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ukactive update: A new project by ukactive aims to stimulate the digital development of fitness

ukactive is launching a new project to stimulate the digital development of fitness, as executive director Steven Ward explains

by Steven Ward, ukactive | Published in Health Club Management 2016 issue 10
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In the future, will motivational drones guide you on your run? / Photograph: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
In the future, will motivational drones guide you on your run?/ Photograph: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Zero-gravity fitness classes, motivational drones that guide running groups, and immersive weather workout studios which can simulate exercising in a thunderstorm. If some of the respondents to our recent Future of Fitness consumer survey are proved correct, then gyms in 2026 will look drastically different from today.

But can any of us say for sure what the sector will look like in 10 years’ time? Or even five? Given that a decade ago there was no Uber, Airbnb or Spotify, it’s fair to say we’re only one technological innovation away from seeing our industry seriously disrupted.

Introducing Active Lab
With wellness – and fitness in particular – building momentum right now, some of the world’s biggest tech giants are turning their sights onto our sector. By and large this is to be welcomed: with interest comes investment, and therefore opportunity. But it’s important that we as a sector take the lead in shaping the future of physical activity. If not us, then who?

That’s why ukactive is this month launching Active Lab – a fast-track programme that will develop, accelerate and connect the best and brightest physical activity businesses in the UK and beyond. The programme aims to identify and nurture the truly innovative products, services and technologies in health and physical activity which will shape the future of the sector. It will be free to attend for all participants.

Active Lab will help accelerate the growth of these businesses in three ways. Firstly, workshops and speaker sessions will feature experts from the physical activity sector who will help companies validate their business models, as well as offering insights into international expansion and access to funding.

Tailored advice will also form a key pillar of the programme, with Active Lab connecting companies to a suite of private sector and government partners who will provide bespoke support to help companies address barriers to growth.

Thirdly, networking will be a central tenet of Active Lab. Participants will be able to gain expert advice from industry mentors and – through a series of networking events – meet potential investors and buyers, ukactive members, key government contacts and other high-growth businesses.

Shaping the future
With entries opening this month, Active Lab is looking for products, services and technologies that support the national effort to improve the health of the nation – and particularly those that help children and families to be more active.

There’s also a focus on motivating the least active in society to get moving, as well as reimagining customer experience and physical activity facilities. 

The programme will culminate in March 2017, with an event where Active Lab companies will have the opportunity to showcase their concept and take part in a series of live pitches, explaining why their product is integral to the future of health.

Whether that future contains zero-gravity workouts or personal training drones, one thing’s for certain: the chance to shape it starts now.

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