In 2020 the global wearable technology market was estimated to be almost 41 billion USD (33.63 GBP). With the number of wearable technology companies entering the marketplace exploding, it can be overwhelming to decide what device is worth investing in. Hopefully this brief overview can provide you some guidance! There are a variety of wearable device categories, ranging from electrical stimulation to player tracking. However, to fall in line with our goal of optimizing the female athlete, we will only be exploring two here: those that track physiologic biomarkers and those that monitor metabolism.

Physiologic Biomarkers: These are the devices that we often think of when referring to wearable tech. Think of Garmin, Apple Watch, and Oura! These devices non-invasively monitor physiologic parameters like heart rate, sleep, and much more! When searching for the perfect match for you, think about your lifestyle and what you wish to track!

Battery Life:

The battery life of wearable devices is vast and often depends on what capabilities can be performed. The Apple Watch has a battery life of 18 hours, which often leads users to skip out on tracking sleep. Meanwhile, GPS companies such as Garmin and Coros have batteries that can reach up to 14-days, but that time can be decreased by activating GPS. Devices such as Whoop, Biostrap, and Oura that are designed screenless have batteries that last between 3-7 days.

Capabilities:

As a general rule of thumb, a technology designed to assess physiologic biomarkers will all be equipped with a sensor to detect heart rate and a pedometer to track steps. However, as technology has advanced, many devices are now able to track everything from blood oxygen level to stages in sleep! Many companies offer additional social capabilities, such as mirroring phone notifications. Some companies operate screenless, saving both battery life and distractions during exercise. With each additional capability allotted to a device, the price rises accordingly.

Activity Distinction:

General fit-tech companies, such as Apple and Fitbit, offer a one-size fits all approach. Users pay for a device that can track daily movements, caloric expenditure, and basic biometrics. However, the differentiator for these companies is that they also offer access to notifications and touch screen responses, much in the same way that your phone does. Alternatively, companies like Garmin and Coros take an individualistic approach to devices -- meaning a runner can buy a watch that tracks actives differently to that of a cyclist. Lastly, companies like Whoop do not design different wearables for individual athlete classes but are focused on data-driven populations.

User Interface:

Technology companies design their app interfaces with a specific population in mind. For example, Apple provides an easy-to-see ring structure that allows users to see how they are faring throughout the day in terms of steps, exercise minutes, and active calories burned. Alternatively, Garmin displays a scroll through a list of metrics such as training status, heart rate, stress level, and respiration rate. Whoop, on the other hand, displays a strain rate as it compares to athlete readiness on a given day. Being that Apple is designed for the recreationally active businessperson, the ease of the interface provides valuable metrics, while not overwhelming the user. Garmin, focusing on training athletes primarily, provides actionable metrics specific to training state. And Whoop, primarily used by athletes to maximize performance, provides metrics that allow users to gauge readiness and training strain.

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The top image is of the Whoop interface taken from the Whoop blog (1), the bottom left is an image of the author's Garmin interface, and the bottom right image shows the Apple ring interface.

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended watches for sport.

Metabolic Monitoring

Metabolic monitoring devices, such as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), were originally designed for populations who suffer from chronic diseases but have since been adapted for the general public. If you are looking for a metabolic device specified for diabetes, please consult your doctor, as they will likely provide more individualized advice.

Price per sensor:

Metabolic tracking is inherently expensive, as it is a medical-grade technology for at-home use. The most costly aspect of metabolic tracking is the sensors themselves, rather than the software. Each sensor lasts between 7-14 days, so companies will often offer a monthly fee that supplies you with two sensors to last the whole month. The price of the sensors can range anywhere from $169/month up to $350/month. Ultimately, the amount you are paying will depend on which company you prefer overall and how many months you are planning to use the software for (the longer you subscribe, the less expensive the sensors will be).

Compatibility with smartphones:

Being that glucose monitoring devices were designed for diabetic patients, many companies offer CGMs that will notify individuals of relatively clinical concerns (i.e., when blood glucose is dangerously high). However, if you are looking to use CGMs for general health, it’s not necessary to buy the devices with all the bells and whistles. Instead, you should look to invest in companies that integrate their sensor readings with an iOS or Android-compatible app. Such apps allow users to visualize blood glucose levels and log the foods that lead to such increases in glucose throughout the day.

User interface:

As mentioned in the previous section, many less-clinical CGMs provide users with an easy-to-use interface with which to view their ever-changing blood glucose levels. Interfaces often allow users to visualize their glucose levels throughout the day, and input when and what they ate at specific phases. Often, the software will assign an arbitrary score to meals indicating whether it was glucose spiking (i.e., it caused a short spike in blood sugar) or glucose stabilizing (i.e., blood sugar steadily increase and decreased). Some interfaces take these metrics a step further. Such data-heavy companies provide individuals with metrics ranging from peak glucose levels to individual meal graphs.

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Image taken from SuperSapiens Blog (2)

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and player tracking devices.

Whatever device you choose, we’re here to help you understand the data as it pertains to you! Wild.AI integrates with Apple Health, Garmin, Oura, and others. We also are now partnered with Garmin, Oura, and Supersapiens. Find the devices in our storefront!

References

[1] Labs, D. I. “How Does WHOOP Recovery Work?” WHOOP, https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/how-does-whoop-recovery-work-101/. Accessed 23 July 2022.

[2] “Everything You Need to Know About Good & Bad Glucose Spikes.” Supersapiens, 15 Apr. 2022, https://blog.supersapiens.com/glucose-rush-vs-rise/.

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