The thought of going to the gym isn’t always an exciting one for many people aspiring to move their bodies more. For fitness business owners looking to amp up their membership numbers, exploring new ways to make the exercise experience more appealing can be a successful strategy. 

The latest trend gyms are turning to aimed at getting more members in the door? Immersive fitness. Here’s a closer look at the trend, along with why fitness businesses should consider integrating immersive fitness into their programming.

Less Work, More Satisfaction?

Research published last year in the academic journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise determined that an immersive environment facilitated unusual outcomes for novice exercisers: Not only did they find that the incorporation of music and digital imagery enhance their enjoyment, but it also “diminish[ed] rate of perceived exertion” (RPE). In other words, gym-goers felt like they were doing less while simultaneously having more fun. This adds up to an interesting prospect for fitness businesses: After all, people are much more likely to repeat experiences they find satisfying. 

Said Jinger Gottschall, who headed up the study at Penn State University, “It is widely recognized in the fitness industry that when new exercisers get into the max heart rate zone they often feel a high level of discomfort, which then contributes to them giving up on their exercise program. The reports of greater satisfaction and enjoyment, despite being in that challenging max heart rate for a significant period of the class, have a major bearing on keeping new exercisers going back for more.”

Given these results, it’s hardly a surprise that immersive fitness and virtual reality workouts (VR) are taking the fitness world by storm. Said Colorado State University in including the trend in its roundup of the hottest fitness trends, “Gyms can create more immersive environments with the new tech creating cycling studios surrounded by mountain terrain, or rowing machines on the ‘open water’.”

Why Immersive Fitness  Works

All of which begs the question. What exactly, is immersive fitness? Also called “augmented fitness” and “entertrainment,” immersive fitness represents the unique junction of technology with fitness. Made popular by Les Mills, the concept involves creating an engaging, sensory-heightening experience for participants that motivates them to repeat the experience. 

Fitness business

From invigorating music to life-like landscapes to aromatherapy, these components can break up the monotony of regular exercise. And as the research shows, they can also help exercisers perform better in the process. Said Les Mills Head of Research Bryce Hastings, “Immersive classes present the perfect combination of engaging distractions, helping exercisers to reach vigorous intensities without high perceived effort. The convergence of technology, exercise science and creativity creates a workout experience like no other.” 

Another element of immersive fitness? It’s a “shareable” experience. Not only do participants bond with the instructors guiding them on their immersive journeys, but also with fellow gym members. 

The takeaway, according to Gottschall? “Immersive classes are ideal group fitness environments for newcomers to achieve their fitness goals because they reach a high heart rate zone to get fitter, faster, without feeling the discomfort of the intensity level,” she said while presenting the findings at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 2017 Annual Conference. 

One enthusiastic participant in the Penn study enthused, “I got so lost in the visuals that I had no idea how hard I was working until I saw the pool of sweat below my bike when the lights were turned on — super cool!” Wouldn’t you like your gym-goers to have this same sense of exhilaration after spending time at your gym? If so, immersive fitness may be the key.

Another way technology is shaping the contemporary fitness world? Wearables. To learn more about how fitness monitoring technology uses data to support more convenient and smarter workouts, request a demo today.