IHRSA 2013: Cardio goes high-tech and doubles calorie-burning

Equipment is moving away from the standard treadmills and ellipticals and toward lateral motions and varied surfaces – making for a great workout.
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Anything that gets your customers’ hearts pumping is a great thing. And one of the best ways to get them moving is with a solid piece of cardio equipment.

Though IHRSA features items that will be stocked in health clubs and gyms, it’s a great indicator of what’s to come for the retail and light commercial, or vertical, market. We saw new products that feature different types of surfaces intended to make the user experience easier than that on a treadmill. Plus, we noticed technology was continuing its forward march, incorporating streamlined tracking capabilities (meaning customers can use the same account on multiple machines, no matter the manufacturer).

Pick your motion
We’re a fan of lateral motion in our cardio equipment — that’s why we were taken with the Helix and the Octane LateralX when they launched. Now both are getting updated, but Helix is taking the upgrade-the-equipment-itself route and Octane is taking the add-killer-screen-technology route.

The similarities between these two products end at the side-to-side bit. In fact, each company claims the other promotes a motion that’s bad for customers' knees. But speaking as runners, the side-to-side motion of both pieces was refreshing for our hips.

The Helix HLT 3500 has larger foot beds, higher-grade steel and is bigger than its home unit. It’s more versatile in that users can do squats and clubs can run classes using the product, as its footprint is smaller than that of a treadmill. It’s comparable to the footprint of a stationary cycle.

The Octane LateralX has all the same equipment components it did at the 2012 trade shows, but now includes the opportunity to add the Netpulse-enabled touch screen technology available on its Pro470, Pro3700, xR6000 and xR5000 ellipticals. Unlike the touch screen consoles on other manufacturers' equipment, the Octane console offers spilt-screen capability so exercises simultaneously can watch a show and view life workout stats.

Pumped up technology
All the manufacturer partners of Netpulse, one of the “networked fitness” technology providers, will get a retrograde and future upgrade with the company’s new Netpulse One platform.

Among those partners are Octane Fitness, Life Fitness, Matrix, TechnoGym, Star Trac, Woodway, True and Cybex.

Netpulse One has all the features Netpulse users are used to, but now users can do things like snap a photo of workout data on a console of a rival manufacturer’s equipment and have it be counted as part of their unique Netpulse ID. Plus it gives more options to clubs to do community-building activities like club-wide challenges.

The screens on the Matrix equipment at IHRSA, including treadmills, ClimbMills and ellipticals, all now have the option of a 15” PCTV touch-screen featuring mPower technology, which helps customers connect, watch TV or run on virtual terrain around the world (thanks to Netpulse’s partnership with Virtual Active). 

Susan Casella, senior marketing manager for Precor, said the company is continuing to improve its networked fitness (powered by Preva Net) to make the customer experience better. Now that it's partnered with EveryMove Health Rewards, clubs with Precor-networked fitness equipment will be able to reward members who reach goals with tangible items like running shoes.

Though Nautilus doesn’t have networked fitness technology like PrevaNet or Netpulse, it is jumping on the high-quality touch screen bandwagon. Its Cardio T10 Treadmill now comes with a 15” or 10.2” LCD touch screen with iPod connectivity (which charges iStuff) and digital TV.

In addition Life Fitness, Matrix and Precor all have an open API (application programming interface), much like Apple and Google, which allows developers to create their own apps.

Pick your surface
The treadmill isn’t going anywhere, but some manufacturers are trying to provide lower-impact alternatives.

Sproing is one of them. The SNEWS team tested the Sproing first thing at IHRSA last Thursday, and the mini personal training session had us dripping sweat in just 12 minutes. It’s not a treadmill; rather, it has a soft, air-filled surface (which can be swapped out for an even softer Beach Surface that feels like sand) on which users run in place while strapped to a bungee cord.

An old piece made new again comes in the form of the TreadClimber5 by StairMaster and the TreadClimber by Star Trac. Both products share the same innards, but the outsides are executed a bit differently. Both, however, provide a great workout with a low perceived effort and might erase the bad taste the original TreadClimber left in consumers’ mouths.

Both products were touted as ideal for elite athletes and those who are deconditioned.

Staying green
The Woodway Curve isn’t entirely new, but with a reinvigorated focus on staying green, and given its partnership with EcoFit on that company’s currently-in-development wireless tracking system, the Woodway Curve might gain steam in the market.

This self-powered treadmill, which is literally curved, feels just like running outside and is easier on the knees than traditional treadmills.

Speaking of EcoFit, one of its most prominent partners, SportsArt, has released a new rear-loading, variable stride elliptical for club use to be part of its Green System, which harnesses energy generated by exercisers and returns it to the grid of the club or facility.

The G8762 Elliptical features a dot matrix display with feedback options like CardioAdvisor, ActiveZone and iPod connectivity.

--Ana Trujillo

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