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Get Fit – Wearable Technology in Fitness

Tejaswi Kumar | IE – E&C

Wearable Tech gear, which was always an inevitability in our distant future, has come to us sooner than we expected. Assisting human beings by increasing the convenience of performing day to day tasks, this form of technology is becoming a significant part of people’s lives. In a world where people spend most of their time sitting in front of screens, lethargy is not hard to come by. In this plague of fast foods, entertainment, and comfort, fitness takes a back seat. Needless to say, with the loss of fitness, surfeits of diseases creep in and harm the body. A technological solution to this growing challenge is Fitness Trackers.

Fitness bands are older than most of their wearable counterparts. The first wearable fitness trackers date all the way back to 1921 where they were used to measure pulse rate and blood pressure. Nearly a century later, we now have modern fitness bands which can differentiate between a mild jog and a wild sprint in addition to monitoring sleep. These fitness bands are a highly accurate alternative to fitness apps which utilize the smart phone’s inbuilt technology.

How do these bands actually work? How does a small wearable device track all our activities with such accuracy?

Fit-bits available today

At the heart of these fitness bands, are sensors that help track our daily activities.

Accelerometer
Most of today’s bands are fitted with a 3-axis Accelerometer. It consists of three -5g to +5g accelerometers mounted on one small block and can be used for a wide variety of experiments, both inside and outside the lab. In a fitness band, its function is to track the linear movement of the user in a 3-D space.

Gyroscope

Additionally, some of these are also fitted with a Gyroscope, which is a spinning disc wherein the axis of rotation has the freedom to take up any orientation of its own. According to the conservation of angular momentum, the orientation of the axis is unaffected by the tilting when it is rotated. This is the main reason for gyroscopes being used to track angular movement and orientation in space.

Altimeter
An altimeter or an altitude meter is used for keeping track of the altitude of an object above sea level. This measurement of altitude is known as altimetry. The determination of the altitude is done based on the measurement of atmospheric pressure. As the altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases. The major components of the altimeter include Case, Aneroid and Mechanical Linkage Assembly (which is essentially a balloon made of very thin metal), dial and pointer assembly (which contains the readout information for the user), barometric dial and setting assembly. In fitness bands, it keeps a track on the number of stairs you have climbed or the height of the hill you just hiked.

Heart-rate Monitoring

The light sensor used for tracking heart rate.

This characteristic of the human body is measured by shining a light into the blood vessels present in the wrist. Every beat of the heart pumps blood through the body. The sensor works on this principle: if the light reflected is less, then there is a higher blood volume implying a quicker heart rate. Many fitness bands offer features – such as counting repetitions, tracking sleep, GPS, and tracking workout types – by deploying a combination of the sensors mentioned above. Some bands are also waterproof in order to track swimming as an exercise. Greater the number of sensors present in your tracker, the more accurate is its data. These sensors work in coordination with each other to enhance the tracker’s abilities.

The tracker supporting applications serve as icing on the cake with well displayed tracking data, competitive challenges, fantastic workout tips, and the ability to record intake of calories with a comprehensive food database. By connecting to the mobile app, some fitness bands support music control, call/SMS notifications, and silent vibrating alarms.

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