The Latest on Micro Wellness Installations

Living in a crowded area comes with certain challenges. One of these challenges is finding the place and time to maintain a fitness program. To address this issue, innovative micro wellness installations, such as street gym pods and virtual training solutions, are now helping to remove some of the barriers of modern urban living.

Woman using virtual reality headset and exercising
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Popular Micro Wellness Options

Born out of necessity, a growing trend of micro-living has been established in cities like London, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Overpopulated areas provide less space for living, making shoebox-type apartments more common.

This reduction in living space has affected the ability to stay fit. For instance, when we reduce our living space we may lose the capacity to store a bicycle or other exercise equipment. To solve this, different sharing opportunities have been emerging.

Shared Gym Pods

Shared gym pods started popping up on the streets of China in 2017, providing people with a convenient opportunity to work out on the go. In Beijing, startups like Misspao aim to put over 1,000 micro pods—the size of a large toilet cubicle—in locations around the city. These micro gyms usually contain a treadmill, a screen, air-conditioning, an air purifier, as well as other basic fitness amenities. The pod works a lot like Uber. You find it with a dedicated app and scan a QR code to enable its use.

You probably will not be able to have a proper gym workout in these small units. For that, you will still need a health club membership. However, the initiative might appeal to many people who find working out at a health club prohibitive. Also, the cost of the service is only $0.03 per minute; it can be assumed that the low usage fee makes the offering more accessible to many when compared to other solutions.

The trend of micro gyms will likely spread west in the coming years. In fact, some companies are already offering an alternative to gyms—fitness pods that are completely private and unstaffed. Those who are not keen on brick and mortar gyms might appreciate this offering. The new fitness pods are often well-equipped and can be booked online and accessed with a code.

Futuristic Fitness Pods

For a more futuristic-looking fitness pod, you might also consider the Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning machine or the CVAC system for short (sometimes called the CVAC hypobaric chamber).

Used by author and life coach Tony Robbins and tennis star Novak Djokovic, both known for their mental and physical fitness, the CVAC system provides constant and rapid pressure changes, similar to going from sea level to high mountain altitudes in quick successions. You sit and relax in a pod that resembles an egg-shaped space capsule, then for 20 minutes, your entire body gets rhythmically compressed and relaxed.

CVAC pods may provide benefits for those experiencing fatigue and who have different physical limitations. It may also be helpful during physical recovery. By stimulating the cells’ mitochondria and metabolism, this type of health technology is purported to provide health benefits that compare to intense exercise. Makers of these devices claim that sessions in the pod make the body better able to adapt and perform in different environments.

However, apart from anecdotal evidence, there does not seem to be a lot of scientific evidence for CVAC’s commercial use. When explaining how the CVAC system works, scientists often mention the beneficial effects of intermittent hypobaric hypoxia—a state in which the body is deprived of sufficient oxygen for very short periods of time.

Athletes often use intermittent hypoxic training to improve performance, particularly in disciplines that require a high level of aerobic and/or anaerobic endurance. The claims associated with intermittent hypoxic training include better blood circulation, increased red blood cell count, and stimulated stem-cell production.

Some elite athletes train in hypobaric chambers to increase their oxygen utilization. A study from the University of Chile—a country where many people live and work in high altitudes where they are naturally exposed to hypobaric conditions—showed that intermittent hypobaric conditions can have a beneficial effect on heart function and protect our cardiovascular system.

CVAC systems are available in different locations across the United States and Canada.

Virtual Reality Fitness

Augmented reality has been increasingly used in health care and fitness settings. Virtual fitness, including different mobile virtual fitness apps, can support users in novel ways, bringing exercise to a variety of people who are not likely to attend traditional health clubs. Furthermore, scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of this type of training is emerging.

For instance, a study conducted in Brazil showed that virtual reality (VR) can be an effective method of training pelvic floor muscles in postmenopausal women. A special protocol that promoted exercises focusing on the abdominopelvic cavity was applied by researchers. The protocol involved a selection of virtual games. Compared to the group that used a gym ball for pelvic floor muscle training, the group playing VR games developed higher muscular endurance and showed a greater increase in average muscle strength among the participants.

Black Box VR is developing another innovative program that might challenge traditional gyms. The company’s virtual reality gym experience promises a complete immersion into a futuristic digital world that can push you past your limitations. The idea is that your brain can activate additional strength and power when appropriately stimulated.

Ryan DeLuca and Preston Lewis, the founders of Black Box VR, believe they have found the winning combination of augmented reality, resistance training, and high-intensity cardio workout. They argue it is possible to maximize your fitness results using artificial intelligence. When you use the technology to make yourself the hero of a virtual video game you put in more effort and increase the enjoyment of your workout.

A Word From Verywell

New technology might soon be able to give the gyms of today a dramatic makeover. By gradually removing the barriers of physical space and time, these innovative offerings will take your body and mind to places not previously imagined.

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  1. Aguilar M, González-candia A, Rodríguez J, et al. Mechanisms of cardiovascular protection associated with intermittent hypobaric hypoxia exposure in a rat model: role of oxidative stress. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(2). doi:10.3390/ijms19020366

  2. Martinho N, Silva V, Marques J, Carvalho L, Iunes D, Botelho S. The effects of training by virtual reality or gym ball on pelvic floor muscle strength in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 2016;20(3):248-257. doi:10.1590/bjpt-rbf.2014.0148

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