fitness

The gadgetization of fitness has been a significant trend over the course of the past year. The wrists of anyone even vaguely into sports or exercise were suddenly adorned with the Nike Fuel Band, and our Facebook feeds full of RunKeeper and Strava reports of just how far our friends had jogged and cycled.

It seems pretty clear by this point that the iWatch will, when it appears, have a major focus on health and fitness. We don’t yet know exactly what it will measure, but I argued in an earlier opinion piece that it’s likely to measure more than any one of the devices currently available.

Will the old adage of ‘What gets measured gets managed’ apply, with all this data leading us to exercise more, eat more healthily and generally up our game fitness-wise? Or will it be a novelty that quickly wears off, with owners reverting to life as usual within a few weeks … ? 

If my experience of fitness gadgetization is anything to go by, I think it could have a lasting effect.

Last year, I had a vague goal of cycling 3000 miles across of the year. I didn’t do it – mostly because I didn’t reliably measure my mileage. The odometer on one of my bikes stopped working, and that was the one I use for my everyday utility rides. Replacing it never made it very high up the to-do list. I had a GPS, which I used for social rides at the weekend, but not for everyday rides around town.

So this year, I decided to set the same goal, and to measure it properly. I usually have a cycling holiday of around 600 miles, so the rest of the year I need to average 50 miles a week.

To facilitate easy logging of my mileage, I bought a new GPS, a Garmin Edge 810. The key feature of this one is it connects to my iPhone via Bluetooth. As soon as I complete a ride, I hit the Save button on the GPS, it passes the ride data to the Garmin Connect app on my iPhone which then immediately uploads it to the web.

why810

If I want to check my mileage for the week, or the year to date, all I have to do is click a link to a website. Not only that, but my cycling buddies can do the same – so if I’m falling behind, Questions Will Be Asked …

It’s admittedly early days in 2014, but the evidence so far is that it works. I have used the GPS on almost every ride, even when it’s just a mile or two. I check my mileage frequently, and use a synchronisation service called Tapiriik to sync my data from Garmin Connect to Strava, where more of my cycling friends hang out. I’ve signed up to the Strava mileage league table of a cycling club I belong to, so everyone in the group can see how I’m doing.

I’m organising more social rides, using a bicycle for journeys where I might otherwise have jumped in the car or on the tube (the informal name of London’s underground metro service) and am generally making more of an effort to get out on my bikes.

I have friends who use Fuel Bands and GPS running trackers. They too report the same thing: the combination of ease of measurement and peer pressure via social networks provides the motivation to get out there and do the miles on those wet & windy days when they might otherwise not bother.

There will always be those who set half-hearted goals and then do little to see them through. A fitness gadget is never going to be a substitute for willpower. But gadgets plus social networks do seem to be a powerful tool. If the iWatch measures a whole bunch of things we don’t currently measure, I can see it making a real difference.

If you use a fitness gadget, let us know your experiences in the comments – and vote in the poll to let us know whether you think an iWatch will make a difference to your health & fitness.

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49 Responses to “Opinion & poll: Will the iWatch be the key to a healthier, fitter you?”

  1. danbridgland says:

    Tech geeks are rarely fitness freaks.

    Just take a look at the queues that form for the release of a new iPhone. Not exactly the healthiest collective on the planet. Myself included.

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      Indeed, which is what makes me curious about whether the iWatch might help reduce the gap …

    • You don’t have to be a fitness freak to use one of these devices. I have been an software developer for over 20 years and spend my days sitting, which is terrible for anyone’s health. See my post below for my success I’ve had with Fitbit for some background.

      These devices are for the whole range of activity levels. For people like us, we can strive to do better, not necessarily become the next Jillian Michaels. I get the sense that you are implying that all tech geeks are lazy, which would explain why a lot of us are out of shape. I don’t think that’s a correct statement. I think that a lot of tech geeks know tech, but don’t even know where to start getting themselves healthy, so they just procrastinate or give up entirely. I propose that these devices give you a place to start, either by giving you a baseline for improving or just to give you a sense of how inactive you really are. It has become a numbers game for me and since I am a numbers guy, this is what motivates my on a daily basis. As soon as I was able to quantify how poorly I was doing with my activity and my diet, I was able to understand what i need to do to do better.

      Give these devices a chance and you too may see some positive results.

    • Like Apple products are for geeks exclusively. Go to any gym, check out people’s players and phones. Check Whole Food crowd for Apple gadgets. See what people are using while jogging gin the park. I bet you will reconsider your original statement.

  2. I ditched my Nike FuelBand at the beginning of the year for a Fitbit Force and I haven’t looked back. The sleep tracking functionality is what drew me to the Force, but the calorie intake tracking was what made a huge difference for me. The Fitbit food database is a bit dubious, but combined with my own input, I have lost almost 8 lbs. since I switched. I never got those types of results from the FuelBand because it just doesn’t do anything for tracking calorie intake.

