longest run is 5.4km, can you do better today?’ ‘Burn 130 more calories to reach your goal.’
Secondly, tracking health and fitness metrics is really helpful to us, to understand how we work out and where we need to improve. They record a wealth of data and share a wealth of insight.
That fitness tracker data is hugely important and beneficial to us.
When we know how well – or how poorly – we’re training, we can make adjustments to improve our workout efforts. When we know what goals we’re currently reaching, and what we should be aiming for, we can work harder to get the results we want.
Wearable tech helps us hold ourselves to account, and when combined with results-oriented goals, challenges and competitions, it encourages us to get more from our training programme.
That’s why your members value wearable technology so much.
Why are they important to gyms?
Because wearable technology is so important to your members, it should be important to gyms.
Members place huge value on the importance of wearable tech and tracking devices in their fitness regimes. Of those we surveyed in our research on member demands and expectations*, 45% of members expect their gym to integrate with smart fitness devices and wearable technology.
That integration is a key part of being a smart gym.
When members come and train, 59% said they want their gym to provide ways to track calories, measure statistics and record workouts. The right equipment, coupled with seamless wearable tech integration, is the most effective way to deliver your members’ priorities.
But how exactly can you integrate wearable tech into your gym?
There are several different ways you can integrate wearable tech into your gym’s offer, depending on your current equipment inventory, your software set-up, and your budget.
1. Let members sync their devices with your cardio equipment to deliver more accurate tracking.
Some wearable tech can be unreliable at tracking metrics when the user is in a relatively stationary position, i.e. running on a treadmill or sitting on an indoor bike. Connecting with your cardio equipment allows members to pair equipment metrics with their wearable tech for better results.
2. Invest in your own wearable tech to add value to members
Your members are always looking for more from their memberships, and one way to add extra value is to provide them with their own wearable tech whenever they train with you. For example, you could bulk-buy MyZone devices – to accurately track heart rates – and supply them at the start of every training session. You might even decide to gamify the results.
3. Use devices in classes and workout programmes to set group training challenges
Group wearable tech is a great way to enhance your classes and workouts. Use devices to set challenges, monitor participation and encourage more effort. The great thing about wearables is they track individual effort, as well as performance, so you can level the playing field in your group training sessions.
4. Bring your community together with leaderboards and friendly competition
By encouraging members to share their statistics, you can build a community based on wearable tech. You can set weekly challenges (get in 90 minutes of cardio training), monthly gym-wide goals (burn a collective 100,000 calories) and engage your entire membership base. The key is setting effort-based goals (rather than ability) to support all members.
5. Make sure any integrated tech supports and complements your existing setup
When it comes to using wearable tech in your gym, there shouldn’t be any barriers to training. Devices should connect automatically and be easy to use. And of course, you shouldn’t exclude any members who don’t have wearable tech – they should still have other ways to track their efforts (i.e. directly on your equipment).
6. Identify what to do with any data you collect
Lastly, if you’re encouraging your members to share any of their training data, you need to know exactly what you’re doing with it. It needs to be kept safe and processed in the right ways. Look for secure, cloud-based storage, or gym management software that can handle data storage on your behalf.
Wearable tech – the smart way to add value for your members
There are lots of different ways to integrate wearable devices into your gym and lots of ways to add value to your members.
Wearable technology – and the wealth of data associated with it – is going to play a big role in gym operations in the future. You won’t want your gym to be left behind.
More importantly, it’s what your members want. They expect to see effective ways to track their workout data and great integration with their devices.
That interaction and connectivity is particularly important to two of your biggest membership groups – Generation Z and Millennials – as our latest insight reveals.
*About the research – on behalf of Xplor, Untangld conducted an online survey of 1,065 respondents during December 2021. The sample for the study was nationally representative and defined as people who were members or regularly attended gyms, health clubs, studios, leisure centres or sports clubs pre-COVID.
Article by Xplor Gym
First published: 20 June 2022
Last updated: 31 October 2023