Fitness enthusiasts often belong to one of two groups. Some practitioners get their physical health and mental fitness while getting away from time, deadlines and associated stresses. But in increasing numbers, runners, cyclists, walkers, golfers, swimmers and participants in any activity that assists in their wellness want to know more.
Fitness devices and accessories, usually called wearables, have advanced fitness exponentially. The data available from wearable monitors has greatly improved people’s understanding of factors that determine three key areas of lifestyle synergy—fitness, health and well-being.
Consider the staggering statistics: According to a report by Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company headquartered in San Francisco, the connected health and wellness device market is projected to become a $612 billion global industry by 2024.
“Using a watch and monitor while exercising can be a great addition to your fitness program,” says Scott Gray, owner and founder of Back in Motion Fitness and Performance in Fort Myers. “The key benefits are being objective about your progress and tracking things like heart rate, calories burned, oxygen saturation and steps taken throughout the day.”
Personalized health monitoring is vastly boosted by Apple, Fitbit, Samsung and Xiaomi, the Chinese multinational electronics company headquartered in Beijing. In 2019, Apple had 31.7% of the market share of wearable devices worldwide. Further data details that about 20% of Americans own a wearable health or fitness device.
Wearables provide motivation and encouragement as well as timely reminders to stand and stretch or walk (for those who work at desks). Real-time notifications of activity allow users to monitor their activities as they happen. The data can also be stored for review.
Fitness watches replaced chest monitors only about five years ago as the fitness accessory of choice. But the go-to devices have quickly attracted advanced competition. “Smart” running shorts and shirts can now record heart rates and monitor cadence and stride length. Rings calculate durations of exercise and count steps.
The benefits of wearable devices have also enhanced physicians’ abilities to more quickly access patients’ health. Glasses can detect concussions and measure vision performance. Electrocardiogram monitors can attach to a user’s chest and track heart activity. Some medical wearables can detect when a wearer is about to get sick by noting an elevated heart rate and increased skin temperature.
“Although it does have its benefits with fitness training, not all devices are as accurate as you may think, so be sure to find a fitness device that has a reputable brand and reviews,” says Gray. “Lastly, make sure that you’re using these devices to supplement your workouts, as nothing beats a sound training program and working hard. Don’t get paralysis by analysis of the data.”
NCH Healthcare System Inc. in Naples, part of the Mayo Clinic Network, offers a checklist for using a fitness monitor. It uses the term “activity tracker.”
Some trackers have more elaborate features that may have difficult set-up instructions. But many monitors are simplified and more conducive to regular wearing because of their ease of use. For indoor and outdoor use, a device-readable in different types of lighting is important. Extra features, such as monitoring heart rate and waterproof construction and extended battery life, are important—but are also reflected in the cost of wearable devices.