Title:
EXERCISE FACILITY AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An exercise facility provides a physical space allowing unconstrained user movement in a low light level. The low light level improves the perceived user satisfaction with exercising, and may improve duration, frequency, and quality of the exercise. The room in which the physical space is located may have characteristics that reduce inhibitions against physical movement. These characteristics may include a dark floor, dark walls with a matte finish, and indirect lighting off of a light-colored ceiling. The environment may also aid in increasing focus of the user on the exercise task, removing distractions that might otherwise divert the attention of the user. The user-friendly environment may also aid the exercise system in following movement of the user within the physical space. For example, the environment surrounding the physical space may provide less interference than prior environments to infrared sensor systems.



Inventors:
French, Barry J. (Bay Village, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/938406
Publication Date:
05/15/2008
Filing Date:
11/12/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B26/00
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Primary Examiner:
JALALZADEH ABYANE, SHILA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Jonathan A. Platt;Renner, Otto, Boisselle & Sklar, LLP (19th Floor, 1621 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH, 44115, US)
Claims:
1. A method of providing an exercise environment, the method comprising: providing a physical space for a user to make unconstrained physical movement; and providing a low light level of less than 10 foot-candles in the physical space during exercise.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the providing the physical space includes providing a physical space in a room with a dark-colored floor.

3. (canceled)

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the dark-colored floor is black.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the providing the physical space includes providing a physical space in a room with dark-colored walls.

6. (canceled)

7. The method of claim 5, wherein the dark-colored walls are dark blue.

8. The method of claim 5, wherein the dark-colored walls have a matte finish, a semi-gloss finish, or an eggshell finish.

9. The method of claim 5, wherein the room has a light-colored ceiling.

10. (canceled)

11. The method of claim 1, further comprising directing the unconstrained physical movement in the physical space with an exercise system; wherein the exercise system includes a sensor and a display; and further comprising: sensing movement of the user within the physical space, using the sensor; and displaying an interactive view to the user.

12. (canceled)

13. The method of claim 11, wherein the directing includes interactively directing the user in the unconstrained physical motion using the displaying; wherein the interactively directing includes directing the user to engage in unplanned unconstrained physical movements; and wherein the unplanned unconstrained physical movements include changes in height of a center of gravity of the user.

14. 14-15. (canceled)

16. The method of claim 11, wherein the displaying includes displaying a view of a virtual space that corresponds to the physical space; and wherein the displaying the view of the virtual space includes displaying a user icon in a virtual location corresponding to a user physical location of the user.

17. 17-22. (canceled)

23. The method of claim 1, wherein the providing the low light level includes providing a light level of less than 1 foot-candle in the physical space during exercise.

24. (canceled)

25. The method of claim 1, wherein the physical space is in a room; and further providing one or more additional physical spaces for unconstrained physical movement within the room; and further comprising: providing stationary exercise devices in the room; and providing a relatively high light level at the stationary exercise devices that is bright than the low light level.

26. (canceled)

27. An exercise facility comprising: an exercise system that directs unconstrained physical movement in a physical space of the facility; and a stationary exercise device; wherein the physical space is at a relatively low light level, and the stationary exercise device is at a relatively high light level that is brighter than the low light level.

28. The facility of claim 27, wherein the facility has a dark-colored floor.

29. (canceled)

30. The facility of claim 28, wherein the dark-colored floor is black.

31. The facility of claim 27, wherein the facility has dark-colored walls.

32. (canceled)

33. The facility of claim 31, wherein the dark-colored walls are dark blue.

34. The facility of claim 31, wherein the dark-colored walls have a matte finish.

35. The facility of claim 31, wherein the facility has a light-colored ceiling.

36. (canceled)

37. The facility of claim 27, wherein the relatively low light level is less than 10 foot-candles.

Description:

This application claims priority under 35 USC 119 to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/858,516, filed Nov. 13, 2006, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention

This invention relates to an exercise facility and an exercise method.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to an aspect of the invention, a method of providing an exercise environment includes the steps of: providing a physical space for a user to make unconstrained physical movement; and providing a low light level of less than 10 foot-candles in the physical space during exercise.

