November 7, 2012 in Business, Health

Cardio equipment getting smarter

Industry leaders push personalized products
Ellen Jean Hirst Chicago Tribune

Angela Schroedle, of Rockford, Ill., watches television while exercising at Peak Sports Club in Loves Park, Ill., Oct. 26.
(Full-size photo)

You swipe your gym membership card or sign in, and the screen on the cardio equipment welcomes you by name.

Your sites and bookmarked TV shows and workouts you tracked – data stored in the cloud – load onto the 10- to 19-inch tablet attached to the bike, elliptical or treadmill. While you work up a sweat, you can read the book you started the night before, check the latest Facebook posts or tweet about the miles you’re clocking in real time.

The fitness industry is in an era of TVs on treadmills, but two industry leaders – Life Fitness, a division of Illinois-based Brunswick Corp., and Washington-based Precor – have kicked up competition with the release of personalized Internet-capable products.

Life Fitness unveiled its new product line in October and recently opened its application programming interface so developers can create apps for the equipment.

Some of Precor’s cardio equipment – its P80 Console series – has 15-inch LCD touch screens that can connect to the Internet, said Doug Johns, the company’s vice president for global marketing and product management. The machines, sold since 2010, are priced at nearly $11,000 for home use.

“I think it’s fair to say that the industry is heading in this direction,” Johns said.

Life Fitness, the industry leader, with sales last year of $635 million, has jumped in with touch screens that allow users to surf the Web.

“Technology is moving really quick,” Life Fitness President Chris Clawson said at a recent presentation to prospective clients, mostly health and fitness clubs that can afford its $10,000 treadmills. “People have a desire to get what’s in their purse connected with everything else.”

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