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The WiFi fit list: Virtual training apps, sessions to help you combat weight gain amid COVID house arrest

The ongoing pandemic has shifted fitness into a virtual world. Virtual Reality, online training, 
apps and digital sessions are the new normal for better health.

Published: 01st November 2020 12:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st October 2020 12:23 AM   |  A+A-

fitness

For representational purposes

Staying at home has never felt as good as before. But it also adds on the kilos. The virus has forced people to turn to technology as a solution to better health, physical and mental, in more entertaining ways than just pushups on the bedroom carpet.

YouTube workout videos of Leslie Sansone and Lucy Wyndham tell you how to walk in one place at home and sweat it out. Tarun Gill’s tough fitness videos.

And then there are FitTuber and Beer Biceps. Bicycle helmets with wireless backup and 3D modelling.

The Apple Watch has a heart monitor, which alerts you of an impending heart attack.

Garmin Venu sells a smartwatch boasting health tracking for various functions, including menstrual cycles. Drone racing gets the body parts moving. 

Drones are integrated into outdoor fitness and exercise programmes or used in the home gym to capture a 360 ° view of training and performance, constantly reviewing, adjusting and urging you to push the envelope.

Holographic tennis and workout podcasts are new regimens. Amaresh Ojha, CEO & Founder, Gympik, observes, “Podcasts offer the right counselling on health and fitness by industry professionals. Food and nutrition or weight loss and muscle gain, podcasts bring the latest news in wellness and fitness trends.”

Got a pool at home? Alternate Augmented Reality (AR) Form goggles with a Google Glass head-mounted display strapped to your eyes.

The accelerometer in the goggles tracks strokes and speed in real time to monitor metabolism during aquatic AR. E-sports are the new frontier in muscle construction.

Diksha Chhabra, Fitness Expert, Nutritionist & Founder, Diksha Chhabra Fitness Consultation, notes, “A client of mine who had no time confessed the online programme gave her better results. She did not miss her exercises and she was emailed the schedule in advance with the necessary instructions and guidelines.”

Nintendo’s home workout kits combine legendary villains with a silent Adventure mode.

Then there is the ultimate rock star in the digital wellness space—Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI-based personal trainers integrated with wearable devices follow and correct workout posture and provide real-time feedback like a trainer does.

You can also customise lifestyle and diet with AI apps such as Millie Fit and Aaptiv Coach. There are apps such as Lifesum that integrate your diet with lifestyle habits to help you achieve your health and fitness goals. Most of them can be paired with other health apps such as Apple Health, Fitbit, Google Fit and Withings.

There’s more to wearable tech than watches. Nocturnal tech to save cyclists and bikers from careless drivers is getting more sophisticated by the day.

A unique jacket has a cape sphere—4,000 glass globes embedded in each sq cm that reflect and scatter light. During the day, it has a psychedelic look with shifting metallic sheens of colour.

Another has phosphorescent membranes to catch and store light: the stronger the light the brighter the glow. Strobe-lit spheres clipped on to your shoes warn errant motorists when you are on a jog.

Many apps are built with data gathered from professional athletes. BlazePod, a Bluetooth ‘flash reflex training’ system, uses reaction-training lights, and works by tapping touch-sensitive pods with your hands, knees, or feet during a workout.

The pods light up in different colours during the exercise, signalling reaction time, coordination, balance, and strength. E-games cater to every need.

The Stealth Plankster acts on your core using a balance board plugged into a cellphone and works out up to 29 muscles.

Virtually the best

The most exciting universe in e-exercise is Virtual Reality (VR), which is pushing boundaries of gadgets and games.

This essentially involves pulling on a VR headset attached to a computer or a cellphone to run apps and games, hands-free or connected.

Top-quality headphones and hand-controllers that operate specially designed treadmills enhance simulated experiences of being in another world.

As you play, your body moves fast with the controllers applying real-world gestures in the game or app. Standard gaming joypads are cheaper.

