Trainers Weigh In On Fitness Trackers

On the verge of bubbling over at the intersection of health, wellness, and fitness technology, companies are now hard at work brewing up new platforms, apps, and activity trackers to answer the demands of a rapidly changing digital health landscape.

Even with all this delicious buzz, however, the far majority of currently practicing fitness professionals are quick to see wearable and digital health technology as somewhat of a gimmick.

Looking at the emerging trends around sales in these segments, the numbers project a clear picture of what trainers will soon garner from all this actionable data.

What we're about to see rise from the ocean is a powerfully crafted and effective framework for radical (and very personal) health transformation.

Last week in Los Angeles at the IHRSA fitness convention, I had the pleasure of speaking to hundreds of club owners, operators, and trainers about integrating wearable technology on and off the gym floor.

When we finally got down to brass tacks in conversations, the response given by trainers more than half the time went a little something like this:

“Wearable what?”

The Resistance

The enemy of change has long been known as complacency, but in the fitness arena, where many archaic systems have been validated for decades, the real enemy of the digital health movement is the illusion of competence.

Tech Crunch recently published an article around the use of wearables, pushing out the headline:

“Your Fitness App Is Making You Fat”

Although the author makes a salient point around ease of use, I disagree that the wearable market is not yet able to deliver a promise of helping us maintain a desirable weight and live better lives.

The author loses focus around the power of increased mindfulness that can be yielded from this new technology.

That technology is here for us to use right now, today, and it's growing.

Shown in real life case studies like BGR's Zach Epstein and his 50lb weight loss journey using a wearable, posts like what Tech Crunch wrote essentially just give people another reason not to trust something new.

Resistance to change is born in our egos, and although this technology isn't perfect today, the digital seed of change has already been planted.

But will the fitness industry go with the flow?

Changing The Paradigm

To see through a new lens, we need to buy a new camera.

Clubs like Equinox and Life Time Fitness are already pouring the concrete and laying a firm foundation for new fitness data ecosystems.

Industry wide, there are thoroughbreds that are leading the pack towards progress.

FIT-C's Bryan O'Rourke is one of them.

“The gym market has long wanted to extend beyond its present reach,” he said. “There’s going to be the merging of the digital and physical worlds from a service perspective, just like it is in retail shopping.” – Bryan O'Rourke, President, Fitness Technology Council

In a recent poll published by Business Insider about the upcoming impact of the Apple Watch, personal trainers seem to be reluctantly hopeful about the real power of this data.

It's impact is coming, whether we want it to or not.

It's Getting Sticky

A major roadblock in mass adoption for wearable technology is it's ease of use. Whether its a rash on the wrist, low battery, or a dashboard that won't give you the data you need, what's exciting about the wearables market now is the emerging tools that transcend barriers like the AmpStrip.

Beyond the wrist, AmpStrip uses medical grade adhesive to affix on the body, making it as easy to wear as your favorite Metallica t-shirt.

Infinitely more accurate than a radial pulse, with no phone needed, AmpStrip claims to work with almost any device.

In an attempt to focus attention on the phone being the primary activity tracker, JAMA's recent report was soon deemed irrelevant due to their testing devices being over 2 years old.

I guess they figured out that wearable devices worn on the body 24/7 are highly more effective and accurate than simply using a phone.

With all due respect I have to say, duh.

When was the last time you held your phone in your hand when playing tennis?

Risks Vs. Rewards

In regards to fitness wearables and apps, essentially what we are looking at in the next 2-3 years is a shift towards the integration of effective mindfulness training.

This technology will yield a landscape where coaches and trainers alike can accelerate the results their clients deserve

By 2018, trainers will have slid to the back burner as digital health coaches will break the ice in new frontiers of client wellness. Wearables are a part of this, but the real magic exists in the software and accountability that the right digital health ecosystem can provide.

Using fitness client's activity data readily available from systems such as Tic Trac, Human API, and the powerhouse TechoGym (who've already launched the MyWellness cloud) the wellness industry is also primed for a radical transformation in the way its customers relate, communicate, and ultimately choose comprehensive health services.

With the trending growth and popularity of wearable technology and digital health applications, trainers are morphing into coaches while the fitness industry is changing its wardrobe for wellness.

“..If technology can help you to go home to yourself and take care of your anger, take care of your despair, take care of your loneliness, if technology helps you to create joyful feelings, happy feelings for yourself and for your beloved ones, it’s going in a good way and you can make good use of technology.” – Thich Nhat Hanh