Wearable technology is coming center stage to the fitness industry and the consumer market. These devices are being built by all of the major technology companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and more. These devices are the next frontier, much like the smartphone and tablet were five to 10 years ago. These devices will change the way we receive information and allow us to garner new insights into our how our bodies and daily action intertwine to impact the quality of our lives. The level of sophistication, ease of use, and cost of these products are beginning to align so that this industry can take the next quantum leap. Nike COO Mark Parker projects that “the wearable tech market is expected to move 19 million smart watches and fitness bands in 2014, with that figure ballooning to 130 million annually by 2018. Wearables will be a mainstay in the future as the devices are a way for users to learn more about themselves and the world around them.”
Most of the products on the market today are single-use or single-feature systems. They were created to do one particular job extremely well. For those who are runners, the best example is your heart rate monitor. It easily tracks and records your heart rate, and allows you to pick your training zones and intensities, along with calculating calories burned. Some more advanced heart rate monitors now include GPS capabilities that allow you to track data such as your pace, distance traveled, time splits and more. These devices are unbelievable tools that serve a very specific function.
Other options are now available for the consumer who wants to track much more than just heart rate or calories burned. These devices include the Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit and Nike FuelBand products among others. They allow wearers to track all of their daily activities: calories burned, sleep patterns, heart rate and maps to track location. Software platforms are also available that allow you track other custom measures such as blood pressure, blood sugar, smoking habits and cholesterol, but this information must be entered manually into the system. The companies who manufacture these devices are attempting to gather all of our biometric data for interpretation. Although the technology is available to collect the data, the industry has not mastered analyzing it to find out what it all means and how to drive outcomes and decisions about our health and well-being from that data.
The next evolution of wearables will actually decipher and interpret data to give us insights and recommendations for the activities in our lives. Wearables will also be able to warn us when we are over training or educate us on when we can push our workouts and up the intensity. The wearables will decipher when we may be susceptible to sickness or injury, and more importantly, they will be able to tell us any precursors or warnings for a potential heart attack, stroke or other impending medical emergency. This is the future of wearable technologies.
Another feature of the next generation of wearables is the capability to completely track all of our workouts and produce advanced metrics based off the results. This will be accomplished through the use of smart clothing that has built-in load sensors, three-axis accelerometers and altimeters. These features will enable the wearer to track the amount of weight they are lifting, how many repetitions and sets are completed, speed of the movement, how much power was generated, length of the workout, rest periods, and total work completed. These sensors will also be able to give biomechanical feedback such as incorrect form and other weaknesses. All of this information will enable trainers to easily track every component of client’s workouts seamlessly and drive specific adaptations.
I cannot imagine being able to view a single dashboard and immediately know my state of readiness. I will know to what intensity to train, how much volume I can handle, my exact hormone levels, if I am properly hydrated, if I have a nutrient deficiency, or if I am sleep deprived. The list of outcomes is endless and the opportunity to pursue the true limits of human performance is almost within our grasp.
If you are interested in wearables, please read my next article. In that article I will make my recommendations for wearables to buy this holiday season and which ones I recommend for all of my clients.
Chris McAbee is the founder and co-owner of Wilmington Performance Lab, a state-of-the-art personal training facility that offers a full range of services including nutritional counseling and corporate wellness. Wilmington Performance Lab was founded on the belief that personal training is not only about making physical improvements, but also building long lasting, quality relationships with partners you can trust. For more information, visit http://wilmingtonperformancelab.com or call 910-399-5441.
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