There are special app stores to browse and download games and apps on the VR device itself. Some VR games stores can be browsed on the computer.

Many built-for-VR games such as Beat Saber, Iron Man VR or Star Trek: Bridge Crew do not really work anywhere else except on their download gadgets.

Facebook-owned company Occulus has launched Occulus Quest 2, the most sophisticated VR gadget available at present. Strap it to your head using rubber and Velcro straps, and you’re ready to go. Its field of vision and higher refresh frame rate make the screen expansive and crisp with improved resolution.

The headset features 6GB of memory and uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset. Hand recognition is smooth. HTC Vive, its direct rival, has singular features, including a front-facing camera to bring the real world into your virtual world using specific apps.

Two hand-worn gestural controllers and a base station track your movements inside VR space. The greatest advantage of VR workouts is data.

The aquatic AR goggles use data collected from a multitude of champion swimmers to monitor user performance.

VR is a gift to the routine exercise buff, since it breaks the monotony of regular gymming, which has anyway been put off due to the pandemic.

You can upload an immersive boxing VR game on your headset to duck and weave, and burn calories because you are in the game.

The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise that researches the effect of VR on the body has concluded that these workouts with the right games burn more calories than sweating out in a conventional gym.

Being an internet device, you can play with people across the world. Rookies in the gym are often subjected to self-conscious “gymtimidation”—a term that defines people ashamed of their physical shape and ignorance of weights and routines in a gym.

This is no longer a problem with VR. You can download avatars like in computer games that hide your identity while looking like Salman Khan.

This is a great psychological leg-up since you are essentially competing with yourself. A study by the US’s National Center for Biotechnology Information suggests that VR exercise has a positive impact on an individual’s physiological, psychological, and rehabilitative outcomes compared to traditional exercise. Sanjay Sehgal, CEO, MSys Technologies Pvt Ltd, says, “VR workouts can be done on rowing machines, exercise bikes, resistance cords, and elliptical machines at home or in the gym.

This combination of the complete immersion and dedication helps people to forget that they are working out. The gamification and competition encourage them to push the limits, making the experience more appealing.” Like Rishi Baveja, Co-Founder, BoxFit, admits that he gained a lot of weight during the lockdown. He got back into shape using online training.

“We conducted a survey which suggested 84 percent of people would continue with online workouts even once everything opens again,” he says. Some apps such as Box VR and Dance Central enable high-impact workouts. Sanjeev Singhai, Founder, Wellnessta explains, “In a VR workout, the environment is completely replaced by digital surroundings. The thought that you can be shipped to a lovely area like the Swiss Alps for your next bicycle ride, as opposed to gazing at the sweat-soaked back of your fellow gym mate is motivating.”

App you like it

There are many apps that monitor weight and suggest lifestyle changes. G Nivedith, travel and tech blogger from Bengaluru, weighed 126 kg in March 2020. “My body fat was 46 percent. After some online research, I made my low carb-high protein diet plan and focused on losing fat without losing muscle. I bought an Omron weighing scale with the Omron connect app that gave me indicators like body mass index, visceral fat and other parameters. I now weigh 75 kg, losing 51 kg over the last seven months,” he explains. Sohini Ghaie, video creator and a freelance publicist, also tracks her calories using an app, Healthifyme. “I was so excited when I saw Nora Fatehi conduct a dance session of 30 minutes on Cure.fit. Gyms do not give you that sense of satisfaction because you get a complex while your gym trainers compare you with the others who are working out,” she says.

The ability to track and quantify health parameters is also serving as a motivation to get fit. Nikhil Arora, Vice President & Managing Director, GoDaddy India, who has been following an exercise and running regimen for over a decade, now uses fitness tech to calibrate his workouts based on input parameters such as running cadence, speed, distance, heart rate, calorie burn rate, and output or performance metrics like VO2 max (a kind of oxygen efficiency parameter), weight loss and calorie density.

