There is no arguing that the Fitness Tech industry has certainly become one of the foremost components of the “digital lifestyle” that has become so pervasive in the past decade. Virtually unheard of ten years ago, the preeminent “badge” of fitness technology, the “activity tracker” or “smart watch,” is now as familiar to the general population as any other accessory one might choose to wear. Of course, in the past few years physical data collection has exploded as new devices, new fabrics, new motivational methods have only increased one’s ability to monitor one’s fitness and health. Indeed, as this self awareness becomes more prevalent, the lines between fitness and health have become somewhat blurred. Can you be healthy and not fit? Fit and not healthy? Are they one in the same?
An interesting article in yesterday’s NY Times reported on the results of perhaps the largest and longest study ever done on “lifetime risks for disease.” Conducted in Sweden, beginning in 1963, the research consisted of 1000 healthy men, aged 50, who agreed to be monitored for the rest of their lives. A lot of the standard examinations were involved, i.e. blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, smoking, etc. However, more extensive testing was also involved including an “exercise stress test designed to precisely determine their maximum aerobic capacity.” Not surprisingly, the more participants exercised, the more conscious they were of being fit, the higher their aerobic capacity.
Needless to say, by now all of the participants of this study have passed on. The results, however, are fascinating. Not surprisingly, smoking was the number one factor in shortening lifespan. But number two: high blood pressure? High cholesterol? No, the study concluded that low aerobic capacity was not far behind in impacting life expectancy. Basically, the lifestyle choice of maintaining fitness was more influential in life span than most of your standard medical measurements. Apparently, the more participants paid attention to “staying fit,” the longer they lived. Even those who tested “fit” but had unhealthy numbers in the various other tests, lived longer than those “unfit” but with good numbers in the other tests.
What’s the point? Obviously our bodies are a repository of data and we now have the ability to monitor almost every element of our physical being. However, this study concluded that “…by strengthening the body, better fitness may lower the risk of a variety of chronic diseases.” The study seems to confirm that “fitness” technology is truly not just for the elite athlete and the weekend warrior. We don’t want to be lying on our deathbed thinking “I should have counted more steps…”