Are We Nearing a Time in Which we Can Live Fitter Through Data?

The science of fitness has come further than ever before with the size of the supplement market alone testament to that. We’re now entering that era with wearable technology. Outside of a few ambitious projects including Google Glass, most of the wearable tech on the market has its main functions built around health and fitness.

In fact, it’s probably not too farfetched to say that wearable fitness orientated technology is actually pretty main stream now, with brands like FitBit making basic fitness monitoring affordable in conjunction with ownership of a capable smartphone. Seeing as smartphone penetration in the UK is over 90% for the most health conscious age bracket of 20-35 year olds, it’s safe to say these pieces of tech are easily accessible to mainstream fitness consumers. Not only does smartphone pairing give easy visual monitoring of data, but as smartphones are online connected devices, the data collected by your wearable tech can easily be shared and stored through online connectivity.

Using technology to improve your fitness was initially down to driving general awareness of how active a person was. The early tech worked in conjunction with movement, estimating steps taken per day and roughly at what pace. This gave the user a daily measure of how active they were. This wasn’t much but it was a start, being able to see in easy visual data how active you were day to day, with the intention of inspiring the owner to be more active in general. This data is limited and was certainly only suitable for the average person looking to be a little healthier through activity, but it didn’t do much else.

Wearable technology has come a long way since the first innovations reached consumers. With tech enabled wrist wear becoming more popular, we’ve seen a rise in what’s possible in terms of data collection. One of the most powerful additions has been the ability to monitor the heart rate of the user, giving a much clearer representation of the exertion of the cardiovascular system of that individual during exercise. This data when overlaid with personal data including age and a few other physical factors, can be used to give a much clearer picture of calories burned during exercise. It could also be used in real time to monitor heart rate changes with the intention of the user keeping their level of cardiovascular exertion within their goal parameters.

For example, the user may want to only moderately elevate their heart rate over a long period of time in order to prioritise the use of fat stores as energy over the use of oxygen. This piece of tech can then actively tell them in real time to slow their pace if they start to leave their goal cardiovascular output. Thus making their workout more efficient in line with their fitness goals.

Wearable technology like this isn’t limited to just sport and athletic performance related fitness. Looking more broadly, real time heart rate monitoring as an isolated example, has hundreds of possible uses. Not least of all in terms of monitoring for medical purposes. Real time information if used via connected devices could in the future be used to alert medical practitioners if the user is in danger of a number of potential heart related illnesses and ailments. Taking things back a notch, heart rate is also linked with stressful or distressing situations, even day to day events which could occur anywhere, with particular relation to the work place. Monitoring work place stress for employees could have major implications for health care and the general wellbeing of staff.

The use of data to improve our health and fitness is an undeniable opportunity for us to better understand our bodies and track our condition. The next step in the evolution of wearable tech is to connect the streams of data produced by our bodies to a meaningful interface which assists us both in terms of real time assistance and long term health improvements.

Published on 01 Feb 2016

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