Is the Metaverse the Future of Fitness?
The fitness industry has grown to a colossal size in recent years, reaching heights of $96.7bn worldwide in 2019, before pandemic related gym closures caused a steep drop off to $54.2bn in 2021. The one notable area which bucked this trend was digital products and home workout equipment, with fitness apps growing by a whopping almost 50% in the first half of 2020 alone, with health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubling, to $2.3bn, from March to October, 2020.
The rebound to pre-pandemic levels has already begun, however, this growth seems likely to continue to favor digital products and smart equipment, even after gyms have reopened; 59% of Americans where considering not renewing their gym membership even after the pandemic, according to one survey. Moving forward the industry seems set for further changes as how people workout and interact with their fitness products combine with nascent applications of Web 3.0 and the metaverse to create a world where fitness is both more personal, and yet more connected, than ever before.
Stepping into the metaverse.
The metaverse itself is one of the most controversial and poorly understood topics currently doing the rounds, but with fitness it seems to have found a natural partner that can overcome the controversy currently surrounding it. The problem with the metaverse concept is that it isn’t accurately defined, with many misconceptions, but broadly speaking the metaverse is less of a specific new technology, and more of a shift in how users interact with both current and future technologies.
This is where fitness comes in.
As people become used to the freedom of working out whenever and however they like, they will also begin to rely on and interact with their personal data like never before, for example we at Everjump have created a smart rope that is able to process work out data in real-time, allowing the accurate gathering of various personal statistics, and adapting your workouts in real-time. These smart fitness devices are a huge growing industry, but the freedom and personalization they bring lends people to working out alone, and this can cause users to miss the motivating and socializing aspects that many find the most rewarding aspect of exercise. With the metaverse, these aspects are retained, and even enhanced, potentially connecting users to millions of people as they work out and communicate via the metaverse. For example, the new company Zwift creates virtual worlds for exercise similar to video games and, recently, the company even had a virtual Tour de France where professional cyclists competed in a digital version of the world-famous race. Viewers could ride along the same routes as the pros or watch the event on television. Even TikTok is making use of augmented reality (AR) to create virtual workouts. AR filters display exercises and track movement, gamifying the fitness experience.
As well as AR, VR fitness is also moving forward at a terrific pace, according to Chris Milk, the CEO of Supernatural, a virtual reality exercise experience,
“Fitness is the killer use case for VR.. We set out to build something that was intrinsically fun, intrinsically entertainment, and something you wanted to do over and over again that had the extra benefit of exercise because that’s the thing that makes it easy to keep coming back to.”
Further advancements in this field aim to create virtual workout communities such as FitXR, and Liteboxer, both of which are leveraging the gamifying aspects of their workouts to improve motivation and increase engagement.
Web 3.0 and fitness
The social and gamification potential of fitness technology lends itself well to interactions with Web 3.0 applications, such as with the new start up STEPN which describes itself in its white paper as,
“STEPN is a Web3 lifestyle app with inbuilt Game-Fi and Social-Fi elements”
Building on the growth of other ‘pay-for-fitness’ startups app users, or players, purchase an NFT in the form of a virtual sneaker, which then allows them to earn an in-game cryptocurrency and eventually use this currency to swap this in an external wallet and make real money. It’s one of a number of tentative first steps for fitness and the decentralized world of Web 3.0, and further dovetails with metaverse and fitness as the essential interoperability of the decentralized Web 3.0 would allow data generated to be unified across different applications, as well as allay the obviously quite real fears people have regarding their data and the tech giants who dominate Web 2.0. Combining with fitness in this way these kind of applications will also provide a potential on-ramp for users who would traditionally be wary of de-fi and such new technology as NFTs, all of which is sure to grow the space further and further.
How this space will evolve is as impossible to predict as the price of Bitcoin, but it is surely connected, virtual, and likely to be in a different reality from what we now know. We at Everjump are already preparing for this future with the launching of our smart jump ropes as our initial step, so users are fully prepared to step, or jump, into the brave new metaverse and transform their health and fitness.