Exercise is one of the lowest-tech activities around. You build up a sweat, make your body move, maybe build some muscles or drop some pounds — and technology has, at best, a role on the outside, in the machines you use or the fancy wristband that monitors your steps. Right? Wrong. The future of exercise isn't going to look anything like a jog around the track. Our kids are probably going to look at sneakers in abject confusion, before going to do a few rounds of inter-galactic biking on their virtual reality set. No, seriously.
The exercise of the future is probably going to have technology injected in every step — even for Luddites who just want to swim a few laps, genetic testing about which type of exercise suits you (or a fat-burning pill) might be appealing, or even GP-required. As much as health freaks seem to be moving backward in history‚ with Cro-Magnon and Paleo diets straight out of the Stone Age, we're also hurtling headlong into the new age.
So what's it all going to look like? Here's a sample of the picture. And it doesn't involve gyms, hover-boards, or the amazing dodgeball-squash-zero-G thing in Michael Jackson's Scream video. (Somebody better be working on that, though.)
Anti-Gravity Treadmills, Available Now
Yes, this is a thing that already exists. The Alter-G Anti-Gravity Treadmill will gradually reduce the weight of gravity on your lower body — but not just for the experience of moonwalking. It was designed for physiotherapy for people who couldn't handle their own body weight. It reduces stress on joints and helps muscle recovery time. Right now it's being used for rehabilitation purposes, but one of these babies could be a perfectly normal thing in a home gym sometime soon.
Playlists By Ambient Music Robots, Available Now
Amazon's releasing a device called Echo for the home this July, and it's going to revolutionize a bunch of things — but its application for exercise may be as a personalized, voice-controlled music mixer. Echo's a voice-activated tube that works as a robot, doing everything from setting alarms to answering questions and linking up to household devices — like Siri, except able to dim your lights. If you're a home exercise queen, you'll be able to give it voice commands to create and play your favorite mixes.
A Drone That Pushes You To Run, Available Soon
If you hate running and need a motivating person to go with you, but all your mates hate running too, you can just get a companionable drone to come along with you. The Joggobot is a quadrocopter that moves in front of you around a pre-set route — it knows where you are by detecting a pattern on your T-shirt — and motivates you along the way. No news on what happens if you suddenly decide to stop for a coffee; possibly Joggobot could threaten to hit you with a laser?
Virtual Reality Exercise Machines, Available Soon
So, this is bonkers — if staring at a wall or TV while you're on an exercise isn't exciting enough, and for some reason the outside world doesn't appeal, Icaros has produced a virtual reality exercise machine. And the results are insane. You can choose to navigate your Icaros through asteroid belts in space, through the Alps, around the sky — basically anywhere — and it'll tone your body while you do it. It's not alone, either: Widerun's made an exercise bike with precise the same idea. Holy crap.
Genetic Testing For Personalized Fitness Plans, Available Now
Genetic testing by companies like XRGenomics to determine your body's unique fitness requirements may be so popular in the future that they're actually part of the normal range of doctor's tests. For the moment, though, they're still pretty out there. It's based on the idea that exercise shouldn't be one-size-fits-all, and that genetic markers can indicate what will suit your body's needs best. It's mental, but it's $99.00 if you want to give it a try.
Smart Fat-Burning Pills, Available In The Future
In late 2014, Harvard's Stem Cell Institute released a report that may prove to be a total bombshell for the way we exercise in the future — because it'll burn the fat for us. Scientists managed to trick the body's white fat cells into thinking they were brown fat cells, and consequently behaving like them (i.e. burning up rather than hanging around). If thinness is no longer the point of exercise, we can focus on toning up, going hard, and jumping high — though obviously these pills will probably not be over-the-counter.
Workout Clothes That Talk To You, Available Now
Measuring your heart rate and steps is only the beginning. Serious exercise lovers in the future will probably pick up products like Athos, workout clothing that monitors everything that's happening on and in your body, from sweat levels to muscle exertion. You'll be able to track which muscles are firing when, and how their performance is improving. It's only a matter of time before we can track stuff like oxygen levels in the blood in day-to-day clothing.
Sweat-Powered Batteries, Available In The Future
If the one thing you hate the most about exercise is how soggy you get, we haven't cured that yet — but we have found a use for it. As well as demonstrating just how hard you worked in that yoga session, there are now batteries that can be powered by the sweat on your body and used to charge up your smartphone. The batteries are actually stick-on tattoos that can be converted into biofuel cells powered by the lactate produced when you sweat. So the harder you strive on your anti-gravity treadmill, the more juice you'll give to your quadrocopter. Sounds pretty rad to me.