Network Blog

Reflections on fitness, wellness, health and more

How wearable tech can boost incidental exercise

By Australian Fitness Network's Executive Director, Nigel Champion

Our promise to our clients and members is that we will guide, support and motivate them through their health and fitness journeys. The difficulty in delivering on this promise is that we may only see them for an hour or two each week. So, the $64,000 question is, what do we do about the remaining 166+ hours of the week when we don’t see them?

The answer lies in convincing them of the incredible benefits of incidental activity – exercise that they won’t even realise they are doing. The effects of every small act of movement performed throughout the day accumulate, and result in increased energy expenditure. This is not about attending a training session, going for a run or playing sport, but about choosing to be active whenever possible instead of taking the easy, sedentary option. Take the stairs not the lift. Park five minutes further from your workplace. Walk around the office to ask colleagues simple questions rather than emailing or phoning them.

For clients and members to truly realise the power of incidental exercise, however, it needs to be measurable. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s very easily done these days. As well as tracking daily activity levels and providing immediate feedback to the wearer, data gathered by wearable technology can often be automatically shared with a personal trainer, thereby enabling the PT to monitor their client and offer advice and encouragement accordingly.

While some wearable technology is designed specifically for use during exercise, when it comes to gauging the exertions of incidental activity, wrist-worn devices are probably the more practical option, as clients can wear them all day without even thinking about it. We’re talking smart watches like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Samsung Gear Fit, Moto 360 and wearables like Jawbone and MisFit, all of which download daily activity to your phone.

These devices can record incidental exercise, and set daily activity goals based on recommendations from leading health organisations. The five activity areas monitored and recorded by Apple Watch, for example, are steps taken, kilojoules burned, distance moved, floors climbed and time spent standing. Throughout the day the wearable provides progress updates until the goals in each area are achieved.

The irony of all this, of course, is that technology is largely responsible for the huge reduction in incidental exercise in our daily lives, resulting in the high incidence of sedentary lifestyle diseases, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. But just because it contributed to the problem doesn’t mean technology can’t also be part of the solution.
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