Jack LaLanne opened the first fitness club in the United States in 1936. The place was Oakland, CA, and the concept of the health club was entirely absurd. Doctors warned their patients to stay away from the gym, alleging that spending time on fitness in a club was not necessary for optimal health. Says LeLanne of the rumors at the time, “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut. The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” Regardless, the accusations never stopped LaLanne from becoming the first notable personal trainer and becoming dubbed the godfather of health club fitness.
Now nearly 80 years later, there are health clubs of every variety on nearly any given block in the country. Large catch-all gyms like 24-Hour Fitness offer memberships for as low as $30/month, making the fitness club an accessible option for the masses. Boutique gyms like yoga studios, pilates studios, or crossfit warehouses are taking the country by storm as Americans find new and different ways to get their sweat on. Within these different fitness centers are coaches and trainers whose sole role is to motivate, educate and teach clients how to properly exercise to attain results while avoiding injury.
Enter the next wave of fitness industry development: fitness apps. The applications have similarly swept American attention, as there are apps for nearly every type of fitness tracking and motivation a person looking to exercise could need — heart rate tracking, pace setting, caloric intake tracking, goal setting, you name it. These apps provide many of the functions a fitness complex is built for, which leads to the natural question: Do fitness apps threaten the booming personal trainer industry?
Possibly – and here’s why.
The average American commutes 51 minutes a day, effectively reducing a 24 hour day of activity to 23. Factor in actually working a job, eating some meals, and sleeping in some cases, and our collective American schedules are pretty packed. This leaves room for the desire to find ways to make extra time where possible, especially off the road given commuting woes.
Fitness Buddy is an app complete with a variety of exercises to meet just about any fitness need, anywhere a user may be. Workouts are offered to target specific muscle groups and goals, and include a touted 17,000+ exercises with step-by-step instructions, animations and videos. So, if a workout can be performed in a backyard or living room, why not spare that commute time and get it done on site? Fitness apps are the answer for this possibility – and people are loving it.
Gym memberships range, providing options for just about everyone. There are the aforementioned $30/month memberships, as well as places like the YMCA that offer financial assistance or memberships on a sliding scale — but there are pricey gyms out there as well. The popular club Corepower Yoga, founded in Colorado and now in states across the country, offers memberships starting at $135/month. Pilates and crossfit studios also run along the same lines, which can prove a high bar to scale for persons who enjoy these activities but can’t afford to make it happen. FitStar, for example, is a free app that offers fitness videos hosted by former NFL player Tony Gonzalez to provide a robust collection of workouts for the typical gym user. Yet the company created a secondary app for exercisers who specifically enjoy yoga, FitStar Yoga, which is alsao free to download. Fitness apps for these types of exercises are now rampant, inexpensive, and again – convenient.
One of the biggest arguments for personal trainers, besides of course their experience tailoring exercises to a specific person, is their championship at motivation. Having an appointment with another human often forces us as a species to consider meeting obligations, and the personal trainer is a perfect example of that. Yet with fitness apps living in phones near their users at all times, push notifications ping dieters and weight losers to stay on track and get in shape, even letting users know when other people are working out. For example, MapMyRun is an app built for tracking distance, but paired with social features to sync with user’s Facebook accounts and connect with friends who also use the app. When push notifications are enabled, couch potatoes can see when friends go on a run, guilting the user’s competitive spirit with tacit encouragement to hit the pavement.
There are also apps like Kiqplan, which works as an overall plan to hold the user accountable over a 12-week period. Among the plans offered are Slim and Trim and Beer Belly Blaster, while the app as a whole is marketed as “your own digital coach.” Users are rewarded with milestones and reminders, replacing some of the core functions of a live personal trainer.
The benefits around fitness apps could possibly outnumber those of personal trainers. Yet will they necessarily replace the trainer altogether? Only time will really tell, as more and more fitness apps hit the market and answer the demand of app users across the country.
Do you think fitness apps will replace trainers? Let us know in the comments below.