Dr. Martin Grunert, PSB Academy
Dr. Martin Grunert, Associate Dean (Teaching & Learning) and Head of School of Life & Physical Sciences, PSB Academy
What value do wearables currently have in the academic elds of health and the sport sciences?
Academically, wearables occupy a niche now – it’s starting to encroach onto modern analytical technology. In the past, if you wanted to measure something as simple as heartrate for an athlete who is performing a particular task, the kind of equipment you need to do that was quite onerous. It’s a lot more affordable now than it used to be; wearables are very cheap in comparison to what professional and analytical equipment is. It also means that you can have your students acquire a lot more data. They can go and analyze that data and do things with it.
Are wearables actually benecial or are they just a marketing gimmick?
There are probably decent helpings of both. In terms of being useful, wearables are accurate enough these days. They can tell you things about your heart rate, and soon they are able to tell you about hydration. There are newer wearables in the market projected in the next couple of years that will also be able to analyze blood chemistry for diabetics.
On the ip side, the type of data that wearables have, in many contexts, is too complicated for the average consumer to make much sense out of. Really, unless as a consumer you’re willing to learn about that and is interested in developing that knowledge, then there’s not much that the data could really give you beyond motivation and making you feel good.
Have wearables shaped the way people approach tness and general health?
I think there was actually a study done in Singapore where they gave a large number of users Fitbits for 12 months. They gave (the participants) monetary reward or donations to a charity on their behalf, and they found were the average user that had a wearable increased their activity by about 16 minutes a week, which doesn’t ultimately lead to tangible improvements.
There are individuals where the desire of using a new piece of technology will spur them on to exercise for a time period, but it’s like getting a new gym membership at the start of the year. If you look at Apple Watch’s gimmick, “closing” the rings for some people is a strong motivational aspect to their lives, and it does change they exercise. For other people, the novelty wears off and the wearable goes back onto the shelf.
Do you personally use a wearable?
I personally do not. I use an armband heart rate monitor when I exercise. At this point in time, it’s something where the accuracy versus the output data versus value versus its cost is something that’s not necessarily justiable. These things wear off in novelty quite quickly. In some cases, phones are actually better at tracking - integrated motion sensors used with apps like RunKeeper or Runtastic are good at tracking data.
“It’s about trying to build tness into your day-to-day lifestyle, so you’d actually make a noticeable change to the things you do.”