According to another aspect of the invention, an exercise facility includes: an exercise system that directs unconstrained physical movement in a physical space of the facility; and a stationary exercise device. The physical space is at a relatively low light level, and the stationary exercise device is at a relatively high light level that is brighter than the low light level.

To the accomplishment of the foregoing and related ends, the invention comprises the features hereinafter fully described and particularly pointed out in the claims. The following description and the annexed drawings set forth in detail certain illustrative embodiments of the invention. These embodiments are indicative, however, of but a few of the various ways in which the principles of the invention may be employed. Other objects, advantages and novel features of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the invention when considered in conjunction with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the annexed drawings, which are not necessarily to scale:

FIG. 1 is a view of an exercise facility in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a view of an alternate embodiment exercise facility in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 3 is a view of another alternate embodiment exercise facility in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

An exercise facility provides a physical space allowing unconstrained user movement in a low light level. The low light level improves the perceived user satisfaction with exercising, and may improve duration, frequency, and quality of the exercise. The room in which the physical space is located may have characteristics that reduce inhibitions against physical movement. These characteristics may include a dark floor, dark walls with a matte finish, and indirect lighting off of a light-colored ceiling. The environment may also aid in increasing focus of the user on the exercise task, removing distractions that might otherwise divert the attention of the user. The user-friendly environment may also aid the exercise system in following movement of the user within the physical space. For example, the environment surrounding the physical space may provide less interference than prior environments to infrared sensor systems. Also, the dark walls and floor may assist image-based systems such as chroma key systems in following and tracking user movement. In essence, the environment in and around the physical space is advantageous for both human sensors (the user's eyes) and sensors of the exercise system (camera or other signal-receiving device).

Referring initially to FIG. 1, a physical space 10 for exercising is located in a room 12, as part of an exercise facility 13. The physical space (movement area or zone) 10 is a bounded movement zone for unconstrained physical movement by a user 14. The space is bounded in the sense that the user 14 is to remain within it while performing the unconstrained physical movement. The user's unconstrained physical movement may be performed in conjunction with an exercise system 16, which may direct and/or measure unconstrained physical movement of the user 14.

Unconstrained physical movement is defined as physical movement that is unconstrained by stationary exercise equipment devices, such as for example stationary bicycles, treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, and stair climbers. Unconstrained physical movement also specifically excludes movement directed by illumination of locations on a floor surface or directed by interactive physical equipment, such as pressure sensors or pads, located at preselected locations on a floor surface. Such illuminated locations or physical devices constitute environmental landmarks for the user, while unconstrained physical movement is accomplished at least mostly without environmental landmarks, meaning that most of the unconstrained physical movements are not guided by environmental landmarks. Unconstrained physical movement may be two-dimensional movement within a given floor area 15 of the physical space 10. The floor area 15 where the unconstrained physical movement takes place may be substantially free of environmental landmarks. Alternatively, the floor area 15 may have markings for boundaries and/or for some specific locations within the floor area 15. Boundary markings may be primarily for spectators or other non-users, to keep them away from the physical space 10. Unconstrained physical movement may also be three-dimensional movement, with the user prompted to move in a vertical direction by jumping and/or by changing posture.

The exercise system 16 includes a display screen 18 to prompt or direct unconstrained physical movement by the user 14. The system 16 may also include sensors 20 to track position of the user 14 within the physical space. The user 14 may wear a beacon 22 that emits a signal, such as an infrared signal, that is received by the sensors 20. This sensing allows the system 16 to track position of the user 14, such as the position of the user's center of mass, in two or three directions, and in real time. An example of such sensing may be found in U.S. Pat. No. 7,038,855, which is incorporated by reference in its entirety. U.S. Pat. No. 7,038,855 also describes many suitable variations for tracking user position.

