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4 Technologies That are changing health and fitness forever

22 May 2015
Healthcare

We get it. You don’t have time. You don’t know where to start. Queso is delicious—especially in Austin, Texas. House of Cards isn’t going to watch itself. Here are some technologies that break down all your excuses for movin’ it!

1. Wearables

Arguably the hottest new piece of fitness equipment, activity tracking wearables have gone mainstream. Over half of people in a recent poll are aware of wearable technology, and one-third said they are likely to buy one. And buying them we are. Seventy million wearable units were sold in 2014. Fitbit, the market leader, has seven product lines including a Wi-Fi smart scale and a Tory Burch-designed cuff. Your Fitbit not only logs your activity and helps you set and track goals, it rewards you for it. When you hit 10,000 steps a day (or any other goal you set) it vibrates and lights up. Push notifications, badges earned and connection with friends also keeps you accountable and on track. Fitbit helps with more than how much you move, it can track your nutrient intake as well as your sleep patterns and will even wake you up when you are in a light sleep cycle close to when your alarm will go off.

Even your clothing can keep you accountable. Victoria’s Secret is selling a jog bra with a heart monitor. There is also a bra that changes your music tempo based on heart rate and one that can help detect breast cancer. Similarly, an entirely new generation of smart shirts are also being designed to serve as a basic health diagnostic layer, detecting heart rate, steps taken and calories burned.

Are you an avid runner but keep getting sidelined by aches? runScribe, a silver dollar sized sensor you attach to your shoe gives a 360 view of your form. It tracks how your foot hits the ground, pace, stride length, and other data points that are analyzed and connected with an app that gives you personalized advice.

Maybe your health aspirations are more cerebral than physical. Then Melon headband might be more your speed. Worn a la John McEnroe (80s version), this plastic headband measures your brainwaves through EEG technology. It will track when you have the most focus, like time of day or environment, and will also track other elements that you can choose, like your emotions or coffee consumption. With this constant feedback and desired changes, Melon enables you to train your mind, improving your focus with a daily, six-minute routine of game training.

2. Apps

While wearables might not be for everyone (one survey showed that one-third of people stop using them within six months), smartphones are. Nineteen percent of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Since we take our smartphones almost everywhere, it is a convenient way to record health information like what we are eating, blood sugar levels or even our emotional state. Forty million US smartphone owners actively use a fitness app and that number is rising fast.

Smartphone heavyweight Apple has created Apple Health Kit, which gives users a dashboard of health and fitness data and is tied in with third-party developed apps. Apple is flipping the switch on how data is monetized. With Google and Facebook, you use their services for free, see ads, and agree to have your data collected, analyzed and sold. With Apple Health Kit, the company is managing the data, but you choose how it is used, which makes sense when you are talking about something as sensitive as health information. Apple Watch together with Health Kit could be a powerful health tool—and promises to give the Fitbits of the world a run for their money.

The proliferation of apps means that access to fitness and nutrition experts is easier than ever and much less expensive. Trying to lose weight? MyFitnessPal is a free service that tracks your food and activity while supporting you with tips and a community of support. Want to change your eating but need your hand held? A new app called Rise teams you up with a top nutrition coach that steps you through changing your habits—all through your smartphone. Having trouble making it to your favorite SoulCycle class? You’re in luck—app maker Handstand brings trainers with dozens of specialties to you on your schedule. Think of it as Uber for your body. Traveling too much to exercise regularly? MapMyFitness can select running routes for you in any city, or you can try FitStar. This app uses data about your body to eliminate intimidating workouts that lead to broken resolutions. The app creates customized exercise routines, presented in slick videos featuring telegenic NFL star Tony Gonzalez, and tailored to what you can honestly accomplish. Then it keeps adjusting future workouts based on how you actually perform, and all on your tablet or smartphone.

3. Social Media

Maybe you’ve blocked those friends who post times of their 20-mile runs or pics of their insane CrossFit workouts, but social media, video sharing sites, and other online tools offer unprecedented access to experts and peer groups. And you don’t need to go to a meeting and weigh in to get support. There is a group and a hashtag for whatever you are trying to achieve. Nearly half of consumers use social networking sites to learn about food. Groups with specific eating regimes can band together and share tips as they never could before. #paleo has over 4 million photos posted on Instagram.

A former (unhealthy) model turned social media fitness magnate has 870,000 followers on Instagram and over 4.2 million likes on Facebook. She demos her workout moves, her daily food choices and sells fitness programs so you can play along (and post your before-and-after shots on her accounts). And there is evidence that it works. An obesity study of 1,900 found that people who used social networking sites to lose weight had modest but statistically significant decreases in BMI.

4.  Gadgets

Still not inspired? Coming soon to a gym near you—the Fit3D ProScanner. This device captures a 360-degree avatar that records 450 body measurements against which you can track your progress. More boutique games are on a virtual reality platform so that you don’t have to go to a distracting group exercise class to work out. Games systems like Wii and Xbox keep adding games that work you out, including one from the celebritrainers on The Biggest Loser. Hop on your Peloton Spin On stationary bike, which streams live or on-demand spin classes on a touchscreen tablet attached to the handlebars. It will not only give you a killer workout, but monitors calories burned, distance covered and how you rank compared to riders all over the world.

What all these have in common is ease of access and the curating of personalized data in a way that is meaningful and actionable to the user. So, what are you waiting for? Get the tech and get moving.