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Body cult has become part of the lifestyle - so does the design of training equipment. Like a trendy furniture it finds its way into the living spaces. Our iF Design Special takes up this trend.
Design-wise, the term 'fitness' could be adopted as another way of saying 'to be in a good shape' since the look of home fitness equipment such as home trainer, stepper and treadmill has changed in the recent years. What used to be bulky is now slim and elegant. Plastic materials slowly gave way to wooden components that come along with a more natural appeal. These new designs became an eye-catcher in our living rooms and fit almost perfectly to our remaining furniture – next to couch, armchair and sideboard. Sigfried Giedion, an architectural historian from Switzerland, would have been pleased about this development. His idea of a good house can be understood as mirroring our well-being that is inspired by sports and fitness – light, bright and flexible.
The product designer Anton Rief says: “For a long time, the design in the home fitness industry did not correspond to the furnishing style and did not play a role in it. Their design language did not change until about ten years ago.” At this time, Anton took up this trend together with other partners and founded the STIL-FIT International GmbH in Munich to develop sports equipment with a completely new design approach. "The demand for STIL-FIT fitness equipment has increased and since the Covid-19 pandemic it has nearly doubled," Anton says.
Anton Rief is product designer and company founder of STIL-FIT International GmbH in Munich, Germany. He has devoted himself to designing fitness equipment for 20 years now.
Since the fitness hype started in the USA in the beginning of the 1980s, the social attitude towards physical fitness has gone through a shift – not least because of growing prosperity in industrial countries, digitalization, changing job environments and higher levels of education. Anton says: “Body cult has extremely increased across all generations whereby health aspects play a greater role among older people. Younger people, in turn, sometimes only exercise to feed their appetite posing on social media.”
Design manufacturers such as Kettler from Germany or Tunturi from Finland soon discovered the potential of fitness as lifestyle. Anton says that that it was no longer engineers who developed sports equipment but designers. According to him, manufacturers recognized that designers could help promote sales in both the industrial and the home sector.
Now manufacturers such as Technogym from Italy, WaterRower GmbH & NOHrD and STIL-FIT, both from Germany, actively address the issue of fitness equipment matching home environment. They profit from the dynamics of the housing market and the scope which it offers for the standards of living culture. “The architecture in new buildings in high-priced city centers is gaining higher quality. At the same time the living space is getting smaller”, Anton says and continues: “Today only very few people still have the option of placing their home trainer in the basement. That's where we see our opportunities."
Recently the classic home trainer and most popular rowing machines are facing an entirely new development. Health tracking using tablets or smartphones has become an integral part of home fitness equipment. A study published by BearingPoint, a management and technology consultancy from Frankfurt/Main, found that the popularity of wearables among Germans has slightly increased in the past years. While in 2017, 18 percent of respondents used a smartphone or tablet for digital health, this figure has now risen to 27 percent in 2019. The study analyzed usage behavior of 1,000 people from the age of 16 up.
App designers react to these demands. Chris Alt, iF juror and fitness trainer from Hamburg, says: “Apps adapt more and more to individual needs and
training performance and thus become, thanks to artificial intelligence, a
“Above all, fitness apps should be fun. And this can be achieved through entertaining quality content, good and simple usability and an appealing app design. Since users prefer real videos rather than animations, designers should consider the human aspect in designing the user interface. Apart from that, apps should be highly customizable, for example through selection options such as fitness level, language or subtitles, male or female trainers, light or dark screen view, music styles and much more.”
Chris Alt – Art Director and fitness coach from Hamburg
It is to be expected that the networking of home fitness equipment will expand since the digitalization is irreversible. In a couple of centuries, the trending designs of today might be exhibited in a museum and we might wonder why fitness equipment would have been designed in harmony with our home environment, instead of designing the human body with cyborg technology.
(published in August 2020)