Is Wearable Technology Good for Us?

 

In just a few short years, wearable technology has gone from being nonexistent to being virtually everywhere. Wearables have the potential to change our lives and society – for better and for worse. Read on to find out why Daniel Lahav, Registered Physiotherapist and strength coach (CSCS) thinks wearables might have a negative effect on our health.

What Is Exercise?

The dictionary defines exercise as “an activity requiring a physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.” The key words in this definition are ‘physical effort.’
 
Is walking from your bedroom to the washroom a physical effort? Is walking your dog or cycling to work a physical effort? The answer is different for different people.  The definition of physical effort is very subjective. The answer lies in the most important principal in fitness: the overload principal.

The Overload Principal

The overload principal is a fundamental principle of training in which exercise at an intensity above that required for daily activities will induce highly specific adaptations, enabling the body to function more efficiently. Overload is applied by manipulating training frequency, intensity, and duration (or a combination of those).

Daily Activity is NOT Exercise

Taking this theory into consideration, ‘physical effort’ therefore means doing something in a higher intensity than the effort required for your daily activities. Walking your dog doesn’t usually require an increase in intensity and therefore is not the same thing as exercising (although it is a healthy activity – it isn’t exercise or training). They are two very different things.
 
As a health and fitness professional for more than 20 years, I have noticed that many people are beginning to think of their daily activities as exercise. In my mind, this is a response to living in a society, which as a whole, is gradually moving a lot less. This has been studied and shown to be true for the past two generations. As well, our wearable technology is counting our physical activity movement as exercise and giving wearers a false sense of activity levels. 

The Wearable Phenomena

Wearable gadgets claim to be able to measure data like how many steps you took, heart rate, how much and what quality sleep you got, and can even inform you (through an app) that your temperature is higher or lower than normal. These devices are aggressively marketed to us and seem like they could provide useful information that would help translate to better health and wellness outcomes, and for some, they probably do. For example, for people with cardiac issues, who need ongoing heart rate and/or blood pressure monitoring, these devices are lifesavers.
 
However, most people wearing these devices don’t require medical monitoring and the general risks of wearing these devices needs to be evaluated.

What Are the Risks of Using Wearables?

Personally, I see several issues with this technology:
 
  • Inaccurate data leading people to think they have exercised more than they actually have and therefore encouraging a trend to move less. Meta analysis (research analyzing all the trials done trying to answer the question of whether these devices measure accurately what they claim to measure) have concluded that these devices aren’t as accurate as they claim to be.
  • People will stop listening to the cues and signals from their bodies and will rely on the technology to tell them how they feel. We will start to lose the ability to connect with the signals from our body – like the feeling of being full after a meal, the feeling of being exerted after an activity, or the feeling of being rested after a good nights sleep. Tuning into how you actually feel, without having a pile of numbers and data to tell you how you feel, might be the best way to approach your health.
  • Privacy Issues. Wearables enable the surveillance of individuals and their behaviors and surroundings as well, which can lead to major privacy threats and risks. These same companies save most of your internet surfing history. Now that they have both your surfing history (which reflects who you are) combined with your physiological data. That is a lot of knowledge that translates into how to make money off you by knowing how to hack your brain rather than how to make you a better person.

Are We Progressing as a Species?

We have contracted out building our homes, then contracted out growing our food, then contracted out making our clothing. In the western world, we’ve mostly contracted out cooking and food preparation, and now – we are contracting out feedback loops from our body to technology. It’s inevitable that we will soon be contracting out our decision making (algorithms predicting behaviour are already here and exponentially getting more sophisticated).
 
As a species looking to evolve, does this look like progression or regression to you?

Take off the Gadgets and Move with Effort

If you don’t have a ‘condition’, I would personally take that gadget off your wrist and start paying more attention to how you actually feel inside. And – keep up with daily movement but make sure to do it with increasing intensity and effort.

Get In Touch

If you, or someone you know was or still is addicted to using wearable technology, tell us about it. We’d love to hear other perspectives on this fascinating debate!
 

About The Author

Daniel Lahav, is a Registered Physiotherapist and strength coach (CSCS) with a passion for anything related to the ‘human condition.’  You can find him at our Mayfair Lakeshore Sports Clinic location. If you’d like to book an appointment with him, contact (416) 466-3704 or email dholland@mayfairclubs.com.

 







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