Wearable devices help you to track and monitor your fitness – and some researchers believe they could become the next Dr Google.
“One in six (15%) consumers in the United States currently uses wearable technology, including smartwatches or fitness bands,” UK researchers wrote in the journal PLOS Medicine.
“Potentially, these devices could give patients direct access to personal analytics that can contribute to their health, facilitate preventive care, and aid in the management of ongoing illness.”
So what exactly are they, and how can they help you improve your health?
What are wearable devices?
Wearable devices are designed to track information related to your workouts – as well as your overall health and wellbeing.
Wearable gadgets contain smart technology which connects to both you and your devices – with the ultimate aim of helping you to achieve your fitness goals and be healthier.
Fitness wearables tend to be worn on the wrist, but they can also be clipped to your body or worn around your neck. Many are being created for niche markets – like mums – and feature stylish and versatile designs.
The most popular wearable devices
If you haven’t yet tried out a wearable device, you may be wondering which devices are most popular.
According to the popular technology website CNET, the most popular wearables in 2016 are:
- Pebble Time Steel
- Apple Watch
- Garmin Forerunner 235
- Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch
- Huawei Watch
These devices are able to perform tasks like:
- Count your steps
- Measure your kilometres and pace
- Map your run
- Monitor your heart rate 24/7
- Track how many calories you burned
- Track your sleep
- Track your swimming
- Send notifications to your PC and mobile
- Monitor your breathing rate
Generally, these devices are customised to your specific goals and activities, and many can integrate and sync with your existing apps, PCs and mobile devices.
Are wearables motivating?
In response to this rapidly growing trend, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston wanted to study if wearables were really able to motivate whomever was wearing them.
They analysed 13 wearable devices made by Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike and others.
The research team looked at which tactics the devices used to promote healthy and fit behaviours. They also determined how closely the devices matched successful interventions – and, they compared the functionality of several devices and their apps to the recommendations of health care professionals.
While they found that the number of available app tools was similar to the amount of techniques used by health care professionals to increase their patients’ physical activity, the devices fell short in other ways.
Several key tactics that are linked with being able to increase physical activity – such as action planning, instruction, commitment and problem solving – were missing from the apps.
“In the end, the apps with the most features may not be as useful as those with fewer but more effective tools. Individual success is also likely influenced by individual preferences and needs,” wrote study author Elizabeth Lyons.
Enjoy your wearable, but exercise caution
It’s clear that wearables can provide personalised health data, which could assist with diagnosis and behaviour change.
While wearables do have potential, the scientific community remain somewhat concerned that there could be issues regarding accuracy, margin for error and reliability of data – as well as storage, security and privacy.
“Practitioners and researchers should consider how these technological advances may impact health care in the 21st century,” write the UK research team.
“While many champion wearables as data-rich devices that will revolutionise 21st century medicine, it remains highly probable that, like many technological trends, these mass-marketed gadgets will drift into obscurity.”