    The bottom line is that for me to switch from the Fitbit Force to an “iWatch”, it will have to do even better, which is going to be a tough task. Since I have had positive results after buying the Force, it’s going to take a LOT. Something that will sway me is a comprehensive, ACCURATE food database for logging calorie intake. I will be watching closely for this, but I will also be watching very cautiously.

  3. rzozaya1969 says:

    I think that it’s just another tool. Better habits and healthier food is what’s needed. If someone is very interested in being in a better health, it could help.

  4. It won’t make a difference to me because the only way it can work is if it’s something you will wear pretty much 24/7 and unless it has built in heroin or something I can’t imagine what could possibly make me want to wear a plastic band on my wrist (by all accounts a rather bulky one) for the rest of my life.

    For someone who already wears a watch it’s a no brainer, but those people are a tiny minority of the general population now. The value judgement for me is “What can this thing give me or do for my life that makes it worthwhile wearing it on my wrist every day?” I don’t see the answer to that being anything other than “not enough.”

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      I’m, uh, watching with interest. I haven’t worn a watch in a great many years, and haven’t been remotely tempted by any of the smartwatch offerings to date. Apple will have to pull something special out of the bag to sell one to me.

      • I am the same. I have a very nice and also very expensive Breitling I bought around 20 years ago and pull it out and wear it when I want to flash some bling when I go out. But I do not wear it to tell time only as a fashion accessory because it is a very attractive pice of jewelry.

      • danbridgland says:

        I’m absolutely with you, no watch for years… And then….. after years of searching for a creditable audio remote for my snowboarding trips, that didn’t suck my batteries in less than a day (ergo bluetooth 2 stereo headsets). Along came the pebble, with its AVRCP without A2DP profile, and a promise of Bluetooth 4, I was a buyer in a heartbeat. First to promote it in 9to5mac I believe.

        Once it eventually arrived I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by its use as a watch. But it met its brief as an audio remote. For several weeks it stayed on my bedside cabinet, not even remotely interested in wearing it as a watch unless I needed its remote control features. When the pebble upgraded to Bluetooth 4, it became a game changer. Since the batteries now last about 5 days with plenty of notifications pinging and vibrating in every hour. I’m finding that I’m more inclined to leave it on my wrist for the full 5 days. Whereas previously I found I had to tether it to the mains about as much as I would wear it.

        Above all, I find that I miss a great deal fewer notifications, and the pebble makes those notifications so much more ‘glance and go’ than an hourly glance at a plethora of notification on the lock screen. I’m now very convinced.

        But bio sensors. I’m not sure.

      • Ben Lovejoy says:

        Interesting. I don’t think I miss notifications often enough for that aspect of a smartwatch to grab me.

      • danbridgland says:

        I should also add that the Nike AMP+ was one of many devices I trialled, unfortunately Apple locked that thing down so tight that it only worked in the Nike ipod app, and only then when the running sensor was activated, something that’s hard to sustain on a snowboard. Then the battery would fade, and your phone would freeze. I’m honestly shocked that Apple invested time in dragging this device into iOS 7 compatibility.

  5. The iPod+Nike deal I think was the test marketing for this next product launch. I won’t be purchasing an iWatch as I am not a target market.

  6. If it could also monitor blood pressure and pulse rate I think that would be a very attractive feature. I understand that devices that are capable of check BP might need FDA approval and also more complexity so this is not likely. I wonder if Apple would allow 3rd party peripherals to work with this iWatch to send the readings perhaps by bluetooth to the iWatch so you could keep a BP log?

    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      I would imagine FDA approval, or an exemption from same, wouldn’t be a barrier for Apple. I’m not sure whether blood pressure can be accurately measured from just a wristband, though?

      • I have one by a company called Welby but it is very bulky. You press a button and it expands and takes your BP. Due to the bulkiness involved with those inflatable bags that would make it hard to include that into a likely svelte iWatch which is why I think maybe an add-on type accessory would probably be more likely. There are a lot more Americans wanting to check their BP routinely than see how many miles they biked unfortunately so this would be a great feature of an iWatch IMO.

      • I was told by my doctor not to trust the wristband type blood pressure monitors, so I ended up buying a cuff-type one. If anyone can pull this off with their deep pockets and research budget, I’d bet it’d be Apple.

      • Ben Lovejoy says:

        It will certainly be interesting to see!

  7. Keeping fit is who a person is. An iWatch nor anything else is going to contribute to one being fit if being fit doesn’t come naturally.

    • It’s far more than just being fit, fitness is more concerned with good health as it pertains to exercise, not healthy eating, or the numerous other things which the device is rumored to monitor.

