Ours is a personal tech filled world these days. Not only do almost all of us carry a smartphone everywhere but many of us also own a tablet, a laptop, a portable gaming system and more.
One of the hottest pieces of personal tech over the last few years though has been wearable tech, largely in the form of fitness trackers. There is actually nothing all that new about the idea of a wearable fitness tracker, as the pedometer has been around for decades. But these new devices offer a lot more than just a way to count how many steps you take every day. Most can track steps, heart rate, calories burned, sleep patterns and more, all from a gadget that is no bigger or bulkier than a standard bangle.
However, as impressive as many fitness trackers are the question that many have before buying and using one is do they actually help keep people healthy and if so, how? Let's take a look and find out:
The Step Challenge
The use that most people primarily put their fitness trackers to is to record their daily steps. However, as a pedometer has always done that how does the addition of extra electronic bells and whistles help?
For most people because the trackers allow them to see, in real time, just what these steps are doing for them. They can see how many calories they are burning and how the activity is affecting their heart rate. For most this is a powerful motivator, a replacement, in many ways for a human coach of sorts, especially when the tracker's software app (they all have one) is accessed and all kinds of additional stats can be observed.
One of the most powerful natural healers of all – sleep – is something that many people are not making the best use of. We either don't get enough or the quality of the sleep we get is just not quite good enough, or a combination of both. This means we are missing out on the chance to reduce our chances of developing heart disease or type 2 Diabetes, to reduce stress and a lack of sleep, many studies say, can lead to weight gain and even shorten our lifespans.
Most wearable fitness trackers claim to be able to track sleep patterns. But what does that really mean? The measuring tool of wrist-worn sleep monitors is called actigraphy. Actigraphy involves recording movement through a measuring device called an accelerometer and the technology has been used by sleep medicine professionals for decades.
The idea is that a certain amount of movement corresponds with being awake, and periods of being still correspond with being asleep. Wearing the device all night, with the app synched with its software app, produces stats that allow the user to 'see' just how well they are really sleeping and many apps do then make some suggestions for improving things.
In the end the wearable fitness device is not going to make you healthier by itself; it's not a magic bullet. It will however arm you with great information – and motivation – to take better care of yourself and that can prove to be invaluable.
One More Benefit …
There is, in 2019, one more new benefit to fitness wearables. With their permission – and with stringent HIPPA practices in effect, Aetna have teamed up with Apple to create the Attain by Aetna app.
This app makes use of the health data collected by wearables and uses it to create helpful advice for ongoing wellness on a personal level, as well as to reward users for healthy practices. The Aetna app is the first of its kind, but it is likely that other health insurance companies will follow suit very shortly.