Wearable tech goes beyond workouts to find medical use

At 3 pm on a work day this month, Chen Yan, 29, a fitness enthusiast in Beijing, received an alert on her Apple Watch. A friend had just finished her yoga session, and in doing so overtook Chen in a fitness ranking list.

Chen and her friends are part of a fitness group. They enlisted for a seven-day e-competition on Apple Watch, which would record their exercise data and update automatically, comparing participants’ performance in real time. The winner received a gold medal.

“Three aspects are considered to calculate the scores: movement, exercise and standing still,” Chen said.

“During the competition, I’d receive alerts about my and everyone else’s score. If my friends overtook me, I’d be more motivated to exercise. The watch performs the role of a fitness secretary, mentor and coach.”

Li Xiaoyu, a triathlete from Taiwan, said: “You may also share other data like your physical condition, time spent on exercising, calories consumed, and so on, with your real coach, so he or she could better train you.”

The latest model of Apple Watch records user data in terms of exercise type – swimming, yoga, or jogging – making the result more accurate. The data can be uploaded onto users’ iPhones, where graphics can be generated. Users can analyze their exercise data during a specific period of time.

“The watch can even recognize the type of stroke (breast stroke, back stroke, etc) when you swim. All kinds of data, including travel distance, exercise time, heart rates before, during and after the exercise, are recorded. These data help users to make a better fitness plan. The watch is so convenient I don’t feel like taking it off ever,” Li said.

Qu Jing, a medical industry analyst at Beijing-based market research consultancy Analysys, said: “When exercising, wearing a sports watch is much more convenient than carrying a mobile phone. Users can upload their data onto their phones when they finish exercising. In addition, recording data according to the exercise type helps facilitate sports evaluation and personalized plans.”

She further said that wearable devices not only gather sports-related data but store users’ personal health data, making them applicable in the medical sector as well.

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