By mid-March, most of us have long abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions from way back when—remember January?
Yet spring is synonymous with hope and optimism. Longer, sunnier days inspire us to get out and do more.
Vancouver in particular has a culture known for active, outdoor lifestyles, with a common thread: staying fit is a top factor.
Knowing this, many regional startups look to enhance the pursuit of health and fitness with various technological supplements and solutions.
Below, we take a look at some BC-based companies advancing tech and fitness—for all Canadians, all year round.
Everyone wears an Apple Watch already, so they know this truth: it’s kind of useless for weightlifting.
Eigen Fitness promises a high-tech wearable that combines hardware sensors with AI-powered software to optimize progress, form, and safety during resistance training.
“The Eigen Fitness Nodes use motion data from your last sets to determine your capacity and suggest the optimal next weight and repetition count to help you improve optimally towards your personal goals as quickly as possible,” the startup states. “Nodes closely monitor your form and alert you when you … deviate from a safe, effective lifting technique.”
The startup was conceived of by Zach Higgins and Connor Holowachuk, who met through the League of Innovators’ youth-focused Labs program, established by former Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes to mentor and invest in young entrepreneurs.
“Designed for the gym from the ground up, Eigen Fitness Nodes are packed with the latest cutting edge technology to track every set,” says Higgins. “Equipped with a high-sensitivity, nine-axis inertial measurement unit, lithium battery, and 16MHz CPU for fast motion fusion calculation, the Nodes make up to 200 measurements per second to monitor multiple, important aspects of physical performance—aspects that are essentially ignored by other fitness wearable devices.”
Higgins and Holowachuk are looking to spur the next phase of growth for the company by pushing the Nodes into the public sphere. The Vancouver entrepreneurs launched the Eigen Fitness Nodes on Kickstarter, rendering Nodes available for preorder for the first time.
Ergonomyx is a family-founded startup based in Victoria that aims to correct a plague of modernity: the pandemic of sitting and its associated problems.
“Research has linked prolonged sitting with a number of negative health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” the BC company states.
The company is known for its “smart desks,” which are sit-stand desks that connect with smartphone apps to control the desk and track standing versus sitting time.
“By standing for at least part of the workday, individuals can reduce their overall sitting time, potentially leading to improved health outcomes,” Ergonomyx says.
The app is gamified to further motivate users to establish and maintain healthy habits while working at a computer.
“While standing desks may not be a magic solution for weight loss, they can certainly be a useful tool when combined with other healthy habits,” the company states, noting how “individuals can increase their overall activity level.”
For those who truly want to boost physical activity, Ergonomyx also sells a “smart bike” that is designed to be sat on and pedalled at a work desk.
This small and foldable bike, which also connects to the mobile app, allows us to not just stand, but actively move, while working—something our ancient ancestors would surely approve of.
Before COVID-19, online training was niche. The normalization of virtual interactions quickly reached the fitness sector, however, where government lockdowns shuttered gyms early and often throughout the Pandemic.
“There has been a sizable disruption and shift in Canada’s wellness industry,” explains Curtis Christopherson, the founder of Canadian fitness startup WRKOUT.
Christopherson, also the CEO of Innovative Fitness, a chain of personal training studios across BC and Toronto, felt the effects of lockdown immediately.
The only adaption forward was to take a business model based on physical interaction and bring it into the digital realm. It was an all-new experience for both trainers and clients.
“WRKOUT allows clients to use filters to search the online marketplace by location, in-person versus virtual training, or by training specialty,” says Christopherson. “They can then browse the list and learn more about each trainer by reading their profile, and if they feel that a trainer matches their needs, they can contact the trainer directly.”
The online version of Innovative Fitness proved popular enough that Christopherson spun it off into WRKOUT, a Vancouver-born startup that raised $3 million in seed capital for its digital-first approach to fitness. The company was named a Top Fitness App.
For trainers, there is appeal in having the freedom to train their clients where they want, when they want, and how they want.
“WRKOUT supports fitness professionals with tools to help them build their personal brand and business such as complimentary professional photoshoots for trainers, access to their own virtual studio, free logo creation, and a listing in the trainer database,” says Christopherson.
Vancouver’s Train Fitness wants to transform the way we track our workouts.
The award-winning startup announced in 2021 the first-ever hands-free workout-tracking app, which uses artificial intelligence to detect exercises and track reps as users go through their workout.
Cofounders Antoine Neidecker and Andrew Just note that, along with exercise detection and rep tracking, Train’s mobile app also allows users to monitor their stats and analytics and share workouts with friends and followers in the Train community.
“Every gym-goer we know is tired of bringing their phone with them to their workout, so we knew a hands-free workout tracker would be a hit,” stated Just. “In an age when everything is getting more complicated, Train is giving time and energy back to our users when they need it most.”
User feedback for the product suggests that one workout is often enough to convince users that this is the best way to track their workout and monitor their progress at the gym, Just says.
The Apple Watch app currently tracks over 100 exercises through AI detection.
In March 2020, Vancouver’s hundreds of popular gyms were forced to close on government order. The workout-happy city was upended.
Some gyms and startups did not survive the pandemic, but personal training software platform Trainerize came out the other side in a big way.
Toward the end of 2020, the digital company was acquired by ABC Financial, which is owned by private equity firm Thoma Bravo and provides software services for the fitness industry.
“Our mission is to make fitness accessible,” stated Sharad Mohan, who cofounded Trainerize in 2008 and now serves as Platform President for ABC, at the time of the transaction. The platform enables personal trainers to offer comprehensive programs through a client-facing app.
“As people discover new ways to access health and fitness content, we are enabling trainers and fitness operators to bring together exercise, nutrition, and health to create the total fitness experience—personalized and powered by technology,” Mohan added.
Post-acquisition momentum is now building. Last year, Trainerize announced it cracked $20 million in annually recurring revenue. The company’s next target is $50 million ARR.
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