A recent survey published in the Health and Fitness Journal, an official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), revealed that fitness trackers, smart watches, and other wearable technology are the No. 1 fitness trend heading into 2019.
After holding the top spot in 2016 and 2017, wearables dropped to #3 in 2018.
So… what’s changed? Why are wearables back on top?
I take a look at the ongoing trend with Firstbeat.
The fact that devices are sleeker, shinier and pack a heftier computational punch than ever before is certainly a factor. Another is a growing ability to get everything you want from a single device, as the line between fitness devices and smartwatches has become increasingly blurry.
Some have pointed to the notion that consumer confidence in wearables is returning thanks to improvements in data quality. These improvements were made in the wake of bad publicity from legal and academic challenges over the reliability of step counts and accuracy of early generation optical heart rate monitoring technologies.
Another, perhaps more substantial, contributor to the resurgent trendiness of wearables is the expansion of useful new features and insights like stress and recovery monitoring and the transition from simple activity tracking towards fitness monitoring.
Here are three key contributions to keep an eye on going into next year:
Cardiorespiratory Fitness (VO2max) Monitoring The combination of wearable technology and smart analytics have made the benefits of scientific insight into changes in your cardiorespiratory fitness available to everyone.
Long prized by elite athletes as a performance indicator, VO2max (which describes your body’s ability to convert nutrients into energy aerobically) is also a valuable health indicator and predictor of longevity. How valuable is it? In 2017 the American Heart Association published an official position paper recommending that cardiorespiratory fitness be regularly assessed and utilized clinically as an additional vital sign.
Key trends to follow include the transition of VO2max from wearables targeting endurance athletes towards lifestyle-oriented devices with much larger audiences, and how access to fitness data makes for better, more personal exercise prescription and evaluation.
Notable devices: Withings Steel Sport HR; Garmin vivoactive 3; Suunto 3 Fitness; Huawei Band 3 Pro; Jabra Elite Sport true wireless earbuds; and many, many more.
Training Load and Training Status Whether you are training for a marathon our just trying to keep fit and stay healthy, it is helpful to understand the relationship between physical activity and how your body responds.
Analysis of individual workouts has been part of the wearable experience from the beginning, the ability to provide a big picture, more holistic view of the training process is a much more recent development.
As this area heats up next year, Firstbeat’s Training Load and Training Status are a pair of features worth watching.
Training Load reveals the total impact of your activities recorded over the past week, and places them into the context of how hard you need to work to maintain your current fitness level. While Training Status takes things up a notch by combining the impact of your activities with changes in your VO2max to pinpoint the effectiveness of your efforts.
As a result, you can see when your training is productive or unproductive, when you are peaking, recovering, detraining, or overloaded.
Stress, Recovery, and Beyond The advent of stress and recovery monitoring features has been one of the most exciting recent trends in wearables. Changes in how your heart beats from one moment to the next are analytically transformed into a window through which activations within your autonomic nervous system can be observed.
In 2017, the vívosmart 3 became the first consumer available device with this feature, which has since been implemented across Garmin’s extensive line of wearables. The newly announced Body Battery™ feature takes things to the next level by combining stress, recovery, physical activity and the restorative power of sleep to offer a holistic overview of your energy reserves throughout the day and night.