As we enter the year 2022, many of us will be resuming our efforts to lose weight and get in shape. There are a plethora of high-tech fitness applications available to assist, but are they as effective as employing a human personal trainer?
Jenny Wiener was in a fitness rut four years ago.
She wanted to enhance her physical and mental health, but she didn’t have a proper training regimen to follow, thus her workouts were lacking in intensity.
She says she avoided more difficult exercises by going to the gym and doing “simple” things like jogging on a treadmill.
The expensive cost of a personal trainer who might push her was out of the question – average rates start at £30 an hour.
Ms. Wiener, 32, a St Albans-based events manager, then discovered the fitness app Freeletics.
You must first provide information about your previous training experiences, preferences, and goals in order to utilize the program. The information was then used by a virtual coach to recommend a personalized training program.
The Freeletics app then asks Ms. Wiener for input on the workout’s suitability and difficulty at the end of each session. The app’s artificial intelligence (AI) software system then adjusts future training sessions based on her answers, as well as those of the app’s other 53 million users around the world.
“One of the primary things that drew me in was the AI aspect,” Ms. Wiener explains. “Previously, I was going to the gym every day but seeing no effects.
“When I first discovered Freeletics, I thought to myself, ‘OMG, it’s a personal trainer in my pocket, my workout companion.'”
She goes on to say that she enjoys the workouts because they are never the same. As a result, the app has assisted her in losing four stones.
The Coach, a digital personal trainer app from Freeletics, starts at £1.78 per week. Kornelius Brunner, the company’s chief product and technology officer, says it “gets smarter and better” as customers provide more feedback.
However, Anthony Papathomas, a sports and fitness psychologist, believes that such apps are no alternative for human personal trainers.
“You’ll get that greater sensitivity to personal requirements with an interpersonal interaction,” says a senior lecturer at Loughborough University’s National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.
“If you don’t want to do the session, or if you’re in a bad mood, which is common with exercise behavior change,” he says. “Then I’m not sure the kind of phone alert [you get] necessarily takes into account that we are human beings with competing interests outside of our health and fitness.”
A “human being” trainer, on the other hand, is more likely to empathize, as Mr. Papathomas points out, “and exercise is only sustainable if we enjoy it.”
Tom Bourlet, a marketing consultant in Brighton, says he used to enjoy working out but lost motivation after starting a relationship.
After receiving a wedding invitation in January of this year, he and his partner were both determined to lose a certain amount of weight in order to be in shape for the big day.
He came upon the program FitnessAI, which works in a similar way to Freeletics in that it mines its users’ data to better and personalize all of their workouts.
Mr. Bourlet says, “I frequently utilize statistics in my work and find it really important to ensure you’re making continual development, so the entire notion appealed to me.”
“One guilty factor in training is neglecting to push yourself each week by completing the same reps [repetitions of a specific activity] or weights. However, the app assisted me in determining what I should be attempting to do each week.”
Mr. Bourlet used to take long breaks between sets of gym training, anything from two to three minutes, but the app’s AI kept him on track. It offered him an exact rest time based on the exercise or weight lifting session he was doing and his performance.
Overall, he claims it aided him in reaching his weight-loss goal of three stones (19kg) over a month ahead of schedule.
Jake Mor, the founder of fitness, argues that the AI’s mathematical approach makes it superior to a personal trainer.
He explains, “FitnessAI does a lot of math behind the scenes to figure out what your training schedule should look like.” “Trainers are excellent motivators, but they are not arithmetic experts.”
Unsurprisingly, Aimee Victoria Long, a personal trainer in London, disagrees with this assessment.
“Personal trainers are more expensive, but you can examine an individual’s form to make sure they’re executing the exercises correctly when you have one-on-one sessions,” she explains. “It assures that they won’t get any injuries as a result of the activities they’re doing, something you can’t get from an app.”
“Also, I can learn not only about their physical health but also about their mental health, because some people work out all the time, which may be detrimental to their mental health.” And that isn’t going to be picked up or shown on an app.”
However, fitness apps can occasionally assist users by asking them questions that a human trainer might not feel comfortable asking.
Take, for example, Jennis, the workout app created by Jessica Ennis-Hill, a British Olympic winner. It asks female users for information about their menstrual cycles in order to better plan their workouts.
“The daily chats [via the app] that we have with each lady mean that we regularly update recommendations, so you’re always getting the best-matched sessions to your hormonal profile,” Dame Jessica adds.
“This means you’re doing what’s best for your body, increasing your training gains, and taking advantage of what your hormones are doing on a daily basis.”
Rachel Carey, a 37-year-old former British soldier, is a fan. She gets more strength-based training after ovulation and more high-intensity workouts during the first 14 days of her menstrual cycle.
“The training cycle mapping instructions are so much more physiologically suitable for what’s going on for me,” Ms. Carey explains.
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