Will an app or a wearable make you healthier?
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
A slew of new, wearable technology promises to track our every move. No, this isn’t a sinister government program I’m talking about, it’s voluntary health monitors. I wrote about Sense, the high-tech, unobtrusive sleep monitor in July. The monitor raised more than $2,000,000 on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site. Sense will make its debut on shelves in December. You may be asking: Is it worth all the hype?
The App Store is filled with programs designed to help you keep track of your health. Some, like Fooducate, hope to help you make better food choices. There are apps to keep track of menstrual cycles, and apps to help couples conceive. You can also plan, monitor, and track every last workout done and ounce of water consumed.
Google, Amazon, and Samsung are all investing significant time and resources into creating and marketing wearable health technology. Apple wasted no time featuring their new Health app in ads for the iPhone 6. In short, if you want to track something about your health, you can. But do we need wearables and health trackers?
The utility is clear for a person with pre-diabetes. In the US, there are millions of people who are in danger of developing Type 2 diabetes. For those people, increasing exercise and changing their diet is essential. Most wearables, in addition to tracking activity, ping or send a reminder to the user’s smartphone when they don’t get enough movement within a certain time period. The Jawbone (a wearable bracelet) can be set to vibrate when the user has stayed sedentary for an hour.
For people with chronic health conditions, doctors may recommend tracking one or more health indicators. The apps designed to track health through user-generated and entered input are indispensable. A smartphone is a computer in your pocket. Apps that update to the Cloud will save your information, even if you lose the device. They can also spit out reports for your physician. Apps are a more clever pen-and-paper system. It’s a bonus that many of them can prompt you to input data, or remind you to drink more water.
Unfortunately, many (possibly most) of us casual users will sport a wearable enthusiastically for a few weeks, and then forget about them. A wearable may help us create a new habit as it wakes us up to our own apathy for exercise. This biggest difference between apps and wearables is the price: most wearables cost upwards of $100. Apps, on the other hand, usually cost less than $10.
Americans spent around $290 million on health trackers in 2013. The market is expected to grow. So, should you buy into the trend and start sporting a Fitbit Flex or a Nike Fuelband, or gift yourself a Sense come December? There’s no right or wrong, here. Deciding to use a wearable is entirely up to you. It really depends on your preferences, personality, and health needs. The most important thing is to keep moving, or get moving, wearable or not!
If you do want to buy and use a wearable, the New York Times has a detailed roundup and review I suggest checking out. It covers everything from the Jawbone to the Fitbit.
There’s also one man’s account of wearing a variety of trackers for months. It’s worth a read.