H&F Biz show '04 -- Games and fun to keep you fit

Despite a preponderance of the traditional exercise equipment at the Health & Fitness Business show this year, the trend SNEWS® has spied at the event in recent years of companies showing equipment that tries to make exercise fun and tries to make fun into exercise isn't going away.
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Despite a preponderance of the traditional exercise equipment at the Health & Fitness Business show this year, the trend SNEWS® has spied at the event in recent years of companies showing equipment that tries to make exercise fun and tries to make fun into exercise isn't going away.

This is such a carryover and ever-expanding theme, in fact, that we'd like to point it out again that these products, albeit few in number, offer a different way of looking at fitness -- a way that could indeed be appealing not only to the youth, but to the non-exercisers and even the youth in all of us who want to make workouts more fun.

Products include one that creates a workout while challenging your senses (Makoto), while simply going somewhere (Trikke), or while playing a game (Cateye game bike or Powergrid). Of course, there is also the continuation and expansion of traditional companies including TV and screens for entertainment and Net surfing, but we've talked about that and it's frankly not so new anymore. Now it's more a race to see who can do it with the best screen and finally get the price down to where a consumer won't wince or even hesitate.

Although specialty and sporting goods fitness departments often emphasize treadmills, home gyms, ellipticals, bikes and such, we think that many could dabble in what we have called "games that can keep you fit" -- if not on the sales floor, then perhaps for their commercial sales department that could target community centers and youth clubs. These things are also worth the time for an exclusively commercial dealer to take a glance at.

Last year, we wrote about Makoto and the Cateye interactive system. Both, as well as this year's newcomer Kilowatt by PowerGrid Fitness, attracted tons of attention from attendees who wanted to take part in the action for a little fun themselves. We're not sure how many will buy, but we think it's ironic such activities can get so much attention from buyers to the point of being a gathering point, but those same buyers and dealers don't seem to realize that if they like it, maybe their customers will too. Granted, many of these are still a little heavy on the pocketbook.

Kilowatt by Powergrid was a newbie at The Super Show in January 2004, which we wrote about then, but at that time it still looked the part of a garage prototype. The inventors have upped the ante a bit -- named their category "Intensity Gaming" -- and tweaked it to look more appealing and space age too. Everybody we talked to really liked this newcomer at this year's show, but questioned whether it would last once home. It IS the most affordable of such units ($800) -- partly because the inventors designed it to interact with games on the market. Imagine an indoor cycle, but without wheels or pedals. You have what looks like a seat but is more of a tush rest with handlebars, but they don't pivot. You just yank and push and pull on them. That means in minutes you use a lot of isometric strength for upper-body training and you are also forced to use your core and legs, plus balance, to stay upright. It truly is a full-body stationary workout. Also, because of its push-pull you aren't limited to forward-motion games such as driving or flying. We did spy some large companies taking second looks. Hmm, wonder if it's going to get snapped up like Cybex took on the dandy Trazer game to get to different markets? www.powergridfitness.com

Trikke is an odd three-wheeled, self-propelled sort of scooter that is distributed by Fitter International. So you can scoot your way to and from work or school and don't just push with one foot over and over, but are forced to kinda swing and swap to rock the unit back and forth slightly to continue its forward momentum. That means you not only get incredible ab and core work for a great price ($180 to $250), but you get your cardiovascular system going in minutes. And you get somewhere too. Fast. Fast is fun. Talk about double-dipping. Or would that be triple-dipping? www.fitter1.com

Makoto, as a reminder of its introduction in 2003, is an entirely different interactive experience, and although too pricey for the ordinary home market, could become a hot commodity in schools, community centers or clubs. Participants stand in a triangular arena with three tall metal towers at each corner embedded with small light panels on three sides. A computer randomly triggers lights on the three-sided towers to light up accompanied by Asian-sounding gongs of different pitches (higher is higher on the tower). The player uses either a 4-foot-long baton or hands to touch or hit each panel as it illuminates, forcing the person to tap into not only the visual light clue, but also to respond to auditory clues (the gong). The user must use peripheral vision and quick reactions and agility to spin and lunge to strike a light panel before the light goes off. We like the mix of training, including sight, hearing, reaction timing, cardiovascular, fine motor and neuromuscular. IF we could afford the $8,000 price tag, SNEWS®'s World headquarters would have its own Makoto station to beat off the deadline blues and energize mid-afternoon slumps. www.makoto-usa.com

Cateye Fitness, distributed by Dallas, Texas-based, Source Distributors, once again kept busy as show attendees wanted to ride their colleagues into the dust -- interactively. Basically, it's a bike (or two) that hooks up to a Playstation, which lets riders pedal and race against another cyclist or the computer helping to make time fly while exercise just happens. OK, this is not new -- we actually saw a version at the 2002 show -- as of last year it now has a self-contained plug-and-play stationary bike that connects to a Sony Playstation and Playstation 2. For less than $400, it's a good thing. Wanna giggle? If you go to the website and click on "in the news," you'll see a photo of the Harlem Globetrotters using the Game Bikes at an event in Washington, D.C., in June! www.cateyefitness.com

Looking for more product and show information? SNEWS® isn't done yet. Look for our in-depth story on news and new stuff in the strength world Sept. 3 ("H&F Biz '04 -- Strength still going strong"). Last week (News Digest of Aug. 30), we ran stories on highlights in the stretch and balance area, as well as a second story on fitness training accessories. The week before (News Digest of Aug. 23) we ran our post-show overview story with numbers, news nuggets and brief summaries of a few events and parties ("HF Biz show buyer numbers steady, exhibitors up"). Still coming in the next 14 days are stories on cardio equipment highlights, "other stuff" from the show that fits none of the categories above, and a roundup of all the morning workshops. You'd think you were there, you'll have so much information! Even with the depth of our coverage (you won't find more complete or more accurate coverage anywhere else), we can't write up every last piece of gear and equipment in every last corner. If we missed something, it's because we either didn't see anything new or noteworthy, already wrote about it, or just plain missed it (possible, although not likely). So don't turn the dial. We got more hits coming your way.

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