In 2016, experts predict wearable technology sales to hit $14 billion. And it doesn’t stop there. Research indicates that by 2020, 411 million wearable devices, worth a staggering $34 billion, will be sold. Wearable technology is sweeping the nation and it’s changing the fitness industry along the way.
Wearable technology includes activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, GPS tracking devices, and smart eye glasses (designed to show maps and track activity). One of the most common fitness devices is Fitbit. This smart device is worn on your wrist to track various aspects of your day to day life. Some simply track how many steps you take during the day. Others are as extensive as tracking your daily exercise, activity, weight, food and sleep. This is just one of the many wearable technologies that are driving sales–not to mention the Apple Watch Series 2 or the Samsung Gear S2.
Industry leaders are taking notice of these rising sales. Every year for the last 10 years, the American College of Sports Medicine announces fitness trend predictions for the upcoming year based on a national survey. For the past two years, wearable technology has accurately been forecasted as the number one trend among fitness aficionados.
In 2014, wearable technology in the form of sports and activity trackers was a $700 million industry. This number now seems to pale in comparison to the $14 billion it’s worth only two years later.
“Technology is now a must-have in our daily lives. Everyone can easily count steps taken or calories burned using a wearable device or a smartphone,” said Walter R. Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM, the lead author of the survey and associate dean in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “The health data collected by wearable technology can be used to inform the user about their current fitness level and help them make healthier lifestyle choices.”
Thompson is spot on. These devices are waking up the fitness fanatic in people by giving them the power to be their own personal trainer. The wearable device fan base even extends beyond fitness aficionados. Kids as young as nine years old are asking for these expensive technologies too. Kids want to see how many steps they take per day, if only to “out-step” their friends–turning this lifestyle device into a child-friendly toy.
At this point, you may be questioning what started this trend? Why has wearable technology swept the nation? The answer to these questions traces back to economic prosperity at the turn of the century.
Back to the Basics
In most developed economies, including the United States, pre-recession consumer behavior was driven by almost fifteen years of uninterrupted prosperity. As consumers’ real disposable incomes grew, so did their confidence and spending habits. During this time, customers could afford to experiment with new gadgets and technologies, shell out for exciting experiences, and indulge in premium products.
However, after the 2008 recession, many people saw a drastic decline in their disposable incomes. Market trends quickly changed to match this new lifestyle. Several dominant trends marked the post recession consumer, but one major trend was the increase in people’s desire for simplicity. Even before the recession, consumers were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of choices and constant connectivity. This resulted in a “back to the basics” ideology.
This ideology greatly permeated consumer decisions, even related to health and fitness. Consumers’ interest became peeked by fitness workouts available from home–without the personal trainers, fancy equipment and expensive gym memberships that most could no longer afford.
However, trend forecasters are seeing how this “back to the basics” ideology is on its way out with economic prosperity on its way in. With consumer confidence slowly regaining strength, major technology companies feel confident introducing new and innovative technologies to the market. Enter wearable technology.
No Trainer, No Problem
The “do-it-myself” mentality that fitness fans began adapting with home workouts remains, with a slightly new and tech-savvy twist. However, it is yet to be seen if this mentality will prove sustainable. While wearable fitness trackers certainly prove to be easier, are they as effective as investing in that overpriced personal trainer?
Some are already saying that wearable technology is less likely to help you lose weight. Fitness trackers show how far you’ve come during the day–or how far you still have to go. This can work to either motivate or overwhelm and discourage.
While some may become discouraged by the results that these wearable devices are displaying, the majority of individuals feel encouraged. After interviewing several friends who own Fitbits, the overwhelming sentiment was that these devices encourage you to get creative about fitness. A college student at Michigan University said, “I walk to class everyday, sometimes for half an hour at a time. I used to get annoyed at having to walk this far but now my Fitbit tracks how far I walk every day. It’s actually really impressive! I even find myself being motivated to take the stairs instead of the elevator, just so I can rack up a few more steps on my Fitbit. I know it sounds silly but it’s become a sort of daily challenge I use to motivate myself.”
This is a glimpse into how wearable technology is making it easier for people everywhere, including busy college students, to feel in charge of their fitness futures.
The “do-it-myself” mentality may be why wearable technology has become such a noticeable trend, and not simply a fleeting phase. Improved economic prosperity in combination with lingering self-initiation proves to be the perfect combination for the success of wearable technology. Wearable technology in the form of fitness trackers and smartwatches are enabling individuals to take control and be their own personal trainer. The fitness device can’t make miracles happen on its own. But in combination with a motivated mentality, wearable technology is on its way to revolutionizing the way we think about fitness.