The display 18 may include a representation 28 of all or part of the physical space 10. As shown in FIG. 1, the representation 28 may be a virtual representation that shows a virtual environment that corresponds to all or part of the physical space 10. A user icon or representation 30 may be located in the virtual representation 28, at a location that corresponds to the location of the user 14 within the physical space 10. A protagonist or avatar icon 32 may also be placed in the representation 28 to represent a virtual character or object that the user 14 is to interact with by movement of the user icon or representation 30. The protagonist or avatar icon 32 may represent a virtual opponent that the user 14 competes against. Alternatively, the icon 32 may represent a virtual character that serves as a trainer or guide, directing the user 14 through one or more movements. As a further alternative, the icon 32 may represent a virtual object that the user 14 is to collide with or avoid colliding with. Such virtual objects may be stationary or mobile. Although only one icon 32 is shown, it will be appreciated that multiple icons 32 of similar or different types may be provided. Details and examples of such systems may be found in U.S. Pat. No. 7,038,855.

The display 18 may be any of a wide variety of suitable displays, including projection displays, plasma displays, liquid crystal displays, digital light processing displays, and cathode ray tube displays. The display 18 may also include speakers for producing sounds, such as words, music, or sound effects.

The exercise system 16 may be an interactive system that provides directions to the user 14 to perform physical activities, and modifies these directions or bases new directions at least in part as a function of user response. For example, the rate or difficulty of physical activity may be altered based on user performance. The physical activity may involve any of a wide variety of physical activities, for example including moving to specified locations within the physical area 10, and/or changing the height of the user's center of gravity, for example by jumping or crouching. The physical activities may include directed movements that are perceived by the user as being random, in the sense that the movements directed by the system do not follow a readily discernable predictable pattern. Such movements are referred to as “unplanned physical movements.”

Many alternatives are possible for the exercise system 16. One alternative is a chroma key system that uses a camera to capture images of the user 14 that are displayed on the display 18. The image of the user 14 may be displayed against a solid color background, or against a representation of an appropriate environment, such as a sports-specific environment. The image on the display may also include a virtual opponent that the user competes against, and/or one or more virtual objects that the user interacts with by moving within the physical space 10.

The room 12 is configured to enhance the exercise experience for the user 14. The room 12 has a light source 40 used to illuminate the physical space 10. The light source 40 may provide a much lower amount of light than is usually provided in exercise facilities. Some of the light reaching the physical area 10 from the light source 40 may be indirect light, reaching the physical space 10 reflected from a light-colored ceiling 42. The ceiling 42 may be painted white to provide a good ability to reflect light from the light source 40, in order to provide good indirect lighting of the physical space 10.

The light source 40 may include any of a wide variety of well-known light-producing devices and fixtures. One example is track lighting. It will be appreciated that the light source 40 may have a wide variety of number, size, and configuration of light-producing devices.

The physical space 10 may have a dark-colored floor 44, and dark-colored walls 46 in its vicinity. As used herein, dark means a saturated shade of color that is deep in value and of a hue remote from white. The floor 44 may be dark blue, dark green, dark purple, dark brown, or black, and may have a finish that does not excessively reflect light. The walls 46 may be painted a suitable dark color, such as dark blue, dark green, dark purple, dark brown, or black. The paint used for the walls 46 may give the walls 46 other than a high-gloss surface, such as a matte finish, a semi-gloss finish, or an eggshell finish, so as to not excessively reflect light. The floor 44 and/or the walls 46 may be dark blue or dark green, which are colors that enhance the attractiveness of human skin tones. The walls 46 may include a decorative header 48.

The light level in the physical space 10 may be less than 10 foot-candles, measured at a most significant plane of motion, such as at the center of gravity of an average adult in a standing position. This light level may include light directly entering the physical space 10 from the light source 40. It may also include light reflected off of the ceiling 42, or other parts of the room 12. In addition, the light level includes light entering the physical space 10 from the display screen 18. The light level may be even lower than 10 foot-candles, such as less than 5 foot-candles, less than 3 foot-candles, less than 1 foot-candle, or less than 0.5 foot-candles.

