According to the American College of Sports Medicine, wearable technology will be the biggest trend in fitness for 2017. These findings, published in the ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, came from a survey of more than 1,800 professionals in health and fitness. The results indicate continuing interest in the possibilities of innovative medical products for monitoring fitness routines and promoting healthy lifestyles.
"The survey included over 1,800 health and fitness pros."
Surveying health trends
The ACSM has conducted its annual poll for 11 years, presenting fitness professionals with a list of established and emerging trends. The respondents rank each item on a scale of one to 10 by its likelihood to catch steam in the coming year. This year's list featured both the top 25 candidates from previous years, plus fresh options selected by the journal's editors, for a total of 42 possible trends.
The study's authors draw a distinction between trends, which are expected to grow over time, and fads, which fade quickly, in choosing the items on the list. They also cast a wide net in seeking responses, with the survey going out to 24,296 individuals, and responses coming from Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Singapore, Taiwan, Venezuela, Switzerland, Jamaica, South Africa, Bermuda, Greece and Finland in addition to the U.S. Of the respondents, 23 percent said they work full- or part-time as personal trainers.
This was the second year in a row when mobile health devices – including activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices and smart glasses – took the No. 1 spot. Among the other top choices were body weight training, high-intensity interval training, educated and certified fitness professionals, and strength training. Group exercise training broke the top 20 for the first time in the survey's history, landing in sixth place.
Looking ahead for health products
Mobile health products have a wide range of applications, but as the survey demonstrates, this technology has already made a profound impact on the way people work out. The devices give wearers motivation to get up and moving, and encourages them to think more about the calories they consume and expend in the course of a day. One small study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a group of inactive, postmenopausal women who were equipped with a wearable engaged in 38 more minutes of exercise per week than another group given only standard pedometers.
IDC reported that the wearables market grew by 3.1 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2016, with fitness trackers leading the way. The ACSM pointed to the high sales figures for certain devices as further evidence of their growing importance. The study's authors admitted it is difficult to know how the devices will develop and their uses will change in the years to come. However, it seems clear that fitness will continue to play an important role consumer health product design.
Walter R. Thompson, associate dean in the College of Education and Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta, was the study's lead author. He noted in a press release that the convenience and familiarity of devices made them both appealing and useful to fitness enthusiasts.
"Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives," he said. "Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smartphone. The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices."
The ACSM study demonstrates that digital health products have continued to capture the interest of fitness professionals. It remains to be seen how new product design and development will support health and well-being as this trend carries on.