Can the Latest Wearable Fitness Gadgets Improve Your Krav Maga Training?

Wearable fitness devices seem to be all the rage these days and for good reason. Businesses are rewarding employees who wear them and insurance companies are offering incentives for customers willing to participate in ‘healthy lifestyle’ programs. But does the limited functionality offered by most of these fitness trackers really impact our habits and thus our health? Let’s see…

The fitness-tracking trend has been steadily on the rise. In 2013, manufactures shipped 9.7 million of these devices. By 2018, that number is expected to reach 135 million. The proliferation of these wearable devices was supposed to change the lives of the consumer—making us more active, better sleepers, faster runners, etc. But change is hard. And fitness trackers often go the way of many other healthy resolutions – once the novelty wears off.

John Bartholomew, a professor of health education at the University of Texas, explains why by sharing a common user experience, “They get a fitness tracker, and it sparks them to start walking. So they walk three miles in the morning, and that gets them 4,000 steps. Over the course of a day, maybe they get another 3,000 and do an extra walk to get to 10,000. After a couple of weeks it’s, ‘I do my walk in the morning and then I go about my day and I hit my goal.’ The novelty of the information is removed. The step counter is no longer useful. And that’s why people set these devices down.”

John Bradley of Outside Magazine argues that this is a “sweeping generalization” and moving out from the center of the bell curve you capture “motivated fitness junkies” who are keen to glean more performance related data from higher end devices. But even so, Bradley agrees that the devices don’t necessarily change training routines, impact weight goals, or change bedtimes. Successful and long-term use is typically achieved when the gadget is incorporated into your routine—not dictating it.

For fitness trackers to have staying power, they need to be part of an ongoing and effective feedback loop—offering data that you can’t acquire without one. If you wear your fitness counter to walk/run a route that you frequent, once you’ve done it a few times, you know that X route is Y number of steps. What is the ongoing use in that? But data telling you how you performed (speed, heart rate) offers added benefit.

In March of this year, Wired ran a story titled “Fitness Trackers Won’t Really Help Until They Tell Us What to Do.” The piece argues that fitness trackers should operate more like medical devices—providing resting heart rates, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol levels and meal plans. If these devices can prescribe and offer solutions, their usefulness is unlimited.

But one thing stands in the way: the government. The FDA defines a medical device as a product that is “intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body.” These devices are already subject to many regulations and approval processes. And legally they can’t go much further in what they offer the consumer. The FDA’s mission is to protect the public health, and yet their onerous regulations often get in the way of fulfilling that very mission.

Technology already exists to capture more information and offer solutions, but engineers have to reign in the capabilities of these devices so that they can offer them at all. It is unfortunate that this remains a roadblock. If it were not, millions upon millions of development dollars would be poured into this space and revolutionize our healthcare with real time disease detection and prevention—providing results far more powerful than a mere step counter.

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