With the rapid growth and advancement of technology, fitness enthusiasts can now access many innovative tools and gadgets that can revolutionize their fitness journeys. From wearable devices and fitness apps to connected equipment and virtual training programs, technological advancements provide unparalleled convenience, motivation, and valuable insights. These fitness-related apps and devices, such as fitness tracker bands and smartwatches, have the potential to monitor vital aspects like blood pressure and heart rate, allowing users to take prompt action in the event of abnormalities. By setting goals and carefully tracking a person’s performance, these devices can also act as effective catalysts for behavioural changes, giving people the much-needed motivation to reach their objectives.
These fitness apps’ and devices’ social features also encourage friendly competition among family members and friends, promoting social and physical well-being. One of the most striking examples of the impact of fitness technology is seen in cases where wearable technology, such as Apple’s iWatch, has proven to help save lives by identifying irregular heartbeats. Such life-saving actions have amply demonstrated how these gadgets have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare sector. Wearable technology with built-in health-related features may easily save and analyze patient data while remotely and continuously monitoring their health conditions, including heart rate, calorie burn, sleep quality, and physical activity intensity.
While using health and fitness applications to influence physical activity behaviour has been helpful, specific issues still need to be resolved. When users fail to achieve their goals of fitness-tracking practices might cause a feeling of guilt and failure to the users. Although the market for wearable technology has saturated, there are still some challenges in using wearable technologies. This article explores the multiple opportunities and challenges users face using wearable technologies.
Meaning of Fitness Technology
Fitness technology is based on the use of statistics, where objective facts are more reliable than subjective judgments. This focus on data-driven insights encourages people to continuously improve their health and fitness, creating a culture without restrictions on how the human body can be enhanced. Even people who are considered healthy are encouraged to engage in self-improvement activities, fostering a culture-wide dedication to well-being.
Fitness Technology has a broad umbrella, and in that Fitness Technology has been defined into four categories:
The first category includes wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers that monitor one’s health by counting steps taken or measuring other biological processes like heart rate. These commercially available devices are frequently connected to mobile phones and provide users with real-time data on their health parameters.
The second category consists of wearable medical devices connected wirelessly, worn on the body, and performing specific medical tasks to protect the user’s health. These gadgets are specialized in function and often used by users whose medical necessity for doing so drives their utilization, distinguishing them from consumer goods bought purely for health consciousness.
The third category consists of wirelessly connected, bodily-internally integrated medical devices that carry out specialized medical tasks. Such gadgets, which are only used for requirements in medicine and are only implanted by medical personnel, include modern pacemakers.
The fourth category includes stationary medical equipment, such as home-care ECG machines, linked to the Internet or other communication networks to enable remote monitoring and healthcare support.
This article is limited to the first Fitness Technology category, wearable devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches.
Meaning of Wearable Technology
Wearable technology means electronic devices that smoothly attach to or are worn on the body as computers or systems. These devices can be worn on the body as fitness tracker bands or smartwatches. These gadgets have developed from simple carry-on items to cutting-edge mobile and communication tools in recent years. Their “anywhere-ness” and “anytime-ness,” which give consumers limitless accessibility and real-time information, are their primary strengths. Wearable technology has thus developed into a commonplace tool for health communication, tracking and continuously monitoring users’ health parameters like heart rate, body temperature, calories burned, sleep patterns, and sweat.
The primary purpose of wearable technology is to support governments’ biopolitical objectives by encouraging healthy lifestyles and raising awareness of essential health practices like diet. It has also increased people’s health awareness, and they can constantly track their health status and get motivated to complete the target set by the fitness bands for completing steps or exercising. Due to wearables’ creative possibilities, the general public and several manufacturing organizations have adopted them globally. They use them as hands-free guiding aids to increase productivity.
While wearable technology has enormous potential in the networked Internet of Things (IoT) environment, its ability to track users effortlessly and provide personalized health advice also comes with network, software, and hardware risks. Sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and heart rate monitors are used in passive data collection by fitness trackers like Fitbit, Garmin’s Vivo Active, and the Apple Watch. Steps taken, distance walked or ran, heart rate, inactive minutes, and strenuous activity minutes are just a few of the metrics covered by this data.
Opportunities of Using Wearable Technology
Wearable technology has revolutionized how users view and engage with their daily activities by giving useful metrics that create a high level of awareness and appreciation for the value of their actions. Long-term users have noticed enduring changes such as increased physical activity, using the stairs, or standing while working, all of which were encouraged and made more accessible by wearable technology. The ultimate goal of wearables is to provide users with the information they require at the precise moment they need it, allowing for seamless integration into their lifestyles.
With their constant connectivity to users’ mobile devices and an array of sensors and modules, including microphones, GPS trackers, accelerometers, and cameras, smartwatches, and fitness wristbands are at the forefront of wearable technology. This all-encompassing strategy ensures that data is accessible and provides consumers with important information, alerts, and even personalized recommendations to improve their well-being. These gadgets aim to improve people’s health and way of life as they become a necessary part of daily living.
One of the primary uses of wearable technology is to continuously track users’ movement patterns and conditions over time using motion sensors included in wrist-worn gadgets. Valuable insights are available to users regarding their physical activity by displaying these measured data. Additional health parameters tracked by wearables include blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar levels, and sleep patterns. Such developments in the wearables industry have created quantified self-movement, which examines individual conditions to enhance the quality of life. Tracking user movements results in the acquisition of many types of personal information, such as details about their physical activity and the environment.