“I’ve always believed that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Technology gives people a lot more control over their fitness by giving them access to a whole lot of data about their regimen and health. This, in turn, makes them more independent and self-driven. I use technology to track basic health metrics such as hydration levels, sleep cycles and stress. Being able to measure this data has given me a lot more confidence to keep trying out new stuff and see what works best,” says Arora.

Mallika Parekh, MS, MPH, owner of Physique 57 India, notes, “We are in the middle of launching a Video on Demand platform, which will allow clients to do shorter workout bursts using specially applicable scientific methods, pause and rewind when required, and not stick to a schedule if they choose.  These videos will be accessible through social media channels as well as app stores.”

FITTING ANSWERS
Zoom is not just meant to hold meetings; it also helps you get fit on your phone or computer. Celebrity fitness coach Shivoham observes, “I’ve been using Zoom and Instagram for my classes and clients. We will be coming up with something more user-friendly and personal soon. If you have an eye for detail and are good at communication, then virtual classes are great for you.” Decathlon launched self-powered bikes and ellipticals to help users practice in any environment.

“With Kinomap (a fitness reality application), users can connect their fitness equipment with this reality software to experience running a marathon in Delhi or rowing on a beautiful lake, or even participate in Tour de France,” says Jade Dutta, Omni Merchandiser, Domyos, Decathlon Sports India. Incidentally, Decathlon’s ‘All For Sports’ platform provides various fitness live sessions for users to stay fit at home. Sumaya Dalmia, celebrity trainer, fitness and wellness expert, adds: “The pandemic has really forced people to look at virtual fitness differently and online fitness. When we didn’t have a choice, people had to learn how to connect with the trainers online like kids have learnt how to study on Zoom. Likewise, we have learnt how to do a Zoom workout or an online workout.” Numerous gyms are presently streaming expertly trained classes through apps that permit clients to reproduce the experience of individual instruction with a mentor through their earphones.

There are workouts that cater to all ages, metabolic capacities, illnesses and even time constraints. From five minutes of intense HIIT to 90 minutes of relaxing yoga, all are now available with the click of a button. Yoga expert Samiksha Shetty explains, “While online fitness was already happening on a smaller scale, it has become the go-to for the past eight months. It allowed people to change a common belief system that working out is only worth its while when you are in a specific kind of environment.” Timing matters.

Dr Nila Paul, who works at Vellore Government Hospital and has been with F45 Neelankarai (a gym in Chennai) for the past six months, agrees, “Being a doctor, the timings of the sessions have been very convenient as I spend most of my day at the Covid-19 wards at Vellore. The 45-minute morning cardio sessions with F45 Neelankarai gives me the mindset to go out and conquer the world. Workouts are modified as per my fitness level every day and the trainers make it a point to challenge me constantly.” With growing awareness on mental health, people are more mindful about the vitality of yoga and breathwork. It’s also easy on the wallet. 

Grin and wear it

Wearable technology such as smartwatches and fitness bands has been around for a while, being constantly upgraded to become more accurate than before. “Since the appetite for data is increasing each day, we are seeing innovation and better application of technologies that push the limits to improve overall health and fitness with personalised regimens. Privacy and security protocols must be prioritised to make tech safe,” says Darshan Lama, Chief Commercial Officer, Question What’s Real (QWR). According to Forbes, the wearable technology industry is estimated to be over $27 billion by 2022. Vishal Gondal, Founder & CEO, GOQii, points out, “Wearables that include fitness trackers, smartwatches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices help in the monitoring and tracking of Covid-19 symptoms.”

The future of personal tech is invisible wearables. Super thin and almost transparent gadgets with powerful sensors combined with AI that download genetic and other data are being tested in labs. Harvard-MIT researchers have come up with a smart tattoo with sensors powered by subcutaneous fluids. As celebrity motivational speaker Jim Rohn advised, “Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.” Log in for better health.

