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Health tracking, wearables, and the social sway

Health and fitness metric tracking is not just for elite athletes anymore. At Vidlet, we've observed an increasing trend among product designers who seek to understand how people—whether they be gym rats, weekend warriors, active seniors, weight loss seekers, or leisure athletes—interact with their health data, as many companies are looking to pioneer the next wearable fitness trend. 

Gone are basic step trackers, and in their place have come advanced devices that provide data on physical activities, recovery, sleep, diet, and even how our body reacts to these activities, including continuous monitoring of blood glucose levels. As you unwrap that smartwatch or download a new fitness app to kickstart your New Year's resolutions, you may be curious about the wealth of information these devices promise to provide. How can you take all this data and turn it into something that helps you achieve your health and fitness goals? 

The true value of advanced wearables lies in knowing how to effectively utilize information to make informed decisions and positive changes for one's well-being. Our health technology research has taught us that customers can quickly be swamped with information when interacting with unnecessarily complex products. 

Companies looking to attract hobbyists must strike a delicate balance in their product design to provide the right amount of information. In our experience as designers and researchers, we have learned that the best approach is typically to keep it simple, and we hear the same desire for simple, sleek products echoed by our research participants. Fitness-conscious customers are already inundated with conflicting fitness information on social media and don’t need another source of confusion at their fingertips.

That’s not to say that customers want the bare bones and raw data. Wearable products that offer a form of community—usually, through seamless integration with widely-used social media/tracking crossover apps like Nike or Strava— engage customers by tapping into spaces where recreational athletes naturally share their training data with a like-minded community. Even within these platforms, the community facet is increasingly emphasized; for example, the fitness app Strava recently announced the addition of direct messages to the platform. Many Strava users have even reported using the app as a dating app due to the strength of the community features. 

Despite their popularity amongst users, health professionals find commercial fitness wearables are not reliable enough for customers to make choices about their healthcare, at least not yet. There are significant logistical challenges in how clinicians can integrate information from wearables into patient care. Although wearables can provide valuable health metric information for monitoring one's health, clinicians still rely on traditional testing methods before making important decisions, like prescribing medication. We see a significant opportunity for wearable fitness products to strike the right balance between providing reliable data without overwhelming customers and acting as a liaison to consumer’s existing medical records. We’re excited to dive into 2024 to see the new offerings in wearable fitness tech, which is certainly on its way to a boom.

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