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Approach health and fitness goals in a new way with wearable tech and apps.

Improving health and fitness is top of mind for many around the new year. Last year, more than half of Australians made a new year’s resolution to improve their fitness, while one in three planned to eat more healthily.

As global interest in overall health and wellbeing grows, more people are turning to health apps and wearable tech to help them achieve their fitness goals and support overall health and wellbeing. With a multitude of uses, from activity and sleep tracking to providing personalised tips for improvement, there’s much to be gained from these gadgets.

Woman at gym on phone
Man sleeping wearing smart watch
Smart watch

Enjoy movement

A key function of most wearable technology is activity tracking. Measuring movement data is supposed to encourage users to improve their fitness levels, but its effectiveness depends on the individual.

“Motivation is a complex phenomenon. When an activity is rewarding biologically, socially and psychologically, it’s more likely to be continued. Many apps or smart watches provide this in some way,” says Jocelyn Penna, senior psychologist at FOCUS Performance Psychology.

“Motivation is more likely to be long lasting, however, if it’s intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Most of the feedback provided by devices such as times, distances, repetitions and reminders are extrinsic, whereas intrinsic rewards stem from internal sources and include feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment and achievement,” Jocelyn says.

Finding that sense of enjoyment is central to the fitness app experience for professional skateboarder and ProForm brand ambassador Andrew Brophy. “I find the part that’s most helpful for me personally is being able to see all my stats, calories burned, distance, heart rate and where I am in the leaderboard. It’s so cool to know that you’re doing this with hundreds of people,” he says of ProForm’s iFIT app.

The social aspect can be a big motivator too, but keep in mind, everyone’s experience will be different. “An app or smart watch may assist someone to make links to intrinsic sources of motivation such as encouraging reflection or joining with friends, but as these links need to be personally meaningful, the long-term benefits may be limited for some people,” Jocelyn explains.

Person checking smart watch activity
Man wearing smart watch and air pods
Person using smart phone to exercise
Person using smart phone for activity statistics

Sleep tight

Many smart watches provide sleep insights through tracking motion and heart rate, as well as scheduling alarms and limiting distractions.

“Monitoring sleep may provide some useful information, but in order to benefit from sleep tracking, a device needs to be reasonably accurate. Sleep tracking in apps can be best used as a guide, along with education about how to improve sleep patterns,” Jocelyn explains.


Take a moment

Technology is also branching out into the mental wellbeing space, with apps and wearables offering a range of self-care tips, techniques and reminders. As well as improving mindfulness, these apps can be useful for managing day-to-day challenges.

“Breathing apps that encourage people to breathe slowly and mindfully can assist with mild stress, worry and mild symptoms of anxiety. There are also many apps that encourage relaxation, but they need to be chosen to suit the individual,” Jocelyn says.


What’s next

Wearables and apps have progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and as a result, 2.1 million Australians are expected to use wearables by 2024. But it begs the question: what will this future look like?

Along with improved accuracy, technology is predicted to help users keep an eye on medical issues like diabetes and heart conditions. It’s also thought wearables will evolve to track recovery after surgery and even predict seizures, making devices a key medical companion of the future.


Originally published in The Costco Connection, Jan/Feb 2022. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.