Lights Camera Action

Lights Camera Action

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Lights! Camera! Action!

By Liane Cassavoy

It’s no secret that the health and fitness industry is beginning to seem more and more like a subsidiary of Hollywood. All of the senses and devices that it enlists to engage, inform, and enter tain the public are now being utilised in clubs to do the same for members.

Microphones, amplifiers, speakers, headsets, sophisticated Dolby-like sound systems, high-definition television screens, theatrical lighting, personal consoles on cardio equipment, interactive exercise systems, real-time tracking, projectors, wall-size screens, virtual group exercise classes, appcompatible equipment, floors with light-emitting diodes, and even virtual 3D instructors—where will it end? When will it end?

The short answers: nowhere and never. Traditional exercise equipment has evolved constantly over the decades to make it possible for users to achieve their goals more quickly, easily, and predictably. Now, clubs have introduced sensory possibilities to the mix to add “pleasantly” to the product description. “Audio, video, lighting, and whatever new technology they come up with—all of it is going to be used, increasingly, to create an enhanced member experience in clubs,” observes Brian O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FITC).

Compounding the impetus is the fact that, every day, the public becomes more comfortable with, dependent upon, and demanding of technology solutions. Digital is the new air we breathe.


Managing to both drive and stay ahead of this trend’s fast-moving curve, the industry’s inventors, innovators, manufacturers, and program providers have produced a wealth of options. Flip through the “Exercise Entertainment” section of IHRSA’s F.I.T. 2015 commercial equipment guide—a section that, a few years ago, barely existed, but now runs six pages—and you encounter an industry Who’s Who.

Among them are Broadcastvision Entertainment; Cardio Theater; ClubCom; Cybex International, Inc.; Fitness on Demand; Life Fitness; Matrix Fitness; MYE Club TV Systems; Netpulse, Inc.; Precor; Star Trac; Technogym; WELLBEATS; Wexer Virtual—the list, already long, will probably double within the year. And, on the programming side, we have frontrunners such as Les Mills International, MOSSA (formerly bodytraining systems), and Zumba Fitness, LLC, all of which understand the importance of classes that are fresh and fun, and are doing all they can to make that happen.

“Lights, audio, and video are all super important as they add to the experience one has during an exercise class,” points out Marcie Benavides, a Zumba education specialist. “If an instructor can create positive memories with their students through the use of music, lighting, props, and participation—then they’ll make a positive and lasting impression.”

A new Les Mills product, IMMERSIVE FITNESS, which is scheduled to make its U.S. debut this month at 24 Hour Fitness facilities in Santa Monica, California, demonstrates how much is being done with multisensory exercise systems ... and suggests how much more might be done in the near future.

The trend toward workouts that engage one’s imagination and passions as much as one’s anatomy may have been sparked by Jane Fonda, suggests O’Rourke. He credits the queen of aerobics videos with popularising classes for women in clubs, whose owners, seeing the writing on the wall, began experimenting with music and lighting to increase participation.

“Now, we’re seeing the logical extension of all that,” he says. “Big-screen TV, projection systems, LED lighting—all of it is becoming cheaper and much more powerful than it was just a few years ago. Today, consumers expect tremendous choice, and clubs are catering to them, offering programming and technology that can help differentiate them from the competition.”


In terms of on-equipment options, all of the major cardio manufacturers have robust products. Cybex, with the assistance of Netpulse, has produced an entertainment, personal exercise, and workout-tracking platform that offers music videos, live TV, on-demand videos, and Virtual Active, which transports users, virtually, to the American Southwest, the Swiss Alps, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia.

Life Fitness’ New Elevation Series Discover Tablet Console—for its bikes, treadmills, and cross-trainers—presents an equally impressive menu of choices, offering literally thousands of options, including on-demand music and movies. Users can also access the Internet to check out interesting Websites or play their favorite game.

For members who want to escape the confines of the club, Matrix’s Virtual Active system serves up a suite of fully interactive, cinema-quality, video cardio workouts. Users can explore the lush forests of Hawaii, hike the majestic Grand Canyon, or jog down Sin City’s infamous strip—while savoring appropriate soundtracks. All of the preceding companies, it’s worth noting, make use of wireless TV audio receivers produced by MYE Club TV systems.

Precor’s dynamic Preva system significantly expands the exercise umbrella, providing comprehensive fitness tracking as well as a plethora of functions designed to amuse, including on-demand videos and Web content, among others.


This is an extract from Fitness PRO Magazine issue 2. To purchase your copy, email or subscribe online.

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