While fitness technology has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the world since 2016, the pandemic has possibly sparked the strongest growth in the industry yet. In the months leading up to the pandemic, fitness enthusiasts began combining their wearables with home fitness and outdoor workouts like cross-functional training, kickboxing, piloxing, and a host of other new ideas.

Fitness providers also began to see the demand for virtual training and the potential of online services. The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have both prompted the swift use of these technology-driven alternatives, leading to an era of technology-driven fitness in India.

In 2021, when the pandemic subsides, technology will open up opportunities for the industry to improve both its online and offline offerings. Here are some of the trends that will become more prominent in the coming months:

Dominating is manageable as AI and analytics are the main drivers

Wearables were the top trend of 2020 and will likely keep the fitness sector going – if not stronger – for the year ahead. This trend relies on the precise health information these devices collect so that fitness seekers can tailor their workouts to address specific concerns and achieve carefully set goals.

With the increased focus on fitness at home, users can combine their virtual workouts with a range of devices, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors and GPS trackers. Additionally, the advent of smart clothing like vibrating leggings and biometric shirts shows that innovations in fitness wearables have only just begun.

The focus will also be on data gathered from fitness wearables which, when combined with artificial intelligence, will open up a range of opportunities for the industry. Given that wearable apps have already permeated almost every branch of the fitness industry, data-driven holistic workouts, highly personalized coaching, and virtual reality sports and exercise programs are likely to increase in the future. AI-based solutions should also find greater acceptance in 2021.

Fitness apps that are integrated into AI and machine learning, for example, can now provide virtual assistants that, like human trainers, train people in correct postures and provide efficient personal feedback.

The technologies also help improve existing fitness tools. Wearables with an AI drive can, for example, detect irregularities in health data and give an early warning of diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

Similarly, smart shoes and AI-powered yoga suits can monitor movement and alert users to incorrect postures. Fitness apps are also consistently innovating using artificial intelligence to create products like smart gyms assistants and diet planners that take into account individual calorie needs based on users’ lifestyle.

Virtual fitness is here to stay; Gamification will increase

The concept of virtual fitness is long gone and just one way to tackle the challenges of COVID-19. It has established itself as one of the key trends in the post-COVID world. It attracts both sports and fitness fans for whom the market now has numerous mobile apps and social media channels that provide on-demand libraries for virtual workouts and even remote coaching services. Customers are also turning to their fitness chains and boutique studios to offer virtual fitness options.

For fitness enthusiasts, the trend opens up the possibility of planning, monitoring and even inspiring exercise programs to keep fit at their pace and at a lower cost. Virtual options are therefore likely to gain ground among aspiring fitness fans as they work to gain confidence and knowledge.

Additionally, the industry expects people who have adapted to digital workouts and online fitness classes to stick to their reformulated habits that will save their resources, workout prep time, and associated travel.

The fitness industry will also see a shift towards gamification of fitness through AR-based gamified fitness apps. These apps are helping the industry explore new ways to connect with fitness enthusiasts, and may also make fitness more accessible to those who don’t care about it.

Remote coaching is getting bigger

The one-to-one tuition motivates users to exercise regularly at home and at the gym, and allows them to closely follow the progress of each session. Similarly, trainers can also review the student’s progress and make recommendations in a highly personalized way, making the whole process incredibly fruitful.

It is therefore not surprising that fitness enthusiasts made significant investments in home exercise equipment in 2020. In a recent study, McKinsey found a 12 percent increase in home exercise in the US.

The trend is also pronounced in India and is most likely growing in popularity as the country’s fitness requirements keep increasing. As a result, home gyms will be the new normal of the post-COVID world and will prove to be a major trend in the year ahead. Industry experts expect this trend will result in a sharp increase in the demand for highly skilled fitness professionals who take a holistic approach to wellness and are able to coach users remotely.

Technical changes in fitness studios and fitness studios

In 2021, fitness chains and boutique studios will use the technology faster to improve their services with modern equipment. Leveraging smart, cloud-based technologies, these smart fitness products help gym owners and coaches improve their members’ performance and enhance their training experience by combining their expertise with real-time data.

The technology will also provide solutions to hygiene concerns that have emerged from the pandemic. For example, some fitness providers have started using contactless or touchless check-ins, facial recognition-based presence tracking, and touchless payment options, which minimizes the physical contact environment.

This technical intervention will extend to digital gym management as well. Feature-rich platforms allow gym and gym owners to seamlessly manage their operations and maximize resource utilization to increase profitability.

These solutions not only help fitness entrepreneurs to strengthen their digital presence at a time when online fitness is fast becoming a lucrative growth area, but also improve communication and services for the end customer.

This year sets a new benchmark for the role of technology in the fitness industry. In addition to wearable accessories, AI-powered technology solutions will revolutionize the way users approach fitness and greatly personalize the services offered, including workouts, virtual reality gamification, diet management, and even trainer selection processes and exercise programs. This digital leap is unlikely to stifle as pandemic fears subside, and it will play a major role in defining fitness trends in the years to come.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)