The children’s fitness market has changed substantially over the last five years. From simply providing fitness equipment that were scaled down models of the standard equipment, to now providing fully interactive solutions that are based around video gaming technology that most children are familiar with – the changes have been significant.
The products that you see on the market today are heavily influenced by technology and have been born out of the home entertainment sector and arcades. The Wii is the latest product to start moving out of the home and into the mainstream leisure environment. And it works – families that are used to playing Wii Fit and Wii Sports at home are comfortable using the same technology to get active in leisure facilities. But how can we really define interactive fitness? There should be three essential elements to interactive fitness – technology, activity and fun – it‘s about creating an environment where the side effect to a fun time is being active.
This is how interactive fitness can engage with people who are uncomfortable with or disengaged from standard types of activity. The entertainment value is as important as the activity value attached to the product.
And this is true for many of the products currently available in the UK fitness market. From dance mats to interactive walls and floors, games that incorporate PlayStation technology to Nintendo Wii’s – there are a wide variety of products available that fall into the interactive bracket.
For Pulse Fitness our interactive products consist of the Dance Machine and the Active wall and floor. These products offer the very latest in technology combined fitness, putting Pulse in pole position on the world interactive market. Interactive fitness is truly a fitness entertainment opportunity for the whole family. To see some of the recent installations carried out by Pulse please read on.
Established in 1999, Barnsley Premier Leisure (BPL) is a Trust managing eleven leisure facilities across the borough. The largest site is the Metrodome Leisure Complex in central Barnsley. Earlier this year the Trust started to look at the provision of services for children and teenagers in the area. They were looking to produce an area that catered for children as young as eight but also appealed to teenagers.
After extensive consultation with young people regarding town centre facilities, and working in partnership with Barnsley Youth Services, the ’M Zone’ was created. This area of the centre provided three interactive rooms – a fitness suite, an internet café and the interactive fitness room.
This is a considerable improvement on the previous facility where there were specific times when teens were allowed into the main gym, but there was no provision for younger children who wanted to get a workout.
Although only a couple of months into its interactive development, BPL is delighted with the equipment. “We are genuinely busy all the time with kids making use of the fantastic equipment,” comments Steve Roberts, Head of Business Development, BPL. “Interactive fitness is going to be huge and we are delighted to be working with Pulse to help us drive this side of the Trust forward as developments happen.”
Pulse was selected as a partner to BPL for a variety of reasons but one of the main factors was its understanding of the interactive market and how the company was developing its offer. “Pulse gave us the opportunity to visit other Trusts it is working with to see how interactive fitness fits alongside the more traditional offer. When you add this to their desire to help us achieve our objectives, we couldn’t have chosen a better partner.”
Whether you are a school, a leisure facility, a private club or even a professional football club, interactive fitness has a place sitting alongside conventional equipment.
The reason for this is simple – interactive fitness adds fun back into exercise and for many people this is the element that has been sadly lacking for a long time. Kids relish the opportunity to put their skills to the test on a larger scale and adults enjoy the challenge of keeping up with the kids.
For schools it helps to re-engage children with fitness where traditional forms of physical education have sidelined them.
For leisure facilities it can offer a new revenue stream to sit alongside traditional gyms.
For professional sports men and women interactive fitness systems can help with a variety of training methods including improving mental agility and reaction times.
Revolutionary interactive exertainment system offers fun and exercise for all ages. LED-lit pressure sensitive tiles complete with sound effects, ensure maximum effect and motivation.
The world’s best-selling 4-arrow wireless Dance Mat system is fun, exciting, and competitive. Designed to improve fitness, whilst offering a gaming experience, it appeals to all ages and abilities.
Premiership football club, Manchester City, were looking for innovative new tools to help train their goalkeepers and aid in the rehabilitation of players in general.
Pulse approached them with the interactive wall as a way of helping to sharpen goalkeeper’s reaction times, aid cardiovascular fitness and provide an interesting and new way to rehabilitate players with injury. The interactive wall can be set to a number of different training programmes, each of which has a role to play in the training of professional sports people.
As reactions are one of the key requirements of a goalkeeper, the area that was of particular interest to Manchester City Football Club was the range of choices available on the interactive wall. Paul Shinners, Commercial Director at Pulse Fitness and a former professional footballer said, “The interactive wall can be set to a variety of ability levels so as they improve their reaction times the training will become more challenging. The two main goalkeepers at Manchester City FC are both young and so using this new technology that is outside normal training regimes, is a great way to speed up their reaction times.”
Somerset School Sports Partnership, were looking for a solution to help engage with children who were turned off by traditional forms of exercise.
They knew that the main target for this activity was teenage girls and started to search the market to see what solutions might be available to them
Dance Machine was identified as offering the right type of solution – a form of exercise that was fun, popular and already known to many of the students due to the presence of dance games in arcades and for home use.
Initially four systems were purchased for four different schools. Once the schools demonstrated the success of the system an additional 5 more systems were purchased.
“Dance Machine is great – the kids don’t even realise that they are exercising,” comments Dave Bullock, the partnership development manager. “It was obvious to us that this is a system that anyone can use, whatever their level, to raise heart rates and improve physical health.” The system grew in popularity and was soon being used in the breakfast club to improve attendance and during lunch breaks to help improve student behaviour.
“Dance Machine is a great incentive for students. Because it is suitable for both boys and girls and all age ranges it provides us with a new tool to help encourage children to attend classes and behave.”
The mats are now finding their way into the classrooms and are being used in a cross curricular capacity. “We have used them in the maths department to generate statistics for lessons, in science to help analyse heart rates and the effects of exercise and in PSHE as well,” comments Dave.
This particular school sports partnership went one step further with Dance Machine and developed a virtual league. Because the nine schools were all in very rural locations they wanted a way for the students to compete against each other without having to travel. The concept of the league is that you can compete with schools no matter where they are geographically and record both individual and team results. “We have been using the system for both intra schools competition to find the best student, team and class and inter schools competition to find the best overall school, team and pupil in our partnership,” comments Dave.
A: Dance Machine as a company was growing very rapidly but to reach its sales potential it needed to merge with a company like Pulse to fully realize the incredible opportunity presented in the UK and abroad.
A: Yes! Existing sites are demonstrating that families and disaffected youngsters love the new products and find them fun and entertaining to use. We have seen the success of interactive products such as Wii in the home market sector and we are now seeing the exciting growth of new commercial products to our sector.
A: The youth market has been brought up on gaming and computer technology and the government have targeted schools as being on the front line in the fight against obesity and lack of physical activity. They have also provided funding to schools to try to get our youth active and engaged in physical activity by providing more options than just the traditional sports. Interactive products have helped schools achieve their participation targets especially in the critical teenage girls sector of Key Stage 4. Mainstream leisure needs to piggyback on the success of what has been achieved in schools as these youngsters are the future of the fitness industry.
A: At present we are only scratching at the surface. We have seen the success of products such as dance machine which was born out of the arcade market and Wii in the home market and operators are looking for products that can do the same for the commercial sector of the fitness industry. New exciting products based on software and gaming technology are coming and Pulse will be at the forefront of these developments. Products such as the Active wall and floor are already here and are providing key secondary income to operators. The future is definitely exciting and interactive!