This week the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released their annual survey of fitness and health professionals. The survey, often cited as a predictor of fitness trends in the upcoming year, includes responses from 2,800 industry pros.
And the groundbreaking insight for 2016 is … wearable technology such as fitness trackers are expected to be the #1 fitness trend in 2016.
You don’t say.
I’m kidding with the snark. Although this may not be an especially surprising result, it does line up with other industry data. For example, a new report (released just this week) from WinterGreen Research predicts that the fitness and sports wearable market will reach $14.9 billion by 2021, up from about $3.5 billion in 2014.
In the release announcing the report, they make what I believe is an incredibly important point — one that I’ve been grappling with as a fitness enthusiast and general consumer:
In sports and fitness technology, it is not about what data can be shown, it is how meaningful the data is in terms of improving athletic performance or managing overall personal fitness. Wearables have become fitness and sports personal devices. They bring big data, enough data that it can be turned into actionable information … Whether it is an UP band or Zepp, vendors have been forced to realize that people need interpretation of data, they need to know the meaning of data collected by the wearable.
I use and am a big fan of fitness trackers. I started with a Fitbit, had a brief affair with an Apple Watch and am currently wearing a Basis Peak. I also use a Zepp for tennis. And I’m still not satisfied.
I loved my Fitbit, but the Fitbit version I want to use (the Surge) looks ridiculous on my small wrists. The Apple Watch — although beautiful — is too first gen to be all that useful from a fitness POV. And while I love the simplicity of the Basis Peak, it’s too simple (I miss GPS for runs!). And none yet provide the deeper data interpretation that will really take them to the next level.
For example, here are just some of the questions that tend to run through my head when I look at my data:
- Ok, so yesterday I got 10,000 steps, mostly via a long, intense run. The rest of the day I sat on my butt doing work. Today I got 25,000 steps, but from a long, leisurely sightseeing stroll with out-of-town guests. Which is better?
- Last night I got 4 hours of “light” sleep and 2 hours of “deep” sleep, and I woke up twice. And so … ?
On a daily basis, I look at my steps, calories burned, heart rate, mileage (when I wear a device with GPS), and sleep quality. Sure, it’s all interesting info. At a basic level, it helps me understand whether I’m achieving the fundamental health and fitness goals I’ve set for myself.
But what’s less clear is how does it all add up to a big picture health and wellness snapshot that will truly guide me to better — or dare I say ultimate — health and fitness? What’s the relationship between sleep, activity and calories burned? Where does heart rate factor in? What does it all mean — and not just for the general population, but for me specifically? I guess I could take all of my data, and then put it through the filter of all of the information I consume about optimal health and fitness. But I’d rather my wearable do that for me.
So, it’ll be interesting to see who will be able to capture this rapidly growing market. Which wearable maker will hit the sweet spot of functionality, design and actionable data? Will it be an incumbent, or a newcomer? Will it be the folks with the biggest bucks (ahem, Apple) or most focus (here’s looking at you, Fitbit). Or will the market evolve beyond traditional wearables into something we’ve only just started to imagine?
P.S. Curious about the other top trends ACSM predicts for 2016? Here’s their handy infographic: