Gyms Are Using Tech to Track You In Unexpected Ways

Syncing your smartwatch to your treadmill is only the beginning.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Everyone from marathon runners to occasional exercisers have been using technology to track their workouts for years, but a new piece in the Wall Street Journal details how fitness chains are taking tracking to a new level.

Case in point: Equinox. The New York-based gym chain has been testing a new chatbot software that communicates with members via their smartphones. The chatbot contacts members weekly during the first month of their membership to remind them to hit the gym and encourage them to reach their fitness goals. Members are given the chance to opt out of the chatbot service, but these reminders seem to be effective. Samir Desai, the chief information officer at Equinox, told the WSJ that new members who used the service worked out 40 percent more than those who opted out.

In addition to the chatbot, Equinox is also testing sensors that track members movements in the gym using their mobile devices. These sensors analyze members’ workout habits and suggest classes for them to try. For example, if a gym-goer demonstrates a love for the stationary bike, they’ll be invited to try a spin class. Though some see this personalization as a benefit, not all gym clients are comfortable with it. Equinox member Nadine Kerstan described the new feature as “a little creepy” to the WSJ. “I don’t want to feel like Big Brother is watching me at the gym,” Kerstan said.

But Equinox isn’t alone in tracking its members. Active Wellness, a franchise based on the West Coast, has been testing facial recognition software to expedite entry into their Oakland, CA, location, according to the WSJ. While the software aims to make checking in more convenient (who hasn’t gotten to the front desk at the gym only to realize their card is buried in their bag?), it also tracks members everywhere in the building except for bathrooms and locker rooms.

While some voiced concerns about having tech track their habits and movements in the gym, Equinox’s CEO Niki Leondakis chalked up it as an inevitable side effect of the digital age. Speaking to the WSJ, Leondakis said,“I would say that everyone today understands that they’re being tracked.”

Whether you’re a tracking advocate or a more traditional gym-goer, if your gym is implementing new tech services, it’s a good idea to check their privacy policy before your next workout.

Read the full story on the Wall Street Journal.