The Next Frontier: Fitness is Physical and Virtual

With all the excitement about fitness tracking devices and apps, we seem to be forgetting a crucial fact: Exercise is not a virtual experience. It’s physical. It’s all about moving your body in the real world.

Because life can be complicated, many of us also need a physical place apart from the rest of life – from work, home and everything else – designated especially for exercise.

So, in two essential ways, fitness is an exception to the digitization of everything. It’s a physical experience that can’t be replicated on the screen. Indeed, for many it’s become a respite from screen life.

This partly explains the renewed interest in old-school, no-frills, low-technology concepts such as CrossFit. Converts are climbing ropes, flipping truck tires and tossing around barbells in grungy spaces dedicated to bodily toil and sweat. It’s an embrace of the purely physical, a giddy return to the way exercise used to be,

But is the backward-looking approach to fitness really the future, as some claim? Are the virtual and the physical mutually exclusive?

Absolutely not.  In an ideal world, they’d be complementary. As forward-thinking fitness experts and writers – most recently David Tao in Forbes magazine – have noted, the future of fitness will unite the digital and the physical, using 21st-century technologies to make exercise more intelligent, effective and enjoyable. That’s the vision we’re pursuing at Koko, the first and only gym to do so in a holistic, seamless way.

As David Linthicum notes at GigaOm, at Koko “… all of the devices and equipment you use know who you are, and what you’re doing, and are able to share data as well as provide a complete picture of your progress, or the things you’re doing wrong.”

So while all the current attention to both new fitness gadgets (trackers and web platforms) and old ones (boot camps) is exciting, I believe we’re actually on the threshold of something much bigger than either: a brilliant new age of fitness in which all exercise we do in and outside of physical gyms is seamlessly linked to cloud-based guidance, tracking, analysis and sharing. In short, a new synthesis of the physical and the virtual.

That future – the Digital Gym – is already here. We are living proof of its power and potential, every single day.


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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.

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