Fitness tracking devices have helped many people to improve their exercising, but they are standardised tools.


Fitness tracking devices have helped many people to improve their exercising, but they are standardised tools.

The problem with them that they are neither accurate nor sophisticated enough yet.

So personalised DNA testing sytems are growing.

“As well as providing data for us, companies need to provide coaching with this data. They need to take responsibility for the results they’re providing us,” says Prof Lane.

And Plextek’s Ms Johnson thinks they need to understand more about the individual user.

“They need to recognise whether Sharon from Uxbridge really should be doing two hours of fitness a week, how that’s going to impact upon her body, her joints, whether she’s at risk of osteoporosis.

“Fitness trackers can be too generic, personalising them will motivate us more,” she told the BBC.

Apps, like the Slimming World app, may be better for achieving sustained weight loss, she argues, because they allow you to track your weight loss progress and give you incentives after it has recorded your exercise.

“There is no doubt the industry is booming, but for it to really see results it needs not only to give us results, but to make them as personalised and as accurate as possible.”


So what tech innovations are making fitness tracking more effective?

Genetics and nutrition firm DNAFit advises on how we should be training and what we should be eating after testing our genes and applying its algorithm to the analysis.

You take a saliva swab and send it off to the company’s lab. After 10 days a report tells you which exercises your body will respond to best and which foods you should be eating. The company says its technology platform has been peer reviewed and clinically tested.

Other companies such as FitnessGenes, Genetrainer and AnabolicGenes adopt similar approaches.

Jo Rooney, 35, a deputy headteacher, used the test to try to cure her stomach problems.

“My results came back quite quickly and told me that I was actually lactose intolerant and had a high sensitivity to gluten.

“This did mean quite a radical change to my diet, and a lot more forward planning, but within a week I felt a lot less bloated, lost weight and I’d stopped having stomach problems.”

Body of evidence

Body scanners and tech built into sports clothes are also giving us more detailed results.

For example, Fit3D uses scanners to assess the whole body to calculate body fat percentage, assess posture and give body shape scoring.

While last year, OMsignal launched OMbra, a smart sports bra that tracks heart rate, breathing and distance between steps, and shares this data with a smartphone app.

Prof Lane believes that we’re also going to start seeing biometric devices integrated not just into clothes and wearable devices, but directly on to our bodies as well.

For example, US tech firm Chaotic Moon Studios – now called Fjord – has created a prototype tech tattoo – a skin-mounted monitor that connects to your smartphone to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and even track movement via GPS.

Now we just need an injection of willpower.



Fitness tracking devices have helped many people to improve their exercising.


Fitness tracking devices have helped many people to improve their exercising.

Wearable and portable fitness trackers are certainly helping serious elite athletes to push themselves to the limit.

But what about the rest of us? Does knowing how many calories we’re burning, how fast our hearts are beating, and how many steps we’ve taken really motivate us to do more exercise and eat more healthily?

In short, do they really work?

“They’ve made us all aware of how we treat our bodies, and they have even helped people diagnose things like diabetes and obesity,” says Collette Johnson, head of marketing at design technology consultancy Plextek.

Last year the University of Pittsburgh concluded that fitness trackers were “ineffective at sustaining weight loss”.

The two-year study, conducted by the university’s School of Education Department of Health and Physical Activity, involved 500 overweight volunteers. All were asked to diet and engage in more exercise, but only half were given a fitness tracker to help them.

The study found that the group wearing trackers lost 8lb (3.6kg), but the ones who didn’t lost 13lb (5.9kg).

“Trackers are a reliable measurement of our activity, but we can’t rely on them completely,” says Andrew Lane, professor of sport psychology at the University of Wolverhampton.

“We can’t expect just to buy one and that’s it – some of the responsibility sits with us too. We still have to get off that sofa and complete those 10,000 steps a day.”

Prof Lane believes that, if used inappropriately, they may even start to have a negative psychological effect.

“What if we start consistently not reaching goals set for us by them? Ultimately it would lead to us feeling demotivated – the opposite effect they are supposed to have.”


Leading wearable fitness tracker maker Fitbit reported 2015 revenues of £1.3 billion, while researcher CSS Insight forecasts that the market will be worth £16 billion by 2020.

And the fact that smartwatch sales declined sharply last year, according to market analysts IDC, has led many makers to reposition them primarily as fitness tracking devices – another indication of where the business potential lies.

Such concerns haven’t stopped the market from booming – yet. Please see our next blog post for more information


With the start of the New Year we thought that we would give you some advice if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get moving a bit more.


With the start of the New Year we thought that we would give you some advice if one of your New Yera's resolutions is to get moving a bit more.

Here’s some expert advice to get you started on the Couch to 5K running plan, including what to wear, warming up and nutrition.

If you haven’t exercised for a while, chances are you may not have any suitable clothing. Don’t let this be an excuse – once you have the outfit sorted, you’re far more likely to feel motivated to get out there and use it.

You need a pair of running shoes. Shop around and find sales staff with some technical knowledge. A decent pair of running shoes can cost around £30 to £40, and running socks can also reduce your risk of blisters.

In terms of clothing, you don’t really need technical gear. You just need something loose and comfortable in a breathable material, like cotton. If you keep running regularly after completing Couch to 5K, some specialist clothing would be a good investment.

Women should also consider using a sports bra, which is sturdier than a regular bra and provides additional support. Normal bras reduce breast movement by around 30%, but a good sports bra achieves closer to 55%.

Warming up and down

Include a five minute walk at the beginning and end of the session. Don’t just go out the front door and start running, make sure you go through the preparatory brisk walking stage. As for stretching before a run, opinion is divided on whether this is necessary or even helpful.

For a warm-down, the worst thing you can do is stop running and immediately sit down, so keep walking until you’re fully recovered.

You may want to put on an extra layer of clothing while cooling down, as this will stop you getting cold. For tips on cooling down exercises, read how to stretch after exercise.

How to run

Good running technique will help make your runs feel less tiring, reduce your risk of injury and, ultimately, be more enjoyable.

Avoid striking the ground with your heel or your forefoot first. Landing on the middle of your foot is the safest way to land for most recreational runners. Your foot should land below your hips – not right in front of you.

Eating and drinking

It’s important to have energy for your run, but don’t overdo it. Avoid having a large meal within two hours of your run. You need blood to be in your muscles, not your digestive system. However, a light snack, such as a banana, before running is fine.

As for water, provided you are drinking enough throughout the day, this should not be problem. Some people like to have a water bottle with them while running. If you’re thirsty, drink – just not too much.

If you have decided to start a Parkrun, you are probably making a commitment to becoming more active. This is great and is so important for your health, but making a change like this will require effort and dedication.

Persuade a friend or relative to get involved too. Running with a buddy can really help. Family members need at least to be supportive – it would be fantastic if they can buddy you and come along for a run.

Robin also says it’s important to accept in advance that you will encounter setbacks in your journey. You might have a hectic week at work, be away from home, or even experience illness or injury.

If you’re feeling under the weather – particularly if you have a temperature – do not run. It could be dangerous. But lapse is not failure. Everyone lapses, just don’t give up. It doesn’t matter – as long as you get back on the programme.