There’s a lot of buzz about fitness technology as a trend. However, for a trend to be valuable to the fitness industry, it must help people exercise more regularly and effectively. Fit tech does both, but it may also complicate how people feel about working out. If getting off the couch wasn’t enough of a hurdle, now they’ve got to be up to speed with technology, too. “It’s possible that for some, the idea of ‘needing’ a tech tool can be a barrier to getting started, much like ‘needing’ to buy a new pair of running shoes to start a walking program,” says Mark Berman, MD, vice president of health for Mark One Lifestyle Inc. in San Francisco. However, he believes people see tech tools mostly as a means for starting or progressing exercise.

When it comes to helping people get moving, or move more, fitness technology works. However, there’s at least one setback. Research shows that many people toss their activity trackers in a drawer after only a few months. “What we have seen is that the initial engagement . . . dries up very quickly,” says California-based Darcy Norman, PT, director of the Performance InnovationTeam for EXOS. This is an important consideration for any fitness professional who builds trackers and tracker data into their client services.

Does activity tracker attrition affect whatever exercise program might have been ignited? Or do people quit fitness technology because they quit exercise first?

Mark Berman sheds some light. “Attrition with wearables is a very real problem, but ever since ‘exercising’ became a thing to do, people have started and stopped exercising,” he says. “The real question is whether the accessibility of wearables makes the stop part of the cycle shorter and whether the net effect is to empower and excite more people to exercise more often. From a behavioral perspective, we would expect wearables to be a net empowerment tool; they should facilitate a net increase in exercise. The available data supports this idea, but it’s still a very young research question.”

To read more about the benefits and potential hurdles of fitness technology, please see “Fitness Technology Conundrum” in the online IDEA Library or in the November-December 2015 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

Amanda Vogel, MA

Amanda Vogel, MA, is a fitness professional and the owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing and consulting service for fitness professionals. She writes for IDEA, Health, Prevention, and Self, and has co-authored books on postnatal fitness and yoga. With a master's degree in human kinetics, Amanda has worked in the fitness industry for more than 15 years, including time spent as a program director and vice president for a chain of all-women clubs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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