The low light levels used in the physical space 10 contrast with the much higher light levels that are typically used in exercise facilities and in locations where physical movement is expected to take place. The conventional wisdom calls for high light levels in such areas in order to elevate mood, and in order to provide sufficient light to navigate around obstacles. For example, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a light level for exercise facilities of at least 50 foot-candles at the floor surface. Exercise facilities often provide higher light levels in the belief that high light levels act as a mood enhancer, thus providing a more pleasant experience.

The surprising discovery made is that the conventional wisdom with regard to light levels is completely wrong when in comes to exercise tasks involving unconstrained physical movement (as defined above) in a physical area. People often become self conscious when performing physical tasks in front of others, especially when those tasks involve a potential for appearing awkward or clumsy. Such concerns may not be important when the range of possible physical movements is tightly controlled by an apparatus that is used, or by the type of activity. Thus embarrassment over appearing awkward may not be a significant factor when someone is riding a stationary bicycle, or performing a simple aerobics routine. However, unconstrained physical movements over an area of floor space are another matter. Fear of appearing uncoordinated may inhibit a potential user from even initiating such an exercise program. Extra effort and encouragement may be needed to overcome such initial inhibitions, if they can be overcome at all. Such fears and inhibitions may continue during the unconstrained physical motion activity. This may interfere with the user's enjoyment of the exercise activity. The result may be shorter exercise times, reduced user satisfaction, and a lowered chance of user adherence to such an exercise program.

The use of lower light levels reduces inhibitions from fears of appearing awkward when engaging in unconstrained physical movement, particularly unplanned unconstrained physical movements. When a person performing a physical activity in a crowded room is less visible, that person is less prone to feelings of embarrassment. With lower light levels the user 14 is more compliant, more willing to perform as directed by the exercise system 16. In addition, having some of the light from the light source 40 reach the physical area 10 as indirect light can make the user 14 feel less on display, with less of a feeling of being in the spotlight. This can lead to greater user satisfaction, resulting in longer exercise times and increased adherence to an exercise program.

The use of lower light levels may have other benefits for users as well. It is known that blue and green light enhances the perceived attractiveness of skin tones. This is because there is little or no blue or green coloring in normal flesh tones/pigments. Use of blue or green for the floor 44 and/or the walls 46 may thus lead to a feeling of attractiveness on the part of the user 14. This may lead to better user satisfaction with the exercise process.

Another surprising benefit of the facility described herein is with regard to elderly users. Often it is believed that increased light levels are required for exercise facilities catering to the elderly, because the illuminance perceived by the elderly is less than that perceived by younger people. Although it is often believed that increased light levels (for example at least 50 foot candles) is necessary to allow elderly people to navigate through an environment, this was not found to be true in use of the exercise facilities such as described herein. The lower ambient light levels make it less productive for elderly users to focus on their feet as they walk. Instead such users focus straight ahead, such as on a lighted display against a dark wall. In doing so the elderly user builds confidence in his or her ability to control foot placement without looking down. In addition the user builds peripheral vision in the appropriate visual planes.

A low-light environment with a dark floor 44 and/or dark walls 46 also increases the user's focus on the display screen 18. The display screen 18 is illuminated to a much greater degree than the surrounding environment. This effect is due both the low light level and the user of a dark floor 44 and dark walls 46. The dark floor and walls drop away from the visual awareness of the user 14, increasing the user's focus on the display screen 18 and the unconstrained (and perhaps unplanned) physical movement activity being directed by the exercise system 16. The result is a more intense exercise experience, which may result in better performance, as well as increasing user satisfaction and the user's desire to repeat the experience. The dark walls, by not reflecting light, appear to disappear or drop out from the perspective of the player. This leads to a reduction in the visible landmarks and therefore a lower perceived exertion. Having a floor without few or no environmental landmarks enhances this effect.

