COVID-19 and a New Era of Fitness

June 14, 2021 by Yooah Chung

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The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with several important elements of our lives, including physical activity. Many have gained weight and lost track of their health due to the closure of sports facilities and being more sedentary. According to a survey conducted by the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity, 46% of adults over the age of 20 said they gained more than 3kg since the start of the pandemic. Due to such phenomenon and concerns about health associated with COVID-19, people’s interest in health and fitness have grown substantially. The fitness industry is formulating smarter and more diverse ways for people to enjoy fitness while staying safe.

AI-based Fitness Programs

​Many have begun to do “home workouts” to stay healthy. Yet home workouts can be hard for those unfamiliar or inexperienced with fitness due because no one is there to guide them. Several companies have attempted to resolve this issue by creating fitness programs using artificial intelligence. With such programs, users can easily learn new exercises and check their progress alone. A leading example is Smart Home Training, an AI based fitness app created by Kakao VX. The app was launched in September 2019 and saw a 254 percent increase in the number of active users per month compared to the previous year during 2020. This suggests that the app became more popular because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The app provides a wide variety of exercise programs such as weight training, pilates, cardio workouts, and golf. It utilizes the smartphone camera to check progress in real time and correct movement. Not only does the app’s AI count the number of repetitions, but it also calculates the accuracy of each movement; green indicates high accuracy, while red means low accuracy. The AI also automatically records progress, analyzes how much the user’s muscles were involved in the exercise, and recommends exercises users are likely to be interested in.

Virtual Personal Training

​Some companies have tried to solve the challenges of working out at home by moving training sessions to an online platform. Apps such as KEEPFIT and MyDANO provide virtual personal training services. Users are matched with a professional trainer to help them plan out their workouts and set fitness goals. These trainers do not only consult users at the beginning, but also stay in contact with users, helping them keep track of progress, make corrections, and even eat healthier. In addition to this, users share their concerns and questions with trainers. Not all sessions on KEEPFIT or MyDano are live. However, the service does provide constant reminders and send exercise equipment that to the user’s home, helping users feel as if they are at a gym with a trainer.

Food and Nutrition

Nutrition is a big part of fitness as well and is also becoming “digitized”. Doing Lab, a Korean healthcare startup, is currently preparing to export its food recognition program, FoodLens API. The program’s AI calculates the overall mass, calories, and nutritional value of food using photos. Not only does it recognize thousands of different food products, but it can also differentiate brands among the same food and recognize multiple kinds of food simultaneously from one photo. The FoodLens technology has been sold to more than 10 organizations, including 5 major corporations. Having received a total of 4 billion won in investment, Doing Lab is expanding the services it provides, with additions such as SangSik, an online nutrition consulting platform.

According to Rainer Schaller, the owner of the German fitness company RSG Group, post COVID-19 fitness will be very different from the past and will evolve to incorporate both online and offline fitness. Heightened interest in fitness will not be a phase. People are coming to recognize the importance of health, and it is up to fitness companies to keep up with the needs of people in this quickly shifting world.

The UIC Scribe was founded in 2006 as the official student-run newsmagazine of Underwood International College. It celebrates diversity of thinking, excellence in writing, and the freedom of self-expression.