Is technology taking over the PT world?
It is no longer enough to have a device that just monitors your heart rate, in the changing world of technology there has been rapid growth of ‘wearables’.
These are mostly wrist band sized gadgets that give calorie expenditure and track your workouts such as your daily movement, including the amount of steps you’ve taken and even your sleep. The design isn’t restricted to just bracelets though - they are being designed into glasses, inside clothing or even attachable to clothing. Most of these wearables link up with your smart phone or computer via Bluetooth for you to digest and analyse the results. The idea is that it will either motivate you to do more or help you plan what you should do next.
“Over a quarter of a billion wearable health and fitness sensing devices will be shipped worldwide by 2017”, according to technology research firm ON World. (1) Wearable technology is sweeping the world and if these figures are to be believed then you can assume it is more than a passing fad and it will undoubtedly impact on the personal training world. The big names such as Nike, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung are wading in. When these guys get involved you know there is serious money to be made. They are all going to try and outdo each other too, which is great for the consumer.
In a lot of ways it could make life easier for tech-savvy trainers who already walk around the gym with a tablet instead of ‘archaic’ paper programmes. They will find the transition to using wearable information easy and perhaps beneficial when feeding back information to clients. A major benefit will be that PTs will no longer have to take their client’s word for what they have done outside of their sessions as they’ll be able to see proof.
Before parting with your hard earned cash, one major factor to consider is the accuracy of data being produced. With the technology in its infancy there are some questions about what the numbers are actually telling you. For example, the measurement of sleep is produced by using accelerometers. These measure movement and while this can give an indication of the quality of sleep - lots of tossing and turning equals bad sleep - it actually doesn’t tell you in real terms what the quality and length of sleep was. For this you need to be measuring far more factors than just movement.
The future potential of these small tracking devices could be fascinating. “Skin sensor technologies, like the ones used with the Body Media device, could open wearable devices to the possibilities of monitoring hydration, heart rate, sweat, respiration and muscle strain to create a complete picture of your well-being at any given moment.” (2)
Most wearables provide you with calorie expenditure which needs to be questioned for accuracy in how it is being calculated. “Calories aren’t so much tracked as estimated using sophisticated algorithms.”’ (3) The other consideration is that different manufacturers use different algorithms for their ‘guesstimations’ and as they are only making a best guess, the potential margin for error is large.
Some people love numbers and these will be the early adopters, buying the wearables and plotting the data they provide. As a PT wanting to get the best results by using the most reliable repeatable data, will you recommend your clients spend their money on these latest gizmos, or will you be warning them off?
From my experience of training clients, many are only interested in certain numbers and can find them de-motivating, even when they are.