To further expand on the contrast between prior exercise environments, and the environment described above, conventional dynamic exercise machines such as treadmills, stationary bikes, ellipticals, steppers and alike provide for the user an opposing force so that the user may perform productive work. Such work produces well-known health benefits for the user. One example of such machine-enabled opposing force is the force the user applies to the pedals of a stationary bike. When exercising on one of the aforementioned exercise machines, the user's work is performed within the constraints (the “envelope”) of the machine itself-no work is accomplished by the user relative to the environment in which the machine is located. In other words, the user's position in the environment remains essentially constant/static relative to the environment even though the user is performing measurable work. The exercise machine's prescribed exercise pattern, not the environment's objects/cues, constrains the user. Therefore in using such equipment, visual landmarks/reference points in the environment/facility are of little or no value to the user in assessing his/her work rate. In contrast, control of visual landmarks and the surrounding environment is much more important in unconstrained physical movement activities.

The advantages of the facility 13 extend beyond direct advantages for the user 14. There may be advantages as well for performance of the exercise system 16, in particulars for sensors, such as infrared sensors or cameras. Blue is toward the end of the visible color spectrum farthest from the infrared spectrum. Thus a blue floor and blue walls may advantageously preferentially absorb light in the infrared range. This reduces reflected infrared light received by the sensors 20 of the system 16, reducing interference with infrared light emitted from the beacon 22 directly to the sensors 20. In addition, all common light sources emit some amount of infrared light. By reducing the overall amount of light in the physical space 10, the absolute amount of infrared light introduced into the physical space 10 is reduced. This also may improve the performance of the exercise system 16 in tracking the position of the beacon 22 as the user 14 moves.

The dark floor and walls may also aid in preventing interference from other infrared light sources. An example of an infrared source is a halogen lamp.

The light-colored ceiling 42 may also indirectly improve performance of the sensors 20. The use of a light-colored ceiling allows some indirect lighting of the physical area 10 and the regions adjacent to it. If the level of indirect lighting were to be reduced, for example by use of a dark-colored ceiling, the level of direct lighting may need to be increased for safety purposes. The increase of direct lighting would result in more infrared interference in the physical area 10.

Chroma key systems, as well as other types of sensors used to track motion, may also benefit from the environment of the facility 13. The walls 46 may essentially function as a giant monochrome screen that facilitates the system extracting or distinguishing the user 44 from the background. The floor 44 and the walls 46 may also be made the same color, eliminating the possibility of a difference in color between them reducing effectiveness of the system.

The environment described above thus provides performance advantages for both the user 14 and the exercise system 16. Broadly speaking, the low-light environment provides advantages to a pair of very different types of “sensors”: the eyes of the user 14, and the infrared or other sensors 20 of the exercise system 16. The user 14 has better perception in the exercise experience, and receives more satisfaction from the exercise experience. The exercise system sensors 20 experience less interference, and a corresponding better ability to track the beacon worn by the user 14. Surprisingly, given the divergence between the human and machine “sensors” involved, there is no trade off involved—both systems perform better in the above-described environment.

Instructors, attendants, or other personnel may wear outfits or uniforms that are designed to blend in with the surroundings. For example, the personnel may where blue shirts that match the wall color, and black pants that match the floor color. It will be appreciated that there are advantages in having personnel be inconspicuous (less intrusive) to users. Of course there are advantages to having some or all personnel be more visible. Accordingly personnel may alternatively wear apparel that contrasts with the colors of the facility, or is otherwise more visible.

FIG. 2 shows a variant of the facility 13 that has multiple physical areas 10 and exercise systems 16 in the same room 12. The low-light environment and the dark floor 44 and dark walls 46 may help the users 14 focus on the display screens 18 of their individual exercise environments. The floor 44 and walls 46 may also reduce signal interference from one system 16 to another system 16, allowing the sensors 20 to better track the position of the individual users 14 within their respective physical areas 10.