Wearable technology encourages health awareness, gives people the power to change their behaviours, and customizes wellness advice. Wearable technology can significantly impact users’ fitness journeys by continuously monitoring and providing real-time information, encouraging healthier and more active lifestyles.
Challenges of using Wearable Technologies
While there are many opportunities wearable technology offers to encourage health awareness and individual fitness journeys, there are also several significant challenges that must be addressed to ensure the responsible and secure use of fitness technology. Concerns about data privacy, accuracy, ecological implications, and data security arise as users depend increasingly on wearable technology to track their activities and health parameters. The challenges of wearable technology are:
Accuracy: A key factor affecting users’ willingness to embrace and continue using wearable technology is its accuracy. Through fitness trackers and other wearable technology, users can receive detailed information on their physical activity, such as steps taken, calories burnt, and sleep quality. Users rely on this information to make wise choices regarding their exercise and wellness regimens. Some wearable technology may not consistently deliver reliable readings as certain factors like the caliber of the sensors, problems with the calibration, and where the device is placed on the body might cause inaccuracies. Users may lose faith in the wearable and finally quit using it if they believe it gives incorrect data.
Users’ fitness goals may suffer due to inaccurate fitness tracking. For instance, users may unintentionally overcompensate by lowering their physical activity or consuming more calories if a gadget continuously underestimates steps or overestimates calories expended, which could result in setbacks in their quest for fitness.
Ecological Impact: Developers and users of wearable technology must recognize its ecological impact. The creation and use of these gadgets increase electronic waste and energy consumption as they grow more popular and affordable. Many wearable devices could end up in landfills, posing environmental risks, especially those with non-replaceable batteries or non-recyclable components.
The low cost of sensors and other components used in wearable gadgets further exacerbates the problem of electronic waste. The use of environmentally friendly materials and disposal techniques may not be given priority by manufacturers, increasing their ecological footprint. Additionally, using batteries and other energy-intensive processes in wearable technology may increase energy usage. The constant charging and data transmission requirement can strain energy supplies and raise the carbon footprint of wearable technologies.
Impact of consistent use over a period of time. Example, Sleep Quality: Monitoring sleep quality is one of the features of wearable technology. Many smartwatches and fitness trackers come with sensors that can detect many aspects of sleep, including length, moments of agitation, and even distinct stages of sleep, like deep sleep. Some users have found this function helpful in diagnosing potential sleep disorders and enhancing sleep patterns. “Orthosomnia” is the term used to describe the compulsive pursuit of ideal sleep parameters based on information gathered by wearable technology or mobile phone apps. As advised by their devices, users could become fixed on accomplishing particular sleep goals or enhancing the quality of their sleep. This obsession with sleep data may create stress and anxiety related to sleep, ultimately affecting sleep quality.
People under pressure to meet specific sleep goals established by their wearable technology may experience sleep-related stress, making it difficult for them to fall asleep or stay asleep. In addition, users risk becoming unduly dependent on the information provided by their devices, misinterpreting the metrics as exact measures of the quality of their sleep.
Data Privacy: Wearable technology raises serious privacy concerns because these gadgets constantly collect and store sensitive and personal data, such as health and fitness data. Users frequently need to fully understand when and how their data is exchanged, which can result in security breaches and unauthorized access. Wearable device connections’ cybersecurity flaws pose additional threats. Many people have a problem with the secondary data used by businesses.
Further, regulating wearable technology is crucial to addressing data security and privacy issues. No legislation directly deals with data privacy in the health sector. Some laws talk about data privacy and indirectly relate to data privacy in the health sector.
Wearable technology is used more frequently in the healthcare sector to collect health data, which calls for a framework to protect sensitive data. A large-scale data-collecting and sharing ecosystem for digital health technology was suggested by India’s National Health Policy 2017. The current regulatory environment is still tricky. As sector-specific recommendations for preserving electronic health records, including information from fitness trackers and other self-care devices, Electronic Health Record Standards have been introduced. Under these guidelines, individuals are given ownership of healthcare-related data, giving them the power to control access and view their data. There is a need for robust and enforceable rules that guarantee openness, informed consent, and secure data for wearable technologies.
Affordability: The price of wearable devices is a significant challenge for its adoption in India, particularly given the vast income disparity. It is essential to offer affordable devices that maintain the necessary functionality and quality to encourage the widespread adoption of wearable devices in India.
Wearable technology brings up a world of possibilities for revolutionizing the fitness journey and enhancing general health and well-being. These cutting-edge gadgets and applications offer insightful information, timely data, and individualized guidance, inspiring users to adopt better habits and long-lasting changes. Wearable technology, which includes anything from fitness trackers and smartwatches to connected medical equipment, can save lives, enhance patient monitoring, and foster a culture of well-being.
Opportunities and challenges go hand in hand and are also valid for wearable technology.
To maintain users’ confidence in and dedication to using these technologies. It is essential to deal with the issues of data privacy, security, accuracy, and ecological impact. It is crucial to balance gathering valuable data for user benefit and safeguarding private data. It would help;
(i) To put in place an adequate framework to protect the security of users’ data. Presently, the regulations under the Information Technology Act of 2000 and the constitutional Right to Life govern the issue of privacy and handling of personal sensitive data.
(ii) To create awareness concerning the potential of wearable technology while recognizing the challenges of excessive reliance on Wearable technology.
(iii) To recognize the ecological impact of wearable technology and find ways to offset the same.
Developers must promote the responsible use of wearable technology, while users should be mindful of the entire ‘package’ that goes with wearable technology!
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Citation: This Insight may be cited as InfEneTy ‘Protecting your Fitness Journey: Opportunities & Challenges of Using Wearable Technology’ 01.08.2023
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