Value the price or only a gimmick?

None of the many smart home items that have emerged in recent years polarizes more than so-called smart fitness devices. Offers from companies like Peloton, Tempo, FightCamp, Tonal, SoulCycle and Technogym have bombarded the home fitness industry.

These devices promise better results, deeper data tracking, and access to exclusive courses. But are they better than a set of dumbbells and an exercise magazine? Let’s find out.

What are smart fitness machines?

A person in workout clothes holds an iPhone in one hand and a water bottle in the other while wearing an Apple Watch

Simply put, smart fitness machines are fitness machines that use an internet connection to track exercise progress, record physiological data, and provide exercise motivation. Devices can do basic tasks like recording reps and sets, or the technology can offer more complex features like online training courses.

The key here is that this device has some kind of internet or Wi-Fi component. Internet access allows users to connect to their digital ecosystem and do things like posting social media updates. These traits appeal to many, and some even see social pressure as a key to motivation.

This type of fitness equipment is becoming increasingly popular as the rapidly growing market shows. According to some reports, the connected fitness equipment sector is valued at $ 5.96 billion by 2025. That means users will have more smart fitness equipment to choose from in the future.

Related: Exercise Apps To Get Fit Without A Gym Membership

What types of smart fitness equipment are there?

Peloton riders enjoy their bikes

Image source: Peloton

There are many types of smart fitness equipment out there today. From mirrors that hang discreetly in your living room to giant rowers that take up a lot of space, most fitness enthusiasts will find an exercise machine they like.

With the intelligent exercise bikes from Peloton, for example, users can take part in up to 14 daily video courses with trainers and view the data of the leaderboard to further increase the competition. User data is also recorded so drivers can see how close they are to qualifying for their next road race.

On the other hand, for fans of “The Sweet Science”, FightCamp is a box-based package that provides amateur pugilists with a free-standing punching bag, hand bandages, gloves, punch tracker and an iOS or Apple TV app. While arguably not as tough as throwing haymakers in a Philadelphia meat freezer, FightCamp claims to be as tough as real business, and many users agree.

For people who prefer to keep their floor space clear, both Mirror and Tonal offer futuristic wall-mounted displays that stay out of the way when not in use. While these type of machines are modest, they can replace thousands of dollars in individual machines and provide an exceptional workout.

Why should you choose smart fitness equipment over “dumb” equipment?

Athletes lifting weights

One of the top reasons some users choose this type of equipment is because of increased motivation. A recent study published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research concludes that using the technology provided by this device can help users circumvent reasons for avoiding exercise.

Anyone who goes to the gym regularly knows that motivation is often difficult to find. Unfortunately, maintaining that motivation isn’t that much easier. For example, after a busy day at work, some people may not feel like getting dressed and going to the gym. However, smart fitness equipment does not require the user to leave their home. There’s no waiting for gear, no sketchy changing rooms, and running shoes are optional.

Data tracking can also be much more effective when using a smart device. While a notepad and pen are great for recording repetitions or sets, smart fitness equipment can provide expert-level physiological data analysis. All of these reasons make the choice of a smart exercise device appealing to some people.

Related: Exercise Apps To Keep You Fit At Your Desk

What are the disadvantages of smart fitness equipment?

Indoor cycling studio

valkovav / Pixabay

The biggest hurdle for many will be cost. For example, at the time of writing, a Peloton bike will reset users between $ 1,800 and $ 2,500 plus a monthly subscription fee. Tonal is priced at $ 3,490, including accessories and installation. The device also requires a monthly subscription fee.

FightCamp starts at $ 439 plus membership and extends to $ 1,219 for the deluxe package. Mirror costs almost $ 1,800 without the subscription fee. For fans of a $ 30 monthly gym membership, that cost may be a little hard to swallow.

It appears that low to mid four-digit price estimates are the sweet spot for these devices as many companies offer monthly funding. Of course, for some people, the high upfront costs plus membership fees just aren’t worth the convenience. But for those with a lot of money, these machines can be the solution to a hectic day.

Are Smart Fitness Machines Better Than Traditional Options?

Woman exercising

Image source: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Unfortunately, the jury does not yet agree on whether this new technology beats older fitness methods. A study by Brandeis University shows that while smart gym technologies have the potential to positively influence exercise habits, it is not easy to understand whether this type of technology can bring about long-term change.

While smart tech may work for some, the traditional gym has other benefits as well. For example, there is socializing, personal training, and access to a wider range of exercise equipment. But, on the other hand, if these gadgets are the catalyst someone needs to incorporate more exercise into their routine, then this type of gear can’t be all bad.

For some, the included exercise classes can alleviate the lack of social interaction and make the difference between an enjoyable session and a boring one. And with a trainer leading the session, users can skip the careful planning phase of their workout to have someone tell them what to do.

Where do smart fitness equipment fit in your home?

A promotional image showing a young woman running on the peloton treadmill

Take from the Peloton promotional video on YouTube. No attribution required.

The decision to buy smart fitness equipment should not be taken lightly. You should consider options, ease of use, cost, and personal training preferences before spending thousands of dollars on a device that just picks up dust in the basement.

Search Craigslist or eBay, for example, and you will likely find similar fitness equipment that were once up to date – much like the smart devices of today. In a few years, however, current machines could suffer the same fate. And as technology improves, these devices can become out of date.

But as the owner of a peloton bike and a NordicTrack treadmill, I can confidently say that intelligent training devices help to shake off the lack of motivation. Access to the equipment is convenient and there are no excuses to skip a workout even in extreme weather conditions.

And after paying a few thousand dollars for equipment, watching your expensive machine gather cobwebs is painful.

Enjoy more exercise with intelligent fitness equipment

Without sounding too clichéd, buying smart fitness equipment is ultimately an investment in your health. When you use it. This shouldn’t be a problem for fitness enthusiasts. If you’re already a fitness rat, a new smart fitness machine might be just the thing to get your workout up to speed.

However, don’t expect buying smart devices to eliminate motivation, poor eating habits, or a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, these machines are not going to work miracles. If this is what you are looking for, then you better save your money.


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About the author

Matt Hall
(82 articles published)

Matt L. Hall covers the technology for MUO. Originally from Austin, Texas, he now lives in Boston with his wife, two dogs and two cats. Matt received his BA in English from the University of Massachusetts.

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