Grace Culhane

Nutrition Wearables: Wellness Technology that Moves with You

Wearable technology is the leading fitness trend for 2019, according to a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. The survey gathered information from over 2,000 fitness professionals working in a variety of settings: corporate gyms, nonprofits, medical facilities, and corporate medical programs. Participants were asked to rate 39 potential trends for the coming year, and wearables came out on top, the Washington Post reported.

Some facts

What are wearables?

“Wearables,” or wearable fitness technology, is a broad category of wearable tech items that allow customers to monitor some aspect of their health or wellness. According to an article by Digital Salutem, they also “typically provide tracking, content, coaching and meaningful insights. At the most basic level, wearables give fitness lovers the ability to track their progress.” Smart watches, fitness trackers, tech clothing, and smart eye wear all fall under the category of tech wearables, but how they’re used determines whether they qualify as nutritional wearables.

One of the most widely-recognized nutritional wearables is the Fitbit, a fitness tracker that provides users with information about their sleep habits, heart rate, and activity levels. Newer models connect with a mobile app that allows them to log their meals each day and track their dietary intake. Users can log their food by searching for a description in the app or scanning a barcode. They then receive information about their calorie intake and a macronutrients breakdown. Smart watches like the Nokia Steel HR and the Apple Watch also have calorie counting features.

The History of Health Wearables

While there’s been a huge surge in popularity of health-related tech gadgets in the last decade, the history of this group of products goes back much further. According to an infographic by the Future Health Index, the first design for the pedometer can be traced back to sketches by Leonardo da Vinci in 1472, and Thomas Jefferson introduced the product to the US market in 1788. More recent breakthroughs include the first wearable hearing aid in 1938.

In the past decade, though, a range of products for consumers looking to improve their nutrition and fitness have taken advantage of Bluetooth technology and the advancements made possible by the Internet. In 2003, Garmin released the Forerunner, a bulky smartwatch that measured “speed, distance, pace and calories burned, and… ran from a pair of AAA batteries,” according to Wareable. In 2006, Nike and Apple launched Nike+iPod, a wireless system that connected information from customers’ running shoes to their mp3 players and helped them track their pace and distance. The Fitbit was released a year later, and smartwatch models from Samsung, Sony and Pebble soon followed–and unlike the Forerunner, these models didn’t limit users to a 14-hour battery life.

What’s to Come?

Fast Company recently reported that Apple has begun the process of trademarking fabric designs, which suggests that the tech giant might be turning to smart clothing in the near future. Smart clothing, or e-textiles, are garments that have electronics imbedded into them. A range of smart clothing already exists, from yoga pants that vibrate to correct your poses to Under Armor pajamas that help speed up recovery time from muscle soreness through the use of infrared energy. We can look forward to broader and more creative uses of smart textiles in the future, with products that provide highly specific information about how your body is moving.

According to Android Central, Google is believed to be working on a health and wellness platform that will coach users to improve their eating habits and fitness performance. Called Google Coach, the product will help monitor users’ nutrition and recommend foods, as well as plan workouts and monitor fitness progress. The program could even generate a weekly meal plan and shopping list, delivered directly to the user’s email.

Wareable highlighted an exciting breakthrough from the Georgia Institute of Technology: researchers have designed a mouth piece that can monitor salt intake using Bluetooth technology. The wearable could be especially helpful for patients with diabetes, hypertension and other conditions that require them to limit salt in the diets, as the information is recorded electronically instead of relying on the patient’s memory.

Wearables for People with Food Allergies

Wearable technology has enormous potential to help people with food allergies. As our ability to monitor our food intake improves and overall health metrics get more sophisticated, it’s natural that some manufacturers want to apply this technology to allergy-related wearables.

  • Aibi is a wearable bracelet that monitors kids’ histamine levels to track for a potential allergic reaction. The device then sends out a warning signal to parents or caregivers via smartphone prior to severe anaphylaxis. The bracelet can also auto inject Benadryl and epinephrine if necessary.
  • The Allergy Amulet is a portable necklace, bracelet or watch that contains disposable test strips that patients can use to test their food for the presence of an allergen. They also developed a keychain version of the product.
 

Nutrition and fitness wearables have the potential to provide us with a wealth of information about our bodies, from our activity level to what we’re eating, how we’re sleeping, and what our heart rate looks like. For people with specific health concerns, wearables can help them monitor their condition more closely and provide their doctor with quantitative data to assist with their care. Beyond the opportunities it opens up for monitoring health, wearables also allow users to compete against themselves and others to improve their fitness.

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