Is Technology in Fitness Good?
More and more technology is consuming every square inch of our lives. It isn’t a surprise that we are seeing this, the rapid growth of technology enabled devices is insane. And we aren’t just talking about smartphones, those have been a thing for a while. We are talking about kitchen appliances, cars, kids toys, how we learn, etc. The list is extensive.
We have our phones constantly in hand, use a smart home device to turn on our TV or adjust the temperature in the house, have a robot that comes out and vacuums the flow all on its own, and we listen to music entirely digitally – sometimes without even clicking a button – let alone pulling a cd from the shelf. Cars will soon be driving themselves and who knows how much longer it will be before we don’t even have to cook for ourselves.
Technology is wonderful. And scary (who here has seen iRobot?). We love the convenience and ability to get stuff done while we focus elsewhere. Technology can truly be really helpful – it can also cause some issues. Like what happens to our brains when all our social interactions are online? Or will our bodies feel the impact of less movement in not doing all the house chores ourselves?
These concerns may seem kind of crazy when we’re still interacting with humans and we are still doing quite a few chores (unless you have a robot that folds your laundry? If so, drop me a line because I want one too!). But the reality is that technology is changing how we live our lives. And doing so very quickly.
Now I am obviously not a scientist, I don’t have to wrestle with the moral questions that come with creating artificial intelligence or the social ramifications of less face-to-face interaction. So, you don’t have to worry, I won’t be tackling those subjects or condemning anything. This is a fitness blog after all.
Where I am going with this is that the technology movement is indeed felt in the fitness world just like everywhere else. We look at all the fitness gadgets and ooh and ahh over them, they are really cool! But when we dive in do we find that they are helping and contributing to meeting your fitness goals?
That is what we are looking at today. I will pull a few popular examples of technology in fitness and explore if I think they will help you meet your goals.
Note: this is not meant to be an in depth recommendation of everything you should use in fitness and how to use it, rather an overview of where we see tech infiltrating fitness and some simple pros and cons to be aware of.
Subject #1: Fitness Watches
It’s easy to get obsessed with wearable technology. It’s always there when you want to check and evaluate where you are at. This one is tricky to evaluate because it can do several actions that have different effects, such as heart rate, steps, blood pressure, sleep, and so on.
Pros of fitness watches:
· Ease to track
· Motivation to hit goals
Cons of fitness watches:
· May not be accurate
· Recommended settings don’t always align with what is best
Verdict: Good, with caution
Fitness watches can be a great tool (like many things on this list) but have some pitfalls to watch out for. They are NOT substitutes for a trainer or professional exercise plan. Many of the features of a fitness watch, like step counting, are really helpful and offer no downside. The ability to track how much movement you are getting and helping you hit movement goals has huge benefits to increasing your awareness and motivation.
While other features like blood pressure and heart rate monitoring really need to be used as tools alongside a planned effort. It can be a dangerous thing to always think you are doing better just because your heart rate is higher. Talk to a trainer or an experienced fitness friend about how to use those features best, they can help a lot when paired with a plan.
Subject #2: Smart Weights (or adjustable weights)
These can come in a few types. Adjustable dumbbells or kettlebells can be as simple as plates and rods that you take on and off with some sort of locking mechanism, and range up to dumbbells which change wait with a turn of a dial, or even voice commands if you can believe that!
They are really good for a home gym when you are needing to save some space and you know what you’re doing. But may not be best for a beginner learning to add a little weight into their routine and don’t need the extra gadgetry of smart weights.
Pros of adjustable weights:
· Save space
· Convenient to use and travel with
· Can change weight in small increments easily
Cons of adjustable weights:
· Susceptible to breaking or not working
Verdict: Good, if you are doing a lot of weight training
You may see a trend here. Most of these gadgets and technologies in fitness are good as long as you use them in the right way and at the right time. I’ve been told over and over that the most common sentence in fitness is ‘it depends’.
This is true because fitness is very personal and most of what is right for you is not right for the next person. Before investing in an expensive set up of adjustable weights vs fixed weights you need to consider what you are doing with them and if they can help in that specific goal. Like I said, you will see a trend with this.
Subject #3: Machine Technology
This is like pelotons or other smart screens that go along with machines, ranging from treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, etc. Some companies, like Peloton, can be placed on multiple forms of machinery. Others are fixed for one machine.
Pros of machine technology:
· Engaging content to keep you from getting bored
· Places you in a community
· Can keep you accountable to a degree
Cons of machine technology:
· Expensive, and can require subscriptions
· Isn’t always a good fit for everyone
Similar to working out on a regular bike or treadmill, smart technology enabled machines give the same physical benefits with added motivation of streaming a workout class or engaging you with other content.
Subject 4: Fitness and Wellness Apps
Talk about a wide range of things to cover here! Fitness log apps, food intake tracking, sleep trackers, fitness workouts, mental health exercises, the list goes on. There is an app for everything! And when you find one that works for you it is a good addition to your lifestyle. Headspace, Strava, Myfitnesspal, Fiit, the choices are endless.
Pros of apps:
· Easy to track progress
· Easy to set goals and lay out steps
· Boost motivation
Cons of apps:
· Accuracy can differ
· May cost money
· Doesn’t take the place of a personal advice
Verdict: Good, if you’re able to find ones that fit well for your life and personality
Most fitness apps can bring a lot of benefits to your life. Particularly in the sense of tracking what you’re doing or eating. They can’t take the place of personal advice, that is the important thing to remember. But when used in the right way can offer a lot of benefits.
This is only a few types of technology we are seeing in fitness. But it is a taste to get you thinking about what is out there and where it could benefit you. In the world we live in today, technology has to be incorporated to keep up with the ever increasing pace of life.
But technology doesn't exercise for you. You still have to muster old fashioned motivation and accountability to exercise with or without technology.
The routines and habits needed to create and sustain a healthy lifestyle will still need to be built with little steps by making smart choices on your own, such as buying healthy foods and scheduling time to exercise.
So take all the new cool toys with moderation, it can be dangerous to rely on them too greatly. Nothing beats a nice walk outside or a quick workout in a gym where you can smell the sweat and be encouraged by other people around you working to meet their goals too.
Another thought to put in your head is this: You should use all technology with caution because you don’t want to lose the connectivity you have with your body and give it to your smart devices. As we say over and over, fitness is extremely personal to you. A good relationship and communication between your head and your body will never lose its importance in your healthy living.
As is the relationship you have with a trainer or doctor who you trust to give you recommendations that meet your personal goals and physiological needs.
So get the smart watch, try a Peloton class, and track your sleep with an app. But remember, they won’t get you fit on their own.
To hear us chat about this topic more and talk about what technology has worked for us, listen to Simple(ish) Fitness Podcast where we bring a personal touch to the conversation of fitting technology into your healthy lifestyle!