Fitness Futurists: Predictions for the Future of Training

By on November 5, 2019
The future of fitness

I believe that the fitness industry and our approach to training is at something of a nexus point. New discoveries and trends have been shaking things up for a while, and I think we’re about to see this manifest as some pretty radical changes across gyms and fitness blogs. At least I hope we are.

In this post, I want to explore what the near and far future of fitness could look like. Let’s extrapolate the current trends, conceive of future technologies, and generally become Fitness Futurists.

Here are some of my biggest predictions. And if they’re right, then these are things that we can start integrating right now to get ahead of the curve. Let me know down below what you think the future of fitness will look like.

1 Training Will Move Outside

I’ve been researching advanced training techniques for over ten years; and that research went into hyperdrive for the new book. Across everything I’ve read, the most surprising trend I’ve noticed, is that a huge portion of the “cutting edge” research with regards to training, is actually knowledge rediscovered.

That is to say, that whether we’re talking about intermittent fasting, cold exposure, the microbiome, mobility training, or running barefoot: all these new discoveries are essentially just telling us to get back into the wild. The latest, most exciting research simply tells us to do things that we were doing thousands of years ago.

And this makes a ton of sense when you take an evolutionary approach. Until we’re at the point where we fullyunderstand the body and can effectively manipulate every single variable (which is still hundreds of years away at best), our best strategy for optimization is to simulate or recreate the environment that evolution designed us to thrive in.

I think this starts by training outdoors – where the ground isn’t flat, where cold exposure can strengthen the immune system and thermoregulation, and where the sun can help us to produce vitamin D to regulate our sleep and our hormones.

Our best strategy for optimization is to simulate or recreate the environment that evolution designed us to thrive in.

Simply moving your training outdoors has so many immediate benefits that it’s insane. And I think gyms will have a hard time resisting the mounting evidence supporting that.

2 We Will Integrate More Closely With Nature

Eventually, we won’t be able to ignore the damage that our modern lifestyles are doing to us. And so it’s not just our training that will move outdoors, but our entire lifestyles. It is my prediction that our homes will eventually become much more “open” to support a healthier way of life.

What does that mean? Well, simply leaving the windows open could help you to sleep by providing an extremely important external cue to signal the time of day to the body – that being the rising and falling temperature.

Likewise, keeping the window open appears to help support a much healthier microbiome around the home. Our tendency to seal our homes and spray disinfectant everywhere actually eliminates a lot of the good bacteria that would normally prey on the bad bacteria. The only bacteria that tends to make it into our homes as a result, is that found on human hands. And these just so happen to be the most dangerous types of germs.

Some trials show that the best way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in hospitals is actually to open up the windows and ease off on the sterilization! (Reference.)

Then there are the huge benefits of letting light into the home, which I’ve already touched on.

Homes will be designed to keep us comfortable by supporting a more natural climate

I’m not saying we’re going to move into caves. Rather, I’m saying that homes will be designed to keep us comfortable by supporting a more natural climate, rather than creating an artificial bubble.

This will also somewhat be driven by an increase in the number of custom-built homes, and modular/3D printed materials used to build them.

Other industries will follow suit. I’m fairly sure we’ll see a big reduction in processed foods over the coming years – food companies can only get away with it for so long!

3 Digital Wellbeing Will Be Emphasized

As we learn that we don’t understand enough to entirely control our environment in an optimal manner, we’ll also pay closer to attention to the ways technology is hurting our health.

As we spend more and more times looking at screens, measures to limit and control that screentime will become more important. So too will redshift screens that don’t send confusing signals to the body. We’ll be encouraged to speak to our technology more, in order to reduce the time we spend looking at it.

Future of health - digital wellbeing

And offices will be under increasing pressure to change their policies and cultures.

Technology will generally become more invisible, and more closely integrated into our lifestyles. The future  – I believe – is not one filled with flying cars and Jetson’s-like monitors. It is one that actually looks a lot more natural, only augmented.

