- Kitti Palmai and Will Smale
- Business Journalists
For most people, including the most skilled in fit life, the idea of looking in the mirror while exercising isn’t one of the most attractive.
We’re not exactly attractive when we sweat after running on the treadmill or when we pull up faces to lift weights.
But, as all gym-goers know, there are always those who like to enjoy the reflection of their own reflection in the huge mirrors installed on the walls.
Those slimming enthusiasts are probably more intrigued by the latest trend in the home exercise world: smart fitness mirrors.
To read exclusively on BBC Africa:
These are vertical mirrors of 180 cm or more that contain a computer, connect to the Internet and also serve as a screen for streaming videos.
The idea is to communicate with an online coach, who appears on the mirror / screen next to your reflection.
In more advanced devices, the mirror is equipped with cameras and speakers, so a personal trainer can monitor your movements and suggest adjustments and changes.
Users can choose individual live classes or group classes, with a variety of exercises such as weightlifting, Pilates, cardio, and yoga.
In the simplest mirrors, video and audio are only one-way – you can see and hear the coach, but not the other way around. Classes aren’t usually broadcast, but you can access a library of recorded exercise videos.
Pieces, whether the simplest model or the more advanced, sell for as little as $1,255. Users still have to pay a monthly subscription to access the video services.
Touch screen mirrors are usually equipped with multiple sensors linked to artificial intelligence that can provide feedback about your movements and suggest improvements.
The first mirror of this type sold in the UK was the Vaha. Manufactured by a German company of the same name, it entered the market last year. Competing brands are Tonal, Mirror, NordicTrack, Portl and ProForm.
Vhaha describes her mirror as a piece that offers “holistic and immersive personalized sessions for body, mind, and nutrition health.”
But is there any real benefit to watching yourself train?
Seeing themselves in the mirror allows the user to “modify their look,” says Colin Logan, vice president of public relations at iFit, the US owner of Nordic Track and ProForm. [ou sa position]To make the most of resistance exercises and reduce errors that can lead to injury.”
Anthony Papatomas, a sports and fitness psychologist at Loughborough University, thinks this argument has merits, but he admits he has some concerns.
“From a psychological point of view, exercising in front of your reflection can provide important feedback, for example on your running style or weightlifting form,” he says.
“It can also appeal to people’s aesthetic impulses to exercise – you can see the muscles in action and it can be rewarding.”
“What worries me is how people who are insecure about their body image feel about it,” he adds. “This can be a problem for those who are new to exercise and are looking to change their lifestyle.
“Even among people who exercise regularly, we know that many have body dysmorphia or eating disorders, and for them seeing a reversal during exercise can be worrisome.”
A second model of high-tech mirrors is also entering the market: smart health mirrors. These are mirrors that use sensors and artificial intelligence to assess a user’s skin and basic health.
The French company Care OS produces two such products, designed to replace traditional bathroom mirrors.
These pieces use a camera and infrared and ultraviolet light sensors to analyze a person’s skin and temperature, then suggest a series of treatments. The user can also access skin care lessons available by subscription.
Violaine Monmarche, co-founder of Care OS, explains that the mirror works with motion and sound control.
“The bathroom is a place where people usually wet their hands or apply cream to them, so the mirror isn’t touching — you just have to nod in front of it,” she says.
This new technology has “made the famous phrase ‘mirror, mirror, mine, there’ – is there anyone more beautiful than me?” says Anoop Bakkar-Hall, a plastic surgeon and consultant at Harley Street Specialty Hospital in London.
“Advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality and facial recognition provide a large number of opportunities that we must take advantage of to enable people to assess and manage their health at home,” he adds.
However, Pakar Hull says he still has concerns about accuracy and a lack of touch interaction. Some medical problems require palpation [toucher] to properly diagnose the condition.
Counselor and psychologist Dr. Elena Toroni is also concerned about the smart mirrors of fitness and wellness.
“For someone who is already focused on perfection and may actually see a lot of ‘flaws’ in their body, these mirrors can end up magnifying those kinds of psychological difficulties,” she says.
Psychologist Lee Chambers agrees that there is a danger of people becoming obsessed with “working on perfection.” However, he adds that smart mirrors “have the potential to promote healthy choices and encourage healthy behaviors.”
He adds that the exercise mirror should also be very useful for people who don’t have time to go to the gym, but still want feedback about their health.