The next generation of fitness trackers and wearable wellness devices are coming, and with them are several new trends and capabilities. The most common feature is the ability to monitor more items related to your health. The second trend will be sharing your personal statistics with others, especially your health insurance carrier and if you meet various goals, insurance costs may be lowered.
The Future of Fitness
Fitness trackers all have miniature computer chips and circuits inside them. Currently, they can easily monitor steps taken, and relative changes in altitude to measure stairs climbed. Based on secondary data in an external program, they can estimate calories burned and distance traveled. The next level already performed in many trackers includes monitoring heart rate, and providing rough measures of sleep based on body motion. The increased level of monitoring provides a measure of fitness in most people. Some of the units are also including GPS receivers such that distance and time can be more closely estimated.
Future fitness trackers are looking at tracking other aspects of health. Other parameters that are likely to be added are blood oxygen saturation, possibly CO2 levels in the blood, and blood glucose. For runners and high level athletes, lactate levels in the body, and some are looking at measuring electrolytes in the sweat to improve performance. Other possible health monitors that may be incorporated somehow will be more sophisticated heart beat evaluation and brain wave analysis at night to check sleep patterns.
Although these devices are improving, they are not necessarily as accurate as those used in the medical office setting and likely will not be considered medical devices. They will be useful to give a person more immediate information about their overall health status, but they certainly shouldn’t replace regular checkups with your doctor.
Fitness Trackers and Insurance
Some employers and at least one major insurance carrier are now starting programs using fitness trackers to motivate employees to work on healthier lifestyles. One measure of health is the amount of activity a person performs, and this is measured by the number of steps taken during the day and the frequency during the day of increased activity. By meeting certain goals of activity, health insurance costs may be fractionally lowered. The one fact this all hinges upon is those who exercise regularly tend to be in better health and thus have lower health care costs.
Everyone knows the importance of exercise. For those with pain, it is even more important. Pain may limit what they can do for exercise but it is still essential and in most cases improves the quality of health and diminishes pain. Exercise needs to include overall activity for cardiovascular health and increase endorphins, and stretching and strengthening routines. All three components of exercise are necessary, and fitness trackers can help motivate a person to be consistent. The reward will be personal with better health and improved functional activity.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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