It’s a theory of mine that nearly all technology goes through stages of integration. Once it is adopted into the mainstream, it then grows and becomes increasingly disruptive – our landscapes become covered in roads for example, or we carry big screens in our pockets. Over time though, as it matures, it becomes less obvious and less disruptive – cars start running on electric for instance. Things often get a little bit worse, before they become much better. This applies to the future of health and fitness too.

3 We Will Train Our Brains, Mobility, and More 

Peak book the future of training

In his book Peak, author Dr. Marc Bubbs argues that the next breakthroughs in athletic performance will focus on the brain. So much emphasis has been placed on physical training, diet, and technique, that those areas are likely to offer diminishing returns for a while (until the next big breakthrough at least).

The psychological game however is one that has not been paid enough attention, and this is something researchers and coaches are wising up to.

And where athletic coaches lead, the rest of the fitness industry will surely follow.

It also generally makes sense. As a population, we are becoming increasingly more aware of the many different facets of human health and performance. And more and more people are starting to train those aspects of their ability too.

The next breakthroughs in athletic performance will focus on the brain

Put it this way: we don’t really need to do sit-ups. We don’t really need to do bicep curls. We just want to look and feel our best. I think more and more people will be SuperFunctional Bioneers.

But as more people learn they could also be smarter, more energetic, more mobile, and less stiff… surely they’re going to want to train those things in the same way too? Thus I think a more varied and creative range of influences will start affecting our workouts. Calisthenics, dance, yoga, grip training, and more will become far more common.

It’s no coincidence that this is the entire driving principle of my book. Perhaps that makes me biased. But I genuinely believe this is an inevitable and necessary change that’s coming to the way we approach fitness.

4 We’ll Have More Time to Train

This emphasis on improving more aspects of performance will only be possible if we have more time to dedicate to training.

The good news is that I think that’s going to happen. We’re working longer and longer hours, and it’s very possible that newer technologies are only going to increase the amount our employers expect from us.

For a while.

But ultimately we’re going to reach a tipping point. There will be push-back as we start to realize that we’re spending all our waking time driving forward the economy – to no real end – rather than just enjoying the extremely fortunate lives we already lead.

Combine this with the influence of automation and AI, which will reduce the amount of work available, and I think we’re soon going to have a little more time on our hands again.

When that happens, I think a LOT of people will choose to spend more time training.

And with more people training every aspect of themselves, we could start to see greater creativity, innovation, and productivity as a result – which is kind of ironic!

(And it also follows that businesses will take notice and start investing more in the health of their staff.)

5 Working Out Will Become More Like Play

Why spend time running on the spot or doing curls when you could be swinging from bars?

If you’re going to get into better shape willingly then it’s going to be because it’s fun. And this I think will be another big driving force shaping the future of working out.

Playing is training. Computer games are fun because they involve a form of learning: as we get better at them, we feel a sense of satisfaction. In many ways, computer games already offer us brain training; it’s just very well disguised. Animals play fight, wrestle, and chase bugs because it prepares them for challenges in the real world. We should be doing the same.

I think fitness is going to take the same trajectory. We’re already seeing gyms open up to replicate Ninja Warrior courses. More and more people are taking up activities like AntiGravity Yoga (what about a class that would teach you something new every time you went??).

Why spend time running on the spot or doing curls when you could be swinging from bars?

I believe that a lot of people want to train and crave activity and adventure. They just don’t realise yet that exercise can fulfil those same needs.

We have sport, but I think new activities will be designed to help us reach specific training goals in a convenient manner, while at the same time being just as much fun as playing a round of squash with a friend.

This is called “Gamification.” And used correctly, it could also change the way we learn and sharpen our wits. I think it will play a big role in the future of the fitness industry.

6 Augmented Reality Will Play a Big Role

Augmented reality will help to make this possible.

Already augmented reality apps and devices are finding their way into gyms. You’ve probably ridden a static bike that have screens and simulate riding through the woods already, for example.

Pokemon Go was also praised for encouraging more people to get out and about with its AR trickery.

virtual reality brain training

But now that we have standalone VR and AR headsets with inside-out tracking (meaning they don’t need external base stations), it’s only a matter of time until they become small and light enough to be used for training.

