After performing market research for a number of product development projects in the fitness, health, and strength industries, I’ve noticed a number of future trends and opportunities existing within all three areas. I have listed my predictions below in bold. I’d also love for visitors to post their own forecasts in the comment section below for all to discuss and debate.
My Fitness Health and Strength Industry Predictions:
- A massive boom in “quantified-self” products, and their connection to personal insurance coverage. Obviously devices like the Nike Fuel Band, Jawbone UP, Fitbit, and the iMapMyRUN+ app have been out a number of years now. Also, we are seeing the creation of competing wearable products, such as the Amiigo and the MisFit (both due out soon.) While it doesn’t take a wild imagination to predict that these products will continue to grow in popularity, I believe the biggest upcoming transition will be the voluntary release of this data to health insurers. With the advent of the state-run insurance exchanges, due to go-live this upcoming year (2014), I believe one’s personal relationship with their insurer will grow in importance. People who once had their insurance selected and subsidized by their employer will now have a much more intimate knowledge of their health insurance coverage through self-purchase. They will be much more attune to which variables generate the greatest cost increases or savings in their premiums. Therefore, the ability to track a healthy lifestyle and present this data to insurers, will hopefully help the individual to offset a portion of their health insurance premiums. Individuals will pay less for their coverage, and the insurers will have a more accurate indicator of their customer’s overall health. Presumably this collection and sharing of data will be a win-win for both parties.
- Strength trainers’ focus shifting towards injury-prevention vs performance improvement. Along with this prediction I feel there will be a general proliferation of all fitness and strength certification options available. These predictions I feel will take far longer than the other predictions to manifest themselves (7+ years.) This transition will require the retirement of long-standing strength coaches and the arrival of a fresh class of advisers. Slowly but surely, I feel that collegiate and professional strength advisers will recognize that their training has less of an impact on athlete’s performance, and instead more solely helps in preventing injuries. (This will likely draw a lot of controversy, but if this were not the case, would not the strongest athletes almost always be the best? How often is this the case?) When we look at standard weight lifting movements versus the movement requirements of a sport, we see only a very small overlap of actual sport’s related activity/movement. There are bits and pieces of sports-specific movements intertwined in a given lifting motion, but for the most part, developing true sport-specific strength requires the habitual training of that particular motion. Let’s take an offensive lineman blocking as an example. While strong legs and a strong punch are critical in this position, which lift(s) precisely mimic this movement? Squats help to develop leg strength but ignore the punch that is required simultaneously – not to mention no offensive lineman blocks the defender upwards, but rather horizontally (or at a 45 degree angle at most.) A clean and jerk comes closer to addressing the leg and punching motion, but they occur in a fragmented motion differing from the proper blocking technique — and again the lifting motion is occurring in an upward motion rather than at a proper blocking angle. I am not dismissing the importance of these lifts, but instead see their value in preventing injury rather than increasing sports performance. A strength coach will now focus on correcting improper basic bio-mechanical movements and work on developing the strength to protect joints and ligaments. The coach will only look at the standard weight lifting techniques as a way to diagnose an athlete’s compensatory movements and asymmetries of their overall neuro-muscular system. They will put less importance on 1 rep maxes, and gym performances, and will instead focus on developing sport’s specific programs taking place in the actual sports environment. Because of this added need for specialization, I feel there will be a proliferation of strength and fitness certifications offered. Specialization will occur through a given sport, rather than through their present more generalized focus. For example, there will be a track-and-field strength specialization, a football specialization, MMA specialization, etc versus a certified personal trainer or strength trainer certification.
- Tremendous growth in the hearing service and device market. Do me a favor — count the number of people you see today (under 35 – and including yourself) that have either black or white cords hanging from their ears. The number will probably surprise you! At the gym, airport, grocery, library, etc. — everyone is now taking their music and podcasts with them everywhere they go. Now I am certainly no hearing expert, but I’d imagine high-volume, long-term, in-ear audio is detrimental to one’s ear drums over time. This upcoming generation will be the first to grow up with this form of extensive listening occurring for the entirety of their life. As such, I envision a massive incline in hearing repair surgery, and the amount of hearing-technology being developed. Surprisingly, of all of my predictions this is the one I’m most bullish on!
- A transition to fitness and strength programs designed for the older and/or less athletic. Let’s take a quick look at the recent introduction of the popular in-home workout programs: Insanity, P90X, Crossfit, and UFC Fit, etc. All options are great workouts. They effectively engage the user in high intensity interval training (HIIT), and they adhere to muscle confusion protocols — both of which have been shown to generate phenomenal fitness results. However, the issue that I see in this space is the extension of these products to an entirely under-qualified pool of workout candidates. These phenomenal workouts quickly become injury-inducing workouts when they are started by a cohort of out-of-shape, older, or under-informed individuals. Physical therapists and trainers are seeing an influx of patients arriving to mend the injuries they incurred undertaking these overly vigorous workout routines. Because of this, I see a huge opportunity for products designed to address this slightly less informed, older, and/or less physically fit demographic. Each new product being released focuses on being more “insane” or intense than the previous offering. My business mind immediately sees this one-up-manship as a market opening opportunity at the lower end of the fitness spectrum. There is a massive market waiting for a toned-down, in-home workout, designed to develop a fitness foundation and to build injury-prevention skills. These new customers will aspire to engage in the more aggressive workout programs eventually, but are simply not presently ready to take them on safely. We will see a consistent release of this type of product in the near future.
- A growing importance surrounding gut health and gut flora awareness. The growing popularity of probiotics (allowing for self-experimentation) and the increased formal study of the gut (and it’s nerve system, flora, and hormonal importance) will undoubtedly increase our growing concern and understanding of our gut health. Many interesting gut health video articles can be found at NutritionFacts.org that help to illustrate the increased focus on gut research. We are likely to see a massive surge in gut-related health products in the near future.
- A growing awareness of brain health, nootropics, and mind-body connectivity – resulting in massive increases in brain/mind-related products and supplements. I feel that the with the increased awareness of autism, the growing familiarity with Alzheimer’s, and the improvement of brain monitoring technology, people will become more aware and concerned with their brain health. Individuals will seek out and consume research studies and products surrounding brain health and mental improvement. We are a long way away from fully understanding mental responses to many stimuli and in truly understanding the blood brain barrier dilemma; but, I feel with the increased information that we do have, individuals will be more experimental with their brain health development than ever before. This behavior will be encouraged by companies releasing ever-more-frequent products devoted to brain health and mental improvement. (Present examples include:Alpha Brain, Zoned, NeuroIQ, Sulbutiamine Nootropic Capsules, Elebra,Phenibut, etc.) Along with this trend, I feel that a greater importance will also be put on the mind-body connection. More studies will be conducted to show the importance of the positive hormonal responses of exercise, and their connection to mental health. The scrawny, unhealthy nerd will be a thing of the past; and, the fit, toned nerd will be the bookworm of the future.
Please feel free to debate these predictions and/or provide your own predictions below!