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Hi-tech gyms trading dumbbells and treadmills for AI and robotics

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jul 17, 2020

LAKE ZURICH, Ill. -- The trade group representing the $94 billion health club industry in crisis is calling on Congress for federal relief. In the face of the pandemic, some major chains like 24 Hour Fitness and Gold’s Gym have already filed for bankruptcy. But others are hoping technology and personalized training could help them save brick and mortar gyms.

“Last year, I had one knee replaced. I'm scheduled to have the other one this fall,” said 69-year-old Larry Fulhorst.

He hadn’t been to a gym in 40 years, but he needed to work on building strength in his legs.

A Facebook post led him to a hi-tech fitness studio promising results without needing to spend hours sweating away in a crowded gym.

“This sounds too good to be true 20 minutes twice a week," said Fulhorst.

The Exercise Coach is a smart fitness studio that trades dumbbells and treadmills for artificial intelligence and robotics. Technology diagnoses strengths and weaknesses in real time.

“We use sensors to actually get a feel for the exact muscular makeup and abilities of an individual and then we use that that personal data to generate appropriate strength training,” explained Bryan Cygan, the CEO and founder of The Exercise Coach.

The programs are geared primarily toward people who haven’t worked out in years or are starting to exercise for the first time.

“Generally, people in their 40, 50s, 60s and even beyond who want real results from a workout but don't want to spend a lot of time exercising,” said Cygan.

With many big box gyms filing for bankruptcy as gym goers are weary about coronavirus, smart fitness studios are pivoting in.

Compressed workouts, personal trainers and no crowds are key.

“It works because our workout isn't an hour long of sweaty cardio. You can actually wear a mask, breathe comfortably and get all the benefits of exercise through strength training,” said Cygan.

It’s something that appeals to people who are in a particularly vulnerable age group when it comes to COVID-19 like Larry Fulhorst.

“You look at a facility this big it's no problem staying six feet away from somebody everybody's wearing a mask,” said Fulhorst.

It seems to be working for Exercise Coach. They’ve expanded to 90 locations in 27 states and are back operating at 90% capacity.