Wearable technology keeps detailed tabs on your workout
Wearable tech is one of the fastest-advancing sectors of the wider technology industry, now outpacing the development of smartphones. Whether it’s basic fitness trackers or highly advanced smartwatches, wearables are everywhere.
If you’re a newcomer to this and want to get up to speed on wearables, the best place to begin is with those who use the products.
Paul Jellema is the store manager at Fleet Feet in Schererville. The store sells fitness trackers and smartwatches especially designed for runners and walkers. Jellema is a dedicated runner and uses one of the products he sells.
“The technology available from these small devices is really amazing,” he said. “I use a Garmin 235, which is designed for runners. I use the GPS feature, heart-rate monitor, and the historical data collection to help me document my workouts.”
The new age of wearables is laden with smart sensors that track movements and biometrics, with the option of using Bluetooth to sync wirelessly to a smartphone. Others rely on wi-fi connectivity and standalone mobile 4G LTE data connections. Since data can be sent to your smartphone, you can keep track of your progress over time.
“Tracking heart rate is a big deal to most of our customers,” said Randi Stricker, product buyer for the store. “Runners and walkers need accuracy to determine how hard they are working out and how their heart is responding. The wearables are very accurate at determining and recording data such as heart rate.”
The early generations of wearables saw devices clipped to the body, because the prime focus was tracking movement through motion sensors. New advancements brought a wide range of powerful sensors, which require direct contact with the skin. The technology gravitated to other body parts such as wrists, fingers, chest, forearms, ears, eyes, forehead, and the temple.
“The wearables confirm your workout,” Jellema said. “The data will tell you if you worked out as hard as you thought. That’s important to those who are trying to go a little farther or a little faster as they build up.”
Jellema also mentioned that the GPS feature can be valuable for those who have a health issue to monitor. “If the wearable detects that the runner or walker fell down, due to the jolt and sudden stop, it can send text messages to friends and family,” he explained. “That can be very important to people that are using exercise as rehabilitation.”416
Wearables are popular with all age groups. Younger exercise enthusiasts grew up with the technology. Many seniors use them for safety reasons, while those in-between like the data confirmation. “We sell several models that offer high-end options such as music connectivity and frequently used paths,” Jellema said.
There are several models out there, with Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple being the leaders in terms of sales.
Smartwatches are wrist-worn devices that connect to your mobile phone to act as mini-window into your digital life. The Apple Watch brings notifications and calls from the iPhone screen and tracks your physical activity. There’s independent GPS for location services and an LTE model.
Google’s Wear OS is the equivalent for Android phone users. Watches like the Skagen Falster 3 offer slim design. Fitbit Versa 2 is heavy on health features with blood oxygen tracking and top-notch sleep tracking. Samsung uses its own Tizen OS on wearables like the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
Fitness trackers remain very popular among people who want to track progress through heart rate, steps and estimated calorie burn, while receiving some smartphone notifications. They’re perfect if you don’t want super-advanced metrics provided by smartwatches, or don’t want a mini smartphone.
All the available options can make a purchase feel overwhelming. Jellema recommends spending some time talking to those who use it and those who use what they sell.
“You don’t want to spend a lot of money for options you’re not going to use,” he said. “If you feel a wearable can help you, get some professional advice. Make sure the person you’re asking actually uses a wearable. Find out why they use it, why they purchased a certain brand, and how satisfied they are with their purchase.”
Big box stores and online websites can offer reviews, but many never use the product. That may not provide the advice you need. “We have models with a lot of bells and whistles,” Stricker said. “But maybe you want a simpler model that does a great job of tracking what you care about. Why spend the extra money?”
Like a smartphone or a computer, wearable technology has a lot to offer — if you need it. Determine what you think you’ll get out of it, and then research models to find the optimal one for you. Visit a couple of places that sell and become educated on the topic.
If you want to pick up the place or the distance, or perhaps train for a race, wearable technology can provide the data to confirm your improvement. It can also provide security knowing you’re not alone out there.