I personally would love to train by fighting hoards of virtual zombies, or by outrunning monsters while trail running!

7 Fitness Tracking Will Finally Catch On

Fitness tracking has been poised to be the “next big thing” for a while now, and hasn’t quite blown up in the way we thought it would. In fact though, speaking to insiders in the tech industry will tell you that this is actually a fairly normal adoption curve for new tech.

It’s only going to improve with time too, as we start to collect a wider range of data and extract more meaningful trends. All our FitBits and Garmins are currently collecting unfathomable amounts of information and using that to identify patterns of behavior on a gigantic scale. This data is going to be put to use in providing more accurate readings AND more useful advice.

Future of fitness industry

I feel that there are some missed opportunities in the fitness tracking space already though – companies are failing to correlate data in useful ways. Imagine for instance if you could see how the quality of your sleep was impacted by what you ate, how you trained, or even the temperature of your room.

This is coming and once it becomes undeniably indispensably useful, it will catch on in a bigger way. And that’s even truer when you start to integrate that live data into the real-time training advice. Imagine if you could connect an AR headset to a super-accurate heartrate monitor, so that the challenge could adapt to keep you at exactly the right level for optimum fitness gains.

I know I’ll be there for that!

8 IoT Will be Everywhere

IoT is the Internet Of Things and it’s closely linked with fitness tracking and AR. I was at Arm TechCon in San Diego this year, and IoT was very much the hot topic. The company’s VP Marketing for Client Ian Smythe, described their vision as “Digital Immersion,” suggesting that true IoT would almost blur the lines with AR; with so much data being used to adapt the environment to us.

Digital immersion and fitness

At that same event, a large number of announcements were made focusing purely on getting us to “one trillion connected devices” that much faster. That included custom instructions for Cortex-M chips for example, which I reported on for Android Authority. The potential appeal for business meanwhile is huge, with data collection being potentially invaluable for driving targeted ads and sales.

Point is: IoT is enjoying significant investment and is very much on the horizon. Health and fitness is one of the industries that stands to benefit most. Just imagine if your lighting or temperature altered depending on your biometrics. Or what if your fridge could keep a running tally of calories consumed and update your apps? Or your water quality was constantly being measured right at the faucet?

9 Health Advice Will be Personalized

All this data collection is ultimately going to lead to much more tailored and personalized advice when it comes to health and fitness. You’ve likely already heard of personalized cancer therapy, and perhaps you’ve considered using a service like 23 and Me.

Personalised health and fitness advice

But what if you could easily find out your predominant muscle fibre type in each muscle group, and then alter your training accordingly? What if you could profile your microbiome and change your diet to adjust it? What if you could calculate an exact BMR?

We all know that different training advice works for different people, so it follows that the future of fitness will be bespoke.

10 Coaching Will Be Virtual

With all this additional data, it will be easier than ever to receive remote coaching. Imagine a coach halfway across the world who can actually see your heartrate and calorie expenditure up on the screen in front of them – and perhaps even join you via AR.

The Kinect for Xbox One was a huge missed opportunity in my opinion. This was a device that could measure how much weight you were distributing onto each leg, and that could even read your heart rate from changes in skin temperature. The potential for fitness apps and distance coaching was huge.

While that was a shame, I have no doubt that technology like it will be back. And when the fitness industry catches on, it could be transformative.

The Future of Fitness – Closing Thoughts

Future of training

If I’m right, then your future workouts will involve strapping on an AR headset and performing awesome calisthenics movements to avoid lasers, while being shouted at by a trainer on the other side of the world. You’ll then stop for a quiet meditation, while getting biofeedback from the device on your wrist to ensure you’ve brought your heartrate back down to normal.

Or something like that.

Move further into the future and of course we start getting into Transhuman territory. That goes beyond the future of fitness. Will we one day see a Transhuman-Olympics? It’s something that a lot of people have suggested, and that I’ll definitely be discussing in future.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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