Alex Zurita, specialist advisor of technology for participation at London Sport – which aims to make London the most active city in the world - says joint working could ultimately cut obesity and mental health issues, boost the economy and slash the strain on the National Health Service.
“Companies need to do more to get the inactive 40% of the UK population into the market,” he argues.
“There’s got to be a passion to do good as well as a passion to make a good product and make money. We are trying to change society for the greater good, not just sell products.
“Mixing nutrition with physical activity is a great thing and no one can become truly fit and healthy if they ignore one side of the coin.”
There’s also a profit driven reason for companies to begin targeting the inactive population
“From a commercial perspective, 40% of the population is physically inactive, yet almost all new technology targets the active population. The more technology innovations concentrate on those already interested in getting active the bigger the gap will become between the two ends of the spectrum.
“That’s a massive opportunity for both the tech and nutrition sides to gain from. They can both offer one another new customers.
“Without collaborative work the efforts of each can be counter-productive. If someone is doing more exercise but not getting the appropriate nutrition then they could crash or they might binge. If someone is getting the right nutrition but doing no exercise then they are still damaging their bodies by being sedentary.”
Zurita adds that many tech innovations ‘preach to the converted’ and creating a bigger gap between the active and inactive populations.
“A lot of the technology we see is preaching to the converted. Strava, for example, is a well-known popular app that’s brilliant but people get it once they’ve already got interested in running or cycling
“There’s this big gap in the market for companies to disrupt those who aren’t already active.”
Zurita explains that London Sport’s Sport Tech Hub invests its time and resources into innovations that can appeal to the ‘other 40%’. He gives the example of FitSwarm allows users to live stream exercise classes through their TV, tablet or laptop, wherever they are.
“If you are anxious about your abilities or the way you look in lycra, or your shift patterns make it hard to get to the gym, this allows you to take part in a class whenever and wherever suits you.
“We are helping them to get into care homes, hospitals and offices, to provide a cost effective way to get those people active.”
He said another is an AI web app called TrainAsOne that allows users to have a virtual running coach with them 24/7.
“The AI app creates a plan to enable you to reach your set target in your set times. It will set distances and times and change plans according to the weather.
“These are excellent examples of innovations that could make a genuine impact on the health of the overall population. If these then work with nutrition companies to ensure the people are getting the right sustenance too, they could make an even bigger impact.”