Updated: May 10
Today's episode is going to focus on wearables (aka the fancy technology we wear that tell us more than what the time is). Currently, there are three leaders in bands that you can wear. You've probably heard of them (or use one of them), namely, Whoop, Apple Watch, and Fitbit.
Why is this relevant? Well, turns out that 21% of U.S. adults alone wear smartwatches regularly. In fact, the global wearable device market is expected to be valued at $62 billion by 2025. Wearables are speedily becoming a part of our daily lives so we might as well learn more about them!
These companies are experimenting with different sale and distribution models. Whoop, for example, gives users the WHOOP Strap 3.0 for free, but then charges a membership to give users access to their data ($30 per month). My friends who wear other devices have told me that they find this structure expensive in the long-run and they'd rather shell out an amount upfront for the hardware. But then again, the number of people who prefer WHOOP's model is not negligible, as the company recently raised $100 million and is now valued at $1.2 billion (what a winner!).
Apple, on the other hand, is exploring merging both business models. For owners of Apple Watches, they can pay an additional monthly subscription fee to get access to Apple Fitness+. Instead of access to data, this subscription gives fitness enthusiasts access to exercise related digital content, as well as sync your workouts to trending music so that you're jamming to the best beats. The caveat? you must own an Apple Watch to unlock Apple Fitness+.
Finally, there is Fitbit. Recently, Fitbit got its big pay day! Over a year after announcing that it was going to be acquired by Google, antitrust regulators approved the deal. The reason for all the fuss was to ensure that all the data Fitbit would not be used for corporate greed (aka targeted ads). In the end, Google agreed to a 10 year ban on using the data for ads in Europe.
But wearables don't stop at the popular three. There are other monitors like the Polar band (a chest strap), which uses optical heart tracking (i.e. measuring PPG signals of the body) to calculate heart rate. For those of you bashing around barbells all day, this may be a more accurate measure of how fast you're pumping as the band stays put against your chest, whereas bands would be wiggling around your wrist.
Besides bands and straps, you can now also get the Oura ring. Even though it can't be worn during workouts where you're holding barbells (otherwise it would scratch), it is able to track your sleep, body temperature and heart rate at other times. Oura smart rings can be used for more than just fitness, too. Turns out that Casino hotel company Las Vegas Sands (LVS) is trialing Oura smart rings to detect COVID-19.
The success of wearable smartwatches and bands has left the traditional watch industry behind. Apple Watch alone outsold the entire Swiss watch industry by 10 million units in 2019. This can be contributed to the rise in health consciousness and more affordable prices of wearables. Who's saving up for a Rolex these days, anyway?
In our latest episode, we dig deep with Marcus Smith on the topic of wearables. Marcus is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, fitness coach, and extreme athlete. He is the founder of InnerFight and takes on "extreme challenges," such as, running 30 marathons in 30 days.
Together we discuss:
The various wearables available in the market
How to select the best wearables for your specific fitness needs
How to make use of the data you gather from wearables
The realities of the effectiveness of wearables
Wearables come as either wrist bands, chest straps, or rings in the market at the moment - select the right type of wearable (and manufacturer) depending on what you want to measure
They can monitor and track various metrics from your body, such as heart rate and activity levels. However, wearables aren't just used to track exercise metrics; they can also be used to track recovery (including resting heart rate and sleep).
The wrist bands that are most popular in the market at the moment are made by Apple, Fitbit, Whoop. Many wearables now sync to your phone through Bluetooth so that you can view your data, especially useful if your wearable does not have a screen.
Some wearables are more superior to others depending on what you need to use them for. Chest straps are great when performing vigorous physical activity because they stay put and don't move around as much as a band on your wrist would (therefore they provide more accurate readings too!).
If you're looking to simply get moving, and not necessarily hit a HIIT class, a Fitbit would suffice. In fact, Fitbit pioneered in motivating people to move by gamifying the number of steps one should walking per day by setting a target as a goal.
However, if you’re looking to capture the most accurate sleep metrics, check out Oura rings. Heart rate is determined more accurately from the human finger than the wrist.
There's no point in collecting data if you don't know what to do with it
Wearables are used to collect data so you can use the data to work on whatever it is you're trying to improve (health or fitness in this case).
However, it's not just you as an individual who is making use of your data. These wearables companies aggregate the data for further research purposes. However, recent studies that are based on data from wearable companies are not peer-reviewed, and so need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
A potential use case for wearable companies is to sell analysis of aggregated data to fitness facilities (e.g. gyms and coaches) so that they can develop their programming against real information.
Wearables don't just track performance, they also track recovery
Don’t let the data from wearables be the be-all and end-all
When you use wearables to improve your habits, health, and sleep, be careful to not let them control you! Sure, your smartwatch nudges you to exercise, but it is not able to detect how stressful your day has been. So, sometimes you need to cross-check things with your mind and gut.
Technology can misinform you (readings from various wearables have shown to be different), and sometimes if you don't like the readings you see, your human nature can cause you to blame the device! Instead, there's no harm in admitting that you may need to re-evaluate your approach or simply wait a little longer to see results. And if the technology is simply stopping you from a good night's sleep, it’s okay to transition your tracking to old-school measuring systems (such as an Excel spreadsheet or even a journal).
At the end of the day, technology is made to help you out and has its limitation on how far it can go to do that. Having a fitness band telling you that you’re not getting the “deep sleep” you need can be very frustrating.
Until next time,