The Fit Tech Incompatibility and Choice Conundrum

By Amanda Vogel, MA
Oct 27, 2015

If you don’t already have one strapped around your wrist, you probably know someone who does. Smartwatches and wearable activity trackers are stepping up in popularity, and so are fitness-related mobile apps.

Experts predict that fit tech will play a huge role in the future of fitness and wellness. However, as popular as it is, it’s still in its early stages, which lands the fitness industry in a bit of a conundrum. The tech world is already redefining the fitness landscape—mostly from outside our industry. Meanwhile, many fitness pros (who aren’t necessarily early adopters) are jockeying to determine how relevant this technology is for themselves, their clients and their jobs.

One challenge with technology is how to incorporate potentially incompatible activity trackers and apps into existing services. In the fitness facility, a dumbbell is a dumbbell. With tech, some clients likely have an iPhone while others are Android users; these incompatibilities sometimes affect which health/fit-
ness apps clients and fitness pros have access to. The choices are vast. Who has the time or money (or mobile storage) to try them all? Luckily, there’s no need.

Key in on the commonalities. There are hundreds of wearables in the Amazon Wearable Technology store (at press time). “This number is growing exponen- tially,” says Mark Berman, MD, vice president of health for Mark One Lifestyle Inc. in San Francisco. Will tech-savvy fitness pros need to know the major players in the same way they know how to use multiple pieces of exercise equipment?

“While I think it’s vital that trainers do their best to keep up with technology, it’s going to be very hard to do in the short run,” says Berman. “But ultimately, the currencies these tools capture are a small and common list—things like heart rate, steps per day, calories burned, reps, sets, etc.—so understanding how a few tools work generally translates to understanding how most of them work.”

“Being familiar with some of the mainstream brands is a good idea,” says Bryan O’Rourke, president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council in Covington, Louisiana. “While you cannot keep up with every brand or device, having a reference point is going to be important to many clients now and in the future.” How do you
know which are the most popular brands? Do a Google search for “best activity trackers” and see which ones garner multiple mentions. Take note of how many reviews a device gets on Amazon or an app gets in the popular app stores.

Take your pick. Most fitness pros have go-to exercise equipment they like best; it’s possible to do the same with tech tools. “A fitness pro should know [which devices and apps] will enhance the services they offer, and then know their competitor’s version and understand how they differ,” says Hayley Hollander, fitness director
at Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago.

Ted Vickey, MS, a California-based personal trainer who’s working on a doctorate in fitness technology from the National University of Ireland at Galway, suggests taking it a step further by incorporating your chosen devices into a larger business plan. “If I were a personal trainer wanting to explore fitness technology,
I’d find out as much as I could about the more popular apps and devices,” he says. I’d set up a business relationship [with] these companies, [and] even be a reseller. When a new client came to me, I’d have the entire package ready and be able to explain the benefits at a very simple and easy-to-understand level.”

Watch the big players. Plenty of change is still ahead. “There are tens of thousands of apps out there and hundreds of devices,” says Patrick Jak, MSc, coach, trainer, and director of Metabolic Testing at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. “But the big players, those who are the most accurate and provide the most services, are rising to the top.”

To read more about the role of fitness technology today, please see “Fitness Technology Conundrum” in the online IDEA Library or in the July-August 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.

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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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