WE WERE ALWAYS WARNED that AI would pose a threat to our job security. Automation has long been a fear of the workforce, with advances in technology always approached with cautious apprehension. For the most part, these innovations have been confined to the manufacturing industry, but with the rise of AI, fear of automation is spreading to creative, people-first jobs, and the fitness industry is not immune to these concerns.
The personal training scene is on the brink of a dramatic transformation. In our relentless pursuit of peak physical fitness, we’ve found a cheaper, more efficient and more convenient alternative to the traditional outlets. AI’s capabilities are rapidly progressing and have the potential to render PTs obsolete. Here, we’ll discuss both the benefits and limitations of AI trainers, explore some of the leading AI fitness apps, and help you come to an informed conclusion on the topic.
How is AI impacting fitness?
There’s a suitably robotic level of efficiency associated with AI, which is able to deliver specific, accurate information at the push of a button, and that ability has translated to the fitness realm. AI-powered fitness apps are entering the market, and while many of them still incorporate human elements, they also offer services that humans simply can’t match.
Upon signing up for these apps, before you even enter a name, you’ll be prompted to enter your height, weight, goals, preferences and other physiological details that no human would be bold enough to ask within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. With this data, the apps use AI to create personalised workout plans tailored to your needs.
It’s the individualisation that these apps offer which initially appeals, but they bring plenty more to the table. Given that these apps are meant to be downloaded on a mobile phone, you can literally hold a breadth of tailor-made workouts in the palm of your hand. These apps can be accessed anytime, anywhere, meaning they’ll work to your schedule and can accommodate any type of lifestyle—no matter how peculiar your workout habits may be. Perhaps the most important factor is cost efficiency, these apps typically operate on a subscription basis, which works out to be far cheaper than signing on for a human PT.
Outside of AI-powered apps, AI fitness trackers, devices and wearables are also upping the ante. This technology allows for real-time performance monitoring and can provide instant feedback. A supremely ethical choice in comparison to AI trainers, as these devices aren’t putting PTs out of a job—assuming you don’t rely on a PT to monitor your heart rate, oxygen consumption and utilise other forms of calorimetry.
Excuse us if we sound like we’re waxing lyrical about how great AI trainers are so far. Don’t worry, they also have their issues, which we’ll get to in due course.
What are the best AI fitness apps?
There are a range of AI-powered fitness apps already available for download and there’s certainly going to be more on the way. These apps all follow a similar model, using AI to cater to your specific goals and workout preferences. Most of them also integrate gamification elements to make the exercising experience more enjoyable. Social features are also common on these platforms, implementing a sense of community and competitiveness.
Here’s some of the best available AI fitness apps.
Fitness AI: Gym & Home Workout
So, will AI replace personal trainers?
As we stand at the crossroads of tradition and technology, it’s hard to deny the allure of the AI personal trainer. They don’t tire, they don’t judge, and they certainly don’t make you feel guilty about a cheat day—that lack of accountability could be a problem though, depending on your preferences. But while AI trainers have their benefits, they also have their limitations.
The most obvious drawback to AI trainers is the lack of personal connection between trainer and trainee. Unless you develop a startlingly deep connection with the soulless entity, akin to that of the protagonist in Spike Jonze’s Her, you won’t be getting the same level of emotional support from an AI trainer compared to a human one. That’s one of the primary reasons people seek out a PT, so if that’s what you want, look elsewhere.
The human factor really is the biggest deterrent here. Besides the personal connection there’s also the motivational conundrum. We often look to external influences as the sources of our motivation (that’s how motivational speakers earn their keep), and a push notification on your phone is certainly less motivating than a living, breathing and suitably commanding PT ordering you to stick to your goals.
We can’t look past the hands-on guidance offered by human PTs either. It’s one thing to absorb the gist of an intricate and specialised exercise, it’s another to perform it correctly on your first attempt. PTs can offer helpful advice on form correction, an AI trainer won’t know if you’re even doing anything wrong. A non-human trainer also can’t spot for you, so don’t go too heavy.
At the end of the day, whether you prefer a human or artificial personal trainer, the most important thing is reaching your health and fitness goals. Which form works best will vary from person to person, so it’s easy to see why some prefer the emotionless, straight-forward approach of AI. That being said, humanity craves human connection. There’s a reason why human PTs appeal in the first place. We all have the power to look up effective workouts on our phones, yet we still opt for the expertise of a trained professional. With that understanding, it’s difficult to see human PTs becoming obsolete any time soon.