Health & Fitness
A gym for gamers. Score!
XRKade combines two of the biggest trends--fitness and gaming--to create a workout that's actually play
The national obsessions with healthcare reform, childhood obesity and organic foods are generating more customers for health and fitness businesses: Fitness clubs and health stores now amount to a $41.44 billion industry--that's up a stunning $1 billion from just the year before. In a recession, no less.
Lenny Lowenstein knew about that kind of potential--after all, he was one of the major players in the fitness world: a vice president at 24 Hour Fitness. But when the company switched owners in 2003, Lowenstein left and began to think about ways to attract the soft-bellied, younger generation to the gym. Around the same time, he bought his son a Dance Dance Revolution video game, which gets players moving by making them stand on an electronic pad and stomp on colored arrows in response to musical and visual cues.
Then it hit him: The way to get kids active is to use something they understand--technology. Soon he had compiled a suite of interactive games that were already on the market, and he, above right, along with Andrea Oh and Christopher Avina, opened the first XRKade in 2004.
XRKade offers users a serious workout while having fun playing arcade-style games that involve dancing, biking, skateboarding, kickboxing and even rock climbing.
"We wanted to connect fitness and technology to create active play," Lowenstein says. "I challenge any traditional club owner to look at their treadmills during prime time and find a smile."
XRKades are sold as turnkey packages--for $25,000 to $75,000--to be built within traditional health clubs. More than 70 XRKades are around the world, with the highest concentration in the Midwest and New England. Sales are exploding faster than a BioShock grenade taking down a Big Daddy: from $350,000 in 2007 to $3.65 million in 2009.
With more than 90 million millennials in the U.S. fueling the $18 billion video-game industry, virtual gaming may just be the future of fitness.
In fact, the XRKade team plans to create a web-based gaming community, so members in Denver could be competing in a dance-off against members in Russia--in real-time, of course. --K.O.
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