How Smart Watches Can Help Improve Your Health

How Smart Watches Can Help Improve Your Health

The Apple Watch has garnered a considerable amount of attention in recent weeks, and has brought the spotlight back on the young wearables industry, but you may be wondering, “What does a smart watch actually do?” It’s a worthwhile question, especially considering the hefty price tag of many smart watches.

At the most basic level, smart watches are an extension of a smartphone — they receive notifications, answer phone calls from your wrist, allow you to use apps, and tell time. But the major advantage of a smart watch is you’re almost always wearing it. This allows smart watch wearers to be connected in ways never before possible.

This always-on feature has great implications for changing the lifestyles of watch owners, even their health. Here are nine ways smart watches could help improve your health:

Steps Tracker. One of the easiest ways to improve your health and boost your activity level is to take 10,000 steps a day. Smart watches have built-in pedometers, which makes it easy to see the number of steps taken. While the degree of accuracy of these pedometers is questionable, the fact that you’re moving to meet your steps goal is the more important thing.

Sleep monitoring. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports more than a third of adults in the United States get fewer than 7 hours of sleep a night. A sustained lack of sleep can have long-term negative consequences for the body. Smart watches, when worn at night, can track sleep patterns. They can let you know how many hours of sleep you’re getting and how many uninterrupted hours. While not a substitute for a professional sleep study, these sleep statistics can help you identify patterns and set goals to improve the quality and quantity of sleep.

Goal Setting. Many smart watches have built-in apps with goal-setting abilities. For example, you can set a goal to take a certain number of steps, or sleep a certain number of hours, and the goal tracker will let you know how you’re doing on your goal today and over time. This provides an incentive and reward for meeting your health goals.

Workout reminders. We all know we should workout, but so often the hardest part of working out is making it a habit. Setting workout reminders is a great way to turn a good goal into a great habit. The advantage to a reminder on a smart watch rather than on a smartphone is it’s harder to dismiss. It’s easy to miss a reminder notification if you don’t have your phone on you, but a smart watch will vibrate on your wrist, letting you know it’s time to hit the gym.

Timers and stopwatches. While this isn’t necessarily a new feature to smart watches, having been available on digital watches for years, timers and stopwatches are incredibly useful for runners, swimmers and cyclists.

Fitness apps. Just like smartphones, smart watches can have apps. While limited in features, there are health and fitness apps available that can meet your individual health goals and needs.

Easier listening to jams while working out. You may have your favorite tunes on your smartphone, but it’s often awkward to workout with a large phone. Many smart watches allow you to load a limited number of your favorite songs directly onto the watch, independent of the smartphone. Combined with Bluetooth headphones, this allows for greater convenience and comfort while working out. While music itself won’t improve your health, it can provide motivation to workout.

Custom watch faces. One of the most popular features of smart watches is the ability to customize watch faces, allowing you to express your individuality. In addition to fun, colorful watch faces, many smart watches allow you to add health tracking features to the main watch face. Adding steps taken or goals to the watch face puts health front and center. The more you see it, the more you’re reminded to take an active role in your health.

Data syncing for analysis. While smart watches have limited processing ability on their own, they are always connected to smartphones, which allows your collected health stats (sleep, steps, etc.) to be synced with your phone. On your phone you can use native apps like Apple Health or other third-party apps to analyze the data. This helps you understand your habits and progress and set future goals.

Smart watches are in their infancy, but already show great promise for the future. Health tracking has been included from the beginning, showing the focus of these companies and suggests future growth in this area.

For many people, a dedicated tracker like a Jawbone or a FitBit is the way to go, but by shelling out a little more money you can get many more health features with a smart watch.

Of course, even with the greatest features in the world, a smart watch still relies on one very important thing: you to make the most of it.


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