SMART HOME

Smart Gym Equipment: Worth the Cost or Just a Gimmick?

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None of the many smart home items that have emerged over the past few years are more polarizing than so-called smart gym equipment. Offerings from companies like Peloton, Tempo, FightCamp, Tonal, SoulCycle, and Technogym have bombarded the home fitness industry.

These devices promise better results, more in-depth data tracking, and access to exclusive classes. But are they any better than a set of dumbbells and a workout magazine? Let’s find out.

What Is Smart Gym Equipment?

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

Simply put, smart gym equipment is fitness equipment that uses an internet connection to track workout history, record physiological data, and provide workout motivation. Devices can perform basic tasks like recording reps and sets, or the technology can offer more complex features like online exercise classes.

The key here is that this equipment has some sort of internet or Wi-Fi component. Internet access allows users to connect with their digital ecosystem and do things like post social media updates. These features appeal to many, and some even view social pressure as a key to staying motivated.

This type of gym equipment is gaining popularity, as evidenced by the rapidly rising market. Some reports state that the connected gym equipment sector will be valued at $5.96 billion by 2025. That means users can expect to see more smart gym equipment to choose from in the future.

What Types of Smart Gym Equipment Are Available?

Peloton rider enjoying their bike
Image Credit: Peloton

There are many types of smart gym equipment available today. From mirrors that hang discretely in your living room to giant rowers that take up significant floor space, most gym enthusiasts will find an exercise device that appeals to them.

Peloton’s smart exercise bikes, for example, will allow users to participate in up to 14 daily instructor-led video courses, as well as view leaderboard data for that extra boost of competition. User data is also recorded so that riders 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 boxing-based package that provides amateur pugilists with a freestanding punching bag, hand wraps, gloves, punch trackers, and an iOS or Apple TV app. While arguably not as hardcore as throwing haymakers in a Philadelphia meat freezer, FightCamp claims to be just as tough as the real deal, and many users agree.

For folks who’d rather keep their floor space clear, both Mirror and Tonal offer futuristic wall-mounted displays that stay out of the way when not in use. Though unassuming, these types of devices can replace thousands of dollars of individual machines, and they provide an exceptional workout.

Why Choose Smart Gym Equipment Over “Dumb” Equipment?

Athlete Lifting Weights

One of the most significant reasons some users choose this type of equipment is due to increased motivation. A recent study published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research concludes that using the technology provided by this equipment can help users circumvent reasons for avoiding a workout.

Frequent gym-goers know that motivation is often hard to find. Unfortunately, maintaining that motivation isn’t much easier. After a grueling day at work, for example, some folks might not possess the desire to suit up and drive to the gym. But smart gym equipment doesn’t require the user to leave their home. There’s no waiting to use equipment, no sketchy locker rooms, and running shoes are optional.

Data tracking can also be much more effective when using a smart device. While a notepad and a pen might be excellent for recording reps or sets, smart gym equipment can offer expert-level physiological data analysis. All of these reasons make choosing a smart workout device appealing to some people.

What Are the Downsides of Smart Gym Equipment?

indoor cycling studio
valkovav/Pixabay

The most significant barrier for many will be the cost. At the time of writing, a Peloton bike, for example, will set users back somewhere between $1,800 and $2,500, plus a monthly subscription fee. Tonal costs $3,490, including accessories and installation. The device requires a monthly subscription fee as well.

FightCamp starts at $439 plus membership and extends to $1,219 for the deluxe package. Mirror is almost $1,800, not including its subscription fee. For fans of a $30 monthly gym membership, this cost may be a little hard to swallow.

It seems low-to-mid four-figure price estimates are the sweet spot for these devices, with many companies offering monthly financing. Of course, for some people, the high up-front cost plus the membership fees just isn’t worth the convenience. But for those with deep pockets, these machines can be the solution to a hectic daily schedule.

Is Smart Gym Equipment Better Than Traditional Options?

Woman exercising
Image Credit: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether this new technology beats older physical fitness methods. A study done by Brandeis University indicates that while smart gym technology has the potential to positively influence exercise habits, it’s not easy to understand if this type of technology can affect long-term change.

While smart tech may work for some, the traditional gym also has other benefits. There’s socialization, personal training, and access to a broader range of exercise equipment, for example. But, on the other hand, if these devices are the catalyst someone needs to add more exercise to their routine, then this type of equipment can’t be all bad.

For some, the included exercise classes can temper the lack of social interaction and mean the difference between an enjoyable session and a boring one. And, with an instructor in charge of the session, users can skip the meticulous planning phase of their workouts in favor of having someone tell them what to do.

Where Does Smart Gym Equipment Fit in Your Home?

A promotional image showing a young woman running on Peloton's treadmill
Take from Peloton’s promotional video on YouTube. No attribution required.

The decision to purchase smart gym equipment shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should consider options, usability, cost, and personal exercise preferences before spending thousands of dollars on a unit that will just collect dust in the basement.

Scour Craigslist or eBay, for example, and you’re liable to find similar gym equipment that was once cutting edge—much like the smart equipment of today. In a few years, though, current machines could meet the same fate. And as technology improves, these devices may become obsolete.

But, as the owner of both a Peloton bike and a NordicTrack treadmill, I can faithfully say that smart exercise equipment helps shake off the motivational doldrums. Access to the equipment is convenient, and even when extreme weather appears, there are no excuses for skipping a workout.

And after paying a few thousand dollars for equipment, it’s painful to watch your expensive machine gather cobwebs.

Enjoy More Exercise With Smart Gym Equipment

Without sounding too cliché, buying smart gym equipment is ultimately an investment in your health. If you use it. For avid fitness enthusiasts, that may not be a problem. If you’re already a gym rat, then a new smart gym machine may be just the thing to kick your training into overdrive.

But don’t expect the purchase of smart equipment to undo a lack of motivation, poor dietary habits, or a sedentary lifestyle. In other words, these machines won’t work miracles. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’re better off saving your money.

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