If you’re not already harnessing the power of fitness technology to run your personal training business and make a difference in the lives of your clients, you should be.

Why? Because smartphones, wearable technology, mobile fitness apps and fitness websites have the potential to revolutionize the work of personal trainers—freeing up more one-on-one time with clients, providing more-accurate data on their achievements and giving us powerful tools to better manage our fitness businesses. Further, fitness tech can help us motivate clients to become more physically active and assist us in confronting the global obesity epidemic and fighting the spiraling cost of health care.

This article explains the benefits of fitness technology, explores rising trends in the fit-tech industry and suggests how you can ride this new wave of change sweeping the worlds of wellness and consumer electronics.

Relax: Technology Cannot Replace Trainers

Before we dive into the specifics of fitness technology, we need to confront the reality of what all these tools mean for fit pros. It’s true that fitness technology can be effective, but it lacks one essential feature—the human touch. At the end of the day, the “personal” in personal training is the killer app. Most people who need your services also need what only you can provide: your insight, judgment and personality.

Technology is here, however, and it’s becoming more popular by the day. Personal trainers who embrace it have the opportunity to reap great success and outcompete rivals who choose not to innovate.

What Is Fitness Technology?

Walk through any sporting goods store, visit iTunes or watch others in the gym or outside running and you will see all kinds of gadgets, devices and apps. From Basis to Fitbit®, from Zombie Run to MyFitnessPal, there is an awesome array of tools for making people healthier and more fit.

For this article, we’ll define fitness technology as a category of devices and software that consumers can use to monitor their physical well-being and motivate their behavior. Examples include wearable technology (Jawbone®, Basis, Fitbit, etc.) and mobile fitness apps (MyFitnessPal, GAIN Fitness, Endomondo, etc.).

The go-to platform for fitness technology is the smartphone, which passed an important milestone in 2013, outselling the more basic (and cheaper) cellphone worldwide for the first time. Out of an estimated 1.8 billon mobile phones sold last year, 54%—or a whopping 968 million—were smartphones (Gartner 2014).

The popularity and computing power of smartphones have significantly increased the reach and realm of mobile fitness apps and fitness devices, allowing the average exerciser to track, share and evaluate real-time, always-on health data that just a few years ago was available only to hospitals and elite athletes.

This new era in fitness technology will define—and disrupt (in a good way)—the health and fitness industry over the next 10 years. We’ve always preached to our clients that they must make fitness a daily part of their lives. Fitness technology can help them make that change.

“Tremendous” Potential

“The potential to impact health-supporting behaviors is tremendous,” says Stephen Yang, PhD, a professor of exercise science at the State University of New York, Cortland, who has been studying physical activity and technology for years. Yang sees three categories of health technology that are especially beneficial: wearable sensors, social networking and games—all of which can accurately measure, track and share health data. A few examples:

  • fitness trackers: Fitbit Flex, Nike®+, Withings Pulse, Misfit Shine
  • specialty sports equipment: Zepp® Golf, Babolat® Play, 94Fifty® Smart Basketball
  • mobile device sensors: Endomondo, RunKeeper, Digifit

“The use of fitness and technology within clubs is on the rise as more clubs use traditional online social networking to connect with its members,” says Yang, who notes that clients’ demand for diverse programming that suits their schedules is driving the need for automated video exercise classes like Fitness On Demand™, personalized video training sessions like Fitblok and interactive fitness training floors such as Pavigym 3.0.

While excited about the possibilities, Yang also suggests caution: “Fitness and technology can work together to improve health, but as in all cases improvements can only come through solid programming, assessment, individualization and feedback.”

How Fit Tech Affects Fitness Pros

Trainers and clients alike have limited time, finite resources and everyday life challenges to deal with. That often translates into clients struggling to find time to meet with trainers, and trainers struggling to deal with clients’ scheduling needs. This is where technology can come to the rescue, allowing trainers to keep clients accountable without needing to be in the same room with them.

For what you should consider when suggesting fitness technology to your clients, please see “Why Fit Tech Changes Everything” in the online IDEA Library or in the July-August 2014 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.