  8. uniszuurmond says:

    I don’t wear a watch. And I’m not into the fitness thing. I hope it will do a lot more than that, otherwise I won’t buy. As for buying second time round, have you noticed how many fitness stuff are for sale second hand?

  9. I agree with the idea “what gets measured, gets managed.” Currently, people with sleep problems, over eaters, those who don’t exercise – they all know these things. The iWatch won’t provide any surprises in that sense. The difference is the over eater will see how many calories they’ve output against how many they’ve input – without any effort in tracking, because people don’t bother to track that data because they know they won’t like what they see. When the phone does it for you it becomes a pesky little reminder that they shouldn’t eat out for lunch – so next week they don’t. Then they’ll see an improvement – being able to see that what you’re doing is making a difference is a huge motivational tool – and then they’ll make another change. I really think it has the ability to put people’s willpower into overdrive, but like anything if you don’t want to listen nothing will change.

  10. jbach67 says:

    I already own a fitness GPS watch, so maybe this will help. It would be nice to have more data.

  11. iWatch will be nothing more than accessory for iPhone. People who practice sports and other activities will keep doing it without the need of it. iWatch will make the exactly the same difference as Nike FuelBand Nike+ Sensor and Nike+ Training.

  12. The point of these devices so to get the regular Joe up and about. Ever since I got my fitbit, I’ve been making sure to go for daily walks, have enough water, and eat better. So I definitely think that the iWatch will make a difference.

    • Exercise has very important effects on one’s health, but weight management is not one of them. Numerous studies show that exercise has little affect on weight management, and it is highly individualized (i.e. one person will lose some while others may not lose anything significant at all). Weight management is about 70-80% diet, exercise makes minimal difference.

      The iWatch should tell people that the sugar filled, highly refined, carbohydrate laden, processed foods, should not be eaten. Moreover, that carbohydrates should be greatly reduced in general. Calories in vs. calories out is a pointless oversimplification. Humans shouldn’t be tracking how many calories they consume, they should simply be eating foods which humans are designed to eat.

  13. i think the combo between the iWatch and a Apple TV or product that takes advantage of the prime sense purchase will change my life in terms of healthy living.

  14. For sure it will make me fit!
    Just realize the overprice in Brazil, and to buy one, I’ll be starving for at least a couple months!
    100% guarantee to weight lose on that!

  15. I know just having the M chip in the iPhone 5s has made me more aware of what I’m doing using the Nike Move app….add all the other sensors reportedly coming in a watch and definitely sign me up!

  16. Going to the gym and actually working out will make a huge difference in your workout.

  17. If my mom can’t force me, NO ONE CAN.

  18. Apple has no interest on limited markets IMHO. I would be very surprised if it were just another fitness gadget. How many out of all the fitness folk even are about gizmos? Limited market. It may have these functions, but that will not be big “must have” appeal. IWatch, or what ever it may be called, needs to create a new must have category like the iPad did. So iWatch out?

  19. The “so what ” rumor mill is fast at work defining a market that does not exist on the scale Apple usually targets. Will it provide fitness data. Absolutely, but that will be a secondary function at best. My thought is the measuring of biometric data is a decision making enhancement. “How do I react? “Gut level. What are options!” The list could go on and a op-in marketers dream child. Couple the iWatch product with iBeacon, wow. A whole new level of experience. Think of all the related gadgets for such a product. Specific use for iPhone to show more product or other data that enhances “experience” from point and shoot to improving your skills. This would be that killer product/app combination. Apple has no interest in being in the medical market per se because of the inherent risks of malpractice. Will there be hacks to provide biometric data with specific medical granularity. You can be sure of that. In fact, I bet Apple is counting on it! Sure, “holes” will be patched from time to time, not so quickly though, unless it is a real threat of risk to the user.

  20. This headline missed the opportunity for an obvious and awesome Radiohead reference.

  21. I believe that fitness apps will be important to the iWatch, but still too small of market segment to be the only important function. Probably not a huge part of the market appeal.

  22. I believe information is not the key. Yes, it can make you more self-conscious, but at the end of the day, data is very subjective when seen without reference to past data (like for example the amount of calories you burn in one day). It is not until we see the data throughout a “long” period of time telling us we are getting stronger, faster, fitter when we can actually get motivated by this. Problem is that the first weeks are the hardest when having a fitness goal (most americans give up before the first 3 weeks of starting to work out).

    I believe teams are the solution, team members who can see when you work out, and teams who you can check on when they work out. Teams collaborating for one goal. It’s biology, it’s sociology, its psychology. A team can replace a million pieces of data as an incentive for people to do something today. As behavioral economist Dan Ariely puts it: “Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.”

    Regardless of this, I believe the iWatch will be a grand slam. It simply makes perfect sense.