FIG. 3 shows another variant, in which the facility 13 includes both plural exercise systems 16, for unconstrained physical movement in respective physical areas 10, and one or more stationary exercise equipment devices 60. The stationary devices 60 may be any of a variety of exercise equipment devices that do not involve unconstrained physical movement. Examples include stationary bicycles, treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical trainers, weight machines, free weights, and stair climbers. The light sources 40 may be configured to provide a relatively high level of light, for example slightly higher than the level of light in the physical area 10, in the areas around the stationary devices 60. Thus stationary equipment users 64 may safely and comfortably move around and utilize the equipment 60, while the unconstrained movement users 14 are able to perform their exercises in a low light level. It will be appreciated that the concerns discussed above with regard to unconstrained physical movement do not apply to the stationary equipment users 64. Such stationary equipment users may prefer a somewhat higher light level, which may cause a mood enhancement effect that is not offset by an undue increase in user inhibitions. Thus it may be beneficial to have multiple lighting levels in exercise areas of the facility 13, with relatively high light levels for stationary devices (not involving unconstrained physical movement), and relatively low light levels for unconstrained physical movement activities.

As also illustrated in FIG. 3, the exercise systems 16 and the stationary devices 60 may be configured with identification sensors 68 for detecting and identifying the presence of the users 14 and 64. The beacons 22, or other identifying devices 70 worn or carried by the users 14 and 64, may be capable of being detected by the sensors 68. This allows the users 14 and 64 to be associated with the exercise systems 16 and the devices 60, in order to track the exercise activities of the users. Individualized information regarding the duration of exercise activities of various sorts, as well as the results of these activities, may be obtained by this process.

A wide variety of devices may be used to provide information to the device-mounted sensors 68 regarding identity of the users 14 and 64. Aside from being incorporated in the beacon 22, the identification device may be incorporated in a wide variety of other devices, such as a wrist band or laminated plastic card. The identification device may be a passive or active device. It may be automatically detected by proximity to device-mounted sensors 68. Alternatively, some action by the user may be necessary for carrying out the identification process. For example, the identification device may be a device that emits an infrared identification signal when a button or switch on the beacon 22 is activated. In such a system the sensors 20 of the system 16 may perform the functions of the identification sensor 68. The user may be prompted to emit such a signal before being an exercise session on one of the systems 16 or the devices 60. To give another alternative, the identification device may be a magnetic strip on a plastic card, such as an identification card, that is passed through a card reader serving as a device sensor 68. To give yet another example, the identification device 70 may be a radio frequency identification (RFID) device that interacts with the sensor 68, perhaps automatically, once the user gets within a certain distance of the device sensor 68.

The identification device 70 may be relatively permanently associated with an individual user, for example by being part of a membership card unique to the individual. Alternatively, the identification device 70 may be associated with the user only for the duration of a single visit. For example, a single beacon may be identifiably associated with a single user at the start of the user's overall exercise session, when the beacon is issued to the user. The association may be removed when the user turns in the beacon at the end of the session. The same beacon may be used by different users in different sessions, and associated with a user only for an individual session.

The identification system described above allows collection of exercise information about individuals with no effort or with minimal effort by the users. It is more convenient that systems that require user to enter an identification number or code each time he or she shifts to a new system, machine, or device. Such a system may be effectively combined with a reactive training program of different types of exercises, such as alternating bouts of unconstrained movement activities and strength training. Such reactive training is described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,038,855.

Although the invention has been shown and described with respect to a certain preferred embodiment or embodiments, it is obvious that equivalent alterations and modifications will occur to others skilled in the art upon the reading and understanding of this specification and the annexed drawings. In particular regard to the various functions performed by the above described elements (components, assemblies, devices, compositions, etc.), the terms (including a reference to a “means”) used to describe such elements are intended to correspond, unless otherwise indicated, to any element which performs the specified function of the described element (i.e., that is functionally equivalent), even though not structurally equivalent to the disclosed structure which performs the function in the herein illustrated exemplary embodiment or embodiments of the invention. In addition, while a particular feature of the invention may have been described above with respect to only one or more of several illustrated embodiments, such feature may be combined with one or more other features of the other embodiments, as may be desired and advantageous for any given or particular application.