The advantages of wearable technology for health, fitness and nutrition

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What are the advantages of wearable tech for the everyday person who wants to personalise their health and fitness, without spending a fortune? Here’s why I think wearable tech can help with the personalisation of exercise:

  • Encourages personal responsibility and self-monitoring
  • Helps to create an awareness of how active you are or are not
  • Helps you monitor your heart rate and training zones
  • Creates an environment where you can compete online with others
  • Provides access to data that can help you identify when to step up or step down your training based on how you are feeling
  • Allows you to approximate your calorie intake each day to better plan your meals and snacks
  • Provides a one-stop-shop for most of the health and fitness-related data that recreational athletes require to stay healthy and active

Since I’ve starting wearing the wearable tech, I’ve become much more aware of how much I’m moving. It’s actually been quite eye-opening; there are days when I think I’ve been quite active, but in fact I’ve only done approximately 5,000 steps, which is some way off the target I’ve programmed into the device and the amount recommended by the UK National Obesity Forum (10,000 steps). I am a very fit and active person, but I will confess the device is having a positive effect on my activity levels too. If I notice that I’ve not been as active in a day (for example on days where I’m writing at my desk for long periods), then I’ll check the step counter and take myself out for a walk.

Tracking your sleep

I also find it very useful for tracking my sleep, which often falls short of the eight-hour target. The benefits of the device will be much more stark and game-changing for those who are less active though. If you already do several hours of exercise a week, walking a few extra thousand steps per day is not going to be hugely significant (although certainly not to be sniffed at). For people who are more sedentary though, the results could be truly life-changing.

Are there downsides?

I don’t think there are many downsides to wearable tech. Fitbit did have to recall one of its models due to skin problems caused by the device, but this has since been rectified. If you are the type of person who over-obsesses with such devices, and becomes fixated with the stats (have you ever seen a runner fall off a curb or run into a lamppost because they’re constantly looking at their watch?), then perhaps you should be careful with it. My clients report that they find the calorie monitoring and food logging very useful, but personally and professionally I am not a fan of calorie-counting per se, so for someone who has issues with food this might not be a positive feature for them. It’s also important to allow for slight inaccuracies of data as I mentioned earlier. If the device is 200 calories per day inaccurate either way, that could add up to quite a significant calorie increase or deficit, depending on your goals. I think a healthy way to view it is as another tool you can use for personalisation, and not the be-all-and-end-all.

Links to personalised medicine

It won’t be long before personalised medicine follows wearable tech; it’s already there for those who can afford it. It’s likely that in future, insurance companies will issue these devices to help track patient health, and offer lower premiums to those who meet their targets. (If you think this sounds far-fetched, insurance company Sheila’s Wheels are already doing this by offering clients the opportunity to install a box in the car that monitors how they’re driving). Of course there is the thorny issue of privacy to be considered, which will put many people off, and some might not want their insurance company to have such detailed information about their health, lifestyle choices, dietary habits and exercise levels.

Personalised medicine is available now to those who can afford it, but for most of us, the one-size-fits-all approach to medication still applies, and we find solutions to our medical problems through a combination of expert guidance and trial and error. It is my belief that devices that enable us to self-monitor our performance levels will help us to take more personal responsibility for our health and wellbeing, which can only be a good thing for us, the NHS, and all other government-subsidised healthcare around the world.

Concluding thoughts

Of course, you can use your smartphone to track this data, although you’ll lose out on some of the personal data such as heart rate. If that’s not so important to you though, most smartphones will collect data such as steps, calorie estimates, etc, and will suffice if you don’t want to invest in a wearable device.

Leanne Spencer is a Fitness Entrepreneur, Author of the Amazon Bestselling book Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best and Founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot specialises in bringing the science of genetics to the world of fitness. Connect with the team @BodyshotPT or Facebook or visit our website at www.bodyshotperformance.com