Virtual Reality

Involves pulling on a VR headset attached to a computer or a cell phone to run apps and games, hands free or connected. Top-quality headphones and hand controllers that operate specially designed treadmills enhance simulated experiences of being in another world. 

Built-for-VR games 
Beat Saber, Iron Man VR or Star Trek: Bridge Crew 

Facebook’s Occulus Quest 2 is the most sophisticated VR gadget available at present. Strap it to your head using rubber and Velcro straps, and you’re ready to go. 

HTC Vive has singular features, including a front-facing camera to bring the real world into your virtual world using specific apps. 

Virtual trainers

Stealth Plankster works on your core using a balance board plugged into a cellphone and works out up to 29 muscles 

BlazePod, a Bluetooth ‘flash reflex training’ system, uses reaction-training lights, and works by tapping touch-sensitive pods with your hands, knees, or feet during a workout 

Decathlon’s self-powered bikes and ellipticals make practice possible in any environment. With Kinomap app, users can connect their equipment with this reality software.

Podcasts

Holographic tennis and workout podcasts are new regimens. Podcasts offer the right counselling on health and fitness by industry professionals. Food and nutrition or weight loss and muscle gain, podcasts bring the latest news in wellness and fitness trends.

Online Workout Sessions

Numerous gyms are presently streaming expertly trained classes through apps such as Zoom and Instagram that permit clients to reproduce the experience of individual instruction with a mentor through their earphones.

There are workouts that cater to all ages, metabolic capacities, illnesses and even time constraints. From five minutes of intense HIIT to 90 minutes of relaxing yoga, all are now available with the click of a button. Decathlon’s ‘All For Sports’ platform provides various fitness live sessions for users to stay fit at home. 

Wearables

Bicycle helmets with wireless backup and 3D modelling

The Apple Watch has a heart monitor, which alerts you of an impending heart attack. Garmin Venu’s smartwatch boasts health tracking for various functions, including menstrual cycles.

Google Glass: The accelerometer in the goggles tracks strokes and speed in real time to monitor metabolism during aquatic AR. 

AI-based personal trainers, integrated with wearable devices, follow and correct workout postures real-time 

Nocturnal tech to save cyclists and bikers from careless drivers is getting more sophisticated by the day. A unique jacket has a cape sphere—4,000 glass globes embedded in each sq cm that reflect and scatter light. During the day, it has a psychedelic look with shifting metallic sheens of colour. Another has phosphorescent membranes to catch and store light. Strobe-lit spheres clipped on to your shoes warn errant motorists when you are on a jog. 

App-ropriate for Fitness

Aaptiv Coach Comes with a virtual personal trainer known as Coach for every individual with different fitness goals

Lifesum Integrates your diet with lifestyle habits to help you achieve your health and fitness goals

Ring Fit Adventure The latest fitness game for Nintendo Switch blends exercise routines with adventure

Fitness Boxing It’s more like kickboxing and helps you tone your arms and upper body

Burn It Up The Zumba session allows you to have a private session at home, with 30 different kinds of classes and lessons 

Wii Fit Plus Helps you work on the aerobics and exercise part. There are multiplayer activities that allow one to play and do workouts with friends. 

Healthifyme Provides services such as calorie tracking, one-on-one nutrition and fitness coaching, and diet and workout plans

Millie Fit The AI-powered, on-demand virtual fitness trainer offers live feedback and correction during workouts

Omron Connect Works together with Omron health devices to help you manage your health data. It gives indicators such as body mass index, visceral fat and other parameters.

Box VR Brings music-enhanced, boxing-inspired workouts to VR gaming

Dance Central Tracks your estimated calories burned as you play

Drones

These flying machines are integrated into outdoor fitness and exercise programmes or used in the home gym to capture a 360 ° view of training and performance, constantly reviewing, adjusting and urging you to push the envelope. 

E-sports

Nintendo’s home workout kits combine legendary villains with a silent Adventure mode 



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