With the start of the new year it seems that almost overnight fitness trackers are everywhere. Ranging from simpler step tracking to more sophisticated monitors there is a wearable that can help you achieve your health and fitness goal, whether that is 10,000 steps a day or an Ironman triathlon. Fitness trackers are blazing a trail in making wearable technology mainstream, with a relatively affordable price point they appeal to an ever growing health conscious population.
At the most basic level a wearable fitness tracker counts your steps. Current advice suggests aiming for 10,000 steps a day, which equates to just below 4km. If you work at a desk all day you might be surprised to find out how little you actually move, a fitness tracker will encourage you to add more movement to your daily routine. The Fit Bit Flex is a popular fitness tracker that will monitor your activity and sleeping patterns, plus for the fashion forward Tory Burch has collaborated on a line of accessories! A budget option for savvy shoppers, the Xiaomi Mi Band is amazing value.
THE BEAT GOES ON
The next bracket of wearable fitness trackers have the added functionality of recording your heart rate. These devices have all the basic functionality of the Activity Tracking with an additional optical heart rate monitor. In a nutshell LED’s on the bottom of the band monitor the flow of your blood under your skin to calculate your pulse. Having access to your heart rate allows your training to be far more efficient as you can tailor your workouts to train in the right zone for your objectives. There are loads of products out there and the market is expanding all the time. For all day wear the FitBit Charge HR is very popular, its a neat design and gives you a good indication of your heart rate and calorie burn over the course of the day. The Garmin Forerunner 225 is a good running watch option as it has GPS tracking technology and is water resistant, also it links up to the well established and detailed Garmin Connect software.
On the down side the technology in wrist based heart rate monitors is about 10% – 15% less accurate than the well established chest strap based systems. For casual runners the convenience of these devices probably outweighs this drawback. However more serious athletes taking on heart rate based training should still look to the chest strap for greater accuracy. Companies like Garmin and Polar are long established in the Heart Rate Monitor market and offer specialist solutions for more established athletes including swimmers.
WATCH THIS SPACE
On the luxury end of the wearables are devices like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear S2. These watches move away from the fitness only corner of the market, and though they offer activity monitoring, the functionality on these devices is much greater. Everything from your messages to music readily accessible from your wrist. Current research has shown that up to 60% of users discontinue using their activity trackers within 6 months. Despite initial enthusiasm, like a gym membership, interest can wane over time. Devices like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear S2 have the potential scope to succeed where standard activity trackers fail as they have so many available apps and more being developed all the time.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Wearable technology is a fast evolving and much hyped space. Biometric fabric that reads your vital signals is currently in development by AiQ Clothing, Hexoskin and OMsignal. Alternative power sources are also under consideration, for example Tommy Hilfiger released a line of clothing that harnesses solar power to charge your devices! As humans become increasingly dependent on technology, we have reached a point where wearable technology is not only the future but the present. In the future generations of wearable technology we can expect devices that are more invisible, more accurate, more seamless and more efficient.