Wearable Technology 101: What You Need to Know

Wearable technology is taking the U.S. by storm and it's no wonder that folks are perplexed about the buzz words for fitness gadgets.  While you may know on a gut level that fitness gadgets are a good thing, getting through the clutter of new gadgets on the market can be overwhelming.  Every few months a new fitness gadget in unveiled, so it's important to understand the lingo so if you decide to get in the game, you'll have a clue on what you're buying.  The more you understand, the better informed you'll be to distinguish between products and make an informed decision. 

Wearable Technology. This is the new, catchy phrase that represents it all. Fitness trackers, wristbands, smart jewelry, smart fashion, smart glasses, and hearables to name a few. Whenever you hear about the latest gadget that tracks your steps, calories, heart rate, or exercise form you're in the wearable technology arena.  Remember, this term wearable technology is an industry itself.  Out of this group are born variations of fitness tools designed for the novice, intermediate, expert athlete.  The term itself can sound complex especially if you don't consider yourself a techie (yours truly).  Here's a tip: When you hear news about the latest and greatest gadget to hit the market the first thing you need to ask yourself is 1) Does this gadget sound like something good for me? and 2) Does it address the niche that interest me? For example, if you like to swim, you'll need a gadget that's waterproof.   Obvious, yes, but that will help narrow your choices dramatically.  If you're a runner, it's a matter of style, features, and price.  It's crucial to ask yourself the above questions otherwise you'll have a lot of gadgets collecting dust and you won't benefit at all.  Now to the next definition - fitness trackers.

 

Fitness Trackers

photo: fitbit.com

photo: fitbit.com

Fitness trackers are often used interchangeably with fitness gadgets.  They are by far the most popular fitness gadgets today.  Fitness trackers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They can be as simple as the handy and cheap pedometer to the sleek UP2 Band.  You have a lot of options with the fitness trackers and they come with a variety of features that can meet your needs.  Some folks love the large bands that give them data during their run while others want a cute reminder to walk more.  The nice thing about these gadgets is that the price point is relatively easy on the budget.  You can get a quality fitness tracker that will tell you basic information that can improve you life instantly.  For example, monitoring your sleep can impact your productivity, reduce crankiness, help with weight loss, and improve your mood.  You really can't beat the positive results you get from a reasonably priced fitness tracker.  If you really want to up the ante on your data or just love the latest gadget a smartwatch may be the answer.  

Smartwatches

Photo: Apple.com

Photo: Apple.com

Hello Apple Watch. Competitors include the Samsung Gear S, Moto 360, and Sony Smartwatch 3 to name a few. These watches are not your average watch since they're relatively pricey. They're pricey because they do everything! However, if you want to a  smart watch you'll need to question whether this investment is the right one for you.  Remember, you can get a decent watch for under $100 and smart watches will set you back $350 or more! Of course if you decide to take the financial plunge, you can benefit from thousands (yes, thousands) of apps.  These apps can help you set, monitor and achieve your fitness goals.  You can do a bunch of other things too like call your friend, pay for your groceries, and check your email - all on your wrist.  It's basically another inbox on your wrist.  If that works for you, great otherwise the sheer amount of information can be a double whammy.  Again, you have to ask yourself if this is the only gadget that can give you the results you want.  This is a personal decision and only you can answer.  If you want something completely different, hearables are another option.  

Hearables

photo: Jabra.com

photo: Jabra.com

Even though you see someone with earbuds don't assume music is the only output.  Companies are designing wearable technology that monitors your heart rate via your ears.  According to Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, president of Valencell, accurate data is where fitness trackers don't measure up.  His concern is that most fitness trackers don't track data consistently and the wrist itself is subpar when it comes to sensory information. According to Dr. LeBoeuf, the ear is the best place to collect accurate data.  If you prefer earbuds over other accessories on your arm or wrist a hearable might be worth a try.  The challenge in this area will be to accommodate different ear sizes and provide a comfortable fit for users.  As this division of wearable technology expands there will be more development in the not so obvious wearables.  

Whether you're avoiding fitness wearables or want one it's important to get up to speed on the terminology.  At the end of the day, you want a gadget that will meet your fitness needs and give you useful information to enhance your life.  How you get that information is completely up to you and what best suits your lifestyle. 

What are your top 3 questions on wearable technology? Please share...

Fitness Trackers: 3 Reasons You're Avoiding Them

Ms.Fit FLASH Fitness & Sleep Monitor, Photo by  Maurizio Pesce / CC BY

Ms.Fit FLASH Fitness & Sleep Monitor, Photo by Maurizio Pesce/ CC BY

If you don't have a fitness tracker I bet you've seen a lot of them.  Between the sleek gadget commercials to your coworkers raving about their step stats, you might have a few feelings about them.  If you're one of the folks that's a fan great but if you're on the fence or flat out avoiding them altogether, I've got news for you.  You're not alone.  

According to a study by Statista, the global wearables market is expected to reach a value of 19 billion U.S. dollars in 2018!  Based on that number you'd think that everyone and their grandmother will have a fitness tracker.  Think again. According to a 2014 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers and its Health Research Institute, only 1 in 10 Americans wear their fitness trackers daily even though 1 in 5 own one.  So what's the deal? Why haven't you run out to buy that gadget that will catapult you to fitness success? Based on my research, interviews with hundreds of people, and my own experience, I have have some ideas.  I suspect that you might fall into one of the categories:

1. They're too expensive. I hear you! The price range for a fitness tracker ranges from $25 - $450+.  If you want the most helpful features such as sleep monitoring and smart coach features you'll average about $150.  On the surface $150 may be a pretty reasonable investment.  All you need to do is swap out some venti lattes for a month and you can pay for it. The only problem is that if you lose one, you'll have to replace it.  Lose a couple of year and now you're out $300 or more!  Given the expense of these trackers you have to make the best decision that fits your budget.  If you're prone to forgetfulness, get a cheap pedometer.  If you make the investment, set up a system where you wear your fitness tracker consistently. The up side is that you'll benefit from the tracker feedback and make healthy choices everyday.

2. You don't want to know your numbers.  I talk to countless folks who don't want to be reminded that they've only walked 2,000 steps a day.  Sometimes too much information can be a de-motivator.  The truth hurts and I know that seeing your current situation can be discouraging.  The up side is that you'll at least have a baseline of where you are and know what you need to improve.  Does that mean that you'll go from 2,000 steps to 10,000 in a day? Of course not, but it does mean that you can add steps daily, increasing over a period of time. That's what really matters.  Making subtle changes and getting closer to a healthier you.

3. You don't know what to buy. Boy, this is a popular reason and understandably so. There are hundreds of fitness trackers to choose from and it seems like a new one comes out regularly. One of the most important things you can do is to decide what you need in a fitness tracker. For example, do you want to monitor your heart rate?  If you're training for a marathon or doing HIIT (hight intensity interval training), that feature can be very useful. If you want to add steps to your day a pedometer or basic fitness tracker will do. If you need to eat better and want a tool to track your nutrition with other cool apps then a mid-priced fitness tracker is ideal.  Start with what you want and then start shopping.

Fitness trackers are indeed the rage but you don't have to jump on the bandwagon until you're ready.  However, if you know you need to make healthy changes in your life a fitness tracker can be a solution for you.  If it's price, buy a cheaper option, if it's information start small, and if it's knowledge stay in touch with me.  At the end of the day it's about you living a healthy life for you and your family.  Go ahead, explore the possibilities and if you get in a bind let me know.