Will Brereton

Connected Health and Fitness Summit Preview: How to Ensure Connected Health Isn’t Just for the Elite

After three successful years in the US, the first European Connected Health and Fitness Summit is set to take place on 16-17 November 2022 in London. Dedicated to shaping the future of the connected fitness market, the summit will focus on showcasing innovations and facilitating partnerships. The speaker line-up includes some of the top names across the fitness sector who will discuss the uncertain landscape of connective fitness. Will Brereton, founder of SH1FT is one of the leading minds set to take the stage at the event. Speaking about democratizing fitness, we caught up with Will recently to learn more about how the fitness industry can use technology to make movement and physical activity more accessible for all.

We spoke to Will about:

  • Whether connected fitness options are really making us healthier
  • How technology can be used to promote behaviour change
  • How technology can be used to reach new and older populations

When it comes to fitness, nutrition and sleep, behaviour change can be a challenge. How can technology be used to promote behaviour change, especially for those who can’t afford expensive home gym equipment or memberships?

Put a bit of focus and cash into low cost of entry options and challenge the conception of what “fitness” is. When we strip it back, we’re really just talking about the ability to live a full life. Fitness is not just for athletes or “gym bunnies.”

For example, there’s so much evidence about the benefits of walking, and with health systems pushed to the breaking point under the strain of ageing populations this would be a great place to focus. Insurance companies have already gotten into this by giving away free fitness trackers with the benefit of reduced premiums (and lower payouts!)

This is something that Apple does extremely well. Apple Fitness+ is great but it still requires an Apple watch (although that’s set to change) but Apple Fitness just launched to all iPhone users with the latest iOS – meaning that everyone can be motivated to “close their rings”. For me, this very simple gamification of an activity goal (with the option to connect with friends and family for motivation, connection and accountability) is the gold standard in making fitness accessible and creating behavioural change.

Despite the explosive growth of connected fitness options, especially over the last two years, there has been almost no corresponding drop in global obesity rates. Why is that? Are connected fitness options actually making us a healthier society?

My simple answer would be that we’re fighting an uphill battle on obesity, and I think it’s going to take a while to turn the ship around. You can’t out exercise a bad diet, and we need to be realistic about the impact that connected fitness can have when unhealthy food is not only ubiquitous but also cheaper and easier for struggling families.

On whether connected fitness is making us healthier – I’m going to say no. At least… not yet. The adoption of wearables had huge potential, but right now it’s still very niche. VR headsets, rings that monitor your sleep and rowing machines with touch screens are great for the <1%, but we would achieve far greater health outcomes if we got everyone to track their steps on their mobile. I think we would have more credibility as an industry if we continued to push the frontiers of technology while at the same time focussing a bit more energy on simple messaging to the people who need it. Unfortunately, for now, VC cash doesn’t seem interested in this area.

What about older populations? How can you use technology to reach new users who are 60+?

The benefit to older people is where I get really excited about the potential of connected fitness. While it might be sexy to talk about VR headsets, we are several years away from widespread adoption of this equipment across the population. But in developed countries we have absolutely cracked the code on streaming, and that simple ability to easily bring video into the home allows us to bring fitness to the people who most need it. The best example I can think of is Balanced – digital fitness built around healthy ageing. They use physician-reviewed classes designed for people over 70 based around the principles of heart fitness, mobility and strength. It includes a medical questionnaire on signup that guides people to the right plan.

The missing link right now in digital fitness is insurance – but I think the big tech companies are closing in pretty fast on linking wearables to health outcomes, and when that becomes commonplace you can bet that insurance companies will be scrambling to get their insured population into trackable fitness solutions in order to reduce their premiums.

What techniques have you found effective for getting inactive people on board, especially those that might be new to fitness?

It remains “bring a friend,” even in a digital context. That might mean linking up through Apple to close your rings, joining one of the teams on Peloton, or joining the same challenge. If you want motivation, you need accountability and the best way to that is with a friend or community.

To learn more from Will and many other superstar speakers, make sure you purchase your ticket to the Connected Health and Fitness Summit. You can use our exclusive discount code TFN10 to save 10% off your ticket!

Benefits of attending include:

  • Reach new customers by developing your omni-channel, hybrid strategy
  • Deliver on the rising consumer demand for 360 wellness by expanding your omni-channel and digital offering
  • Maximise your customer value and retention by identifying the best ways to harness data and AI
  • Stand out from the crowd, secure investment and build a stronger business model by gaining insights and advice from key industry leader
  • Learn how to effectively communicate the essential role of movement on systemic health, longevity and vitality

To get you excited for the upcoming event, here are a few images of the last Connected Health and Fitness Summit which took place in the US:

Posted in The Fitness Network.