Friend or Foe?

Are activity trackers a help or a hindrance when it comes to weight loss? 

David Minton, Director of LeisureDB, featured in the January 2017 issue of Health Club Management discussing activity trackers and wearable technology. 

"It's good that wearable technology and physical activity trackers are being debated, but we need to put them into context - we're only at the start of the journey of their functionality. We're at the stage where we can only use tracking information as an indication and not take it too seriously. If companies like Nike and Microsoft have withdrawn their devices, it shows we're at a very early stage. 

There's so much confusion over healthy eating and weight management. Monitoring activity is only part of the answer and people need to be careful about setting their calorific intake based on the information from a tracker: most people tend to over-estimate their physical activity levels and under-estimate what they eat. 

Going forward, to make trackers more effective, there needs to be more use of artificial intelligence. There also needs to be more gamification. This needs to be fun - it shouldn't be boring or dreary."

Find the original article via Health Club Management. 

Are you square fit?

David recently attended IHRSA 2016 in Orlando as a roving reporter for the Leisure Review. Here's his article from the event:

Almost two years to the day from when Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had purchased the virtual reality (VR) start-up Oculus Rift for around $2 billion, the VR units appeared at IHRSA and Mark’s sister, Randi Zuckerberg, was a keynote speaker.

Sponsored by Matrix Fitness, Randi’s Keynote was titled It’s Dot Complicated and was the first IHRSA keynote to use social media channels to broadcast her inspirational session live. For those who missed it (and in advance of the Leisure Database Social Media Index Report), these are the top five social media channels for fitness professionals.

Number one: YouTube. Video is the way to engage with your audience but few in the UK have this as their priority so far. Six of the top ten public sector brands do not have a channel and only five private brands have over 200,000 views. Number two is Facebook; no surprises there. Facebook is the most common social media platform among UK fitness sites. Number three is LinkedIn. As professionals you can target influencers and expand your network. Four is Instagram. I’ve already banged on about how many public and private fitness brands are neglecting this highly engaging and superior indexing platform. Five is Twitter, the second most popular platform in the UK. Lots of trade suppliers, including MyZone and Precor, used Periscope on Twitter to share their IHRSA showcase live.

On the IHRSA show floor it was like CES (Consumer Electronics Show) meets Fitness. MyZone, Polar, Microsoft, Intel, Reebok, NEO and Garmin were among the main companies who made the move from Vegas in January to Orlando in March, while new technology was evident among almost all companies exhibiting. It seemed like there was an app for everything. Seminars, such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Impact on the Fitness Industry, came from Technogym daily. Precor had a separate section on ‘the future’ and were showing real-time configuration in use in the UK at EasyGym, where you can pay reception for screen access. MyZone moved centre stage with the new app, a sports bra (launched CES 2016), a new integrated T-shirt, group display and a host of online platforms.

As a cyclist I liked the Recon Jet smart eyewear from Intel, also launched at CES. The performance eyewear frame and lenses set wakes up using glance detection to provide live metrics such as heart rate, speed, cadence and power. The point-of-view-camera enables you to capture the moment and the GPS maps can be used to show location of other riders, which is useful when doing endurance rides. Microsoft Health is a good example of a tech company looking for a cause and the Band with continuous optical heart rate monitor, GPS, guided workouts and the usual calls and texts, email and calendar looks and feels too much like the now-defunct Nike Fuel Band. 

Wearables and trackers have now been joined by alternate- and mixed-reality technologies that are poised to invade the fitness space. Although the early target market for Oculus Rift are gamers, fitness suppliers such as UK-based Pulse Fitness have introduced gamification for added motivation. Pulse Interactive Fitness combines facial recognition and augmented reality (AR) using Oculus Rift. With a tilt of the head the game starts and the Trixter bike takes you on an AR ride. Linked live to multiplayers worldwide, the results are shown on the bike, in the headset and on a big screen for the local audience. Zumba have developed a 360-degree VR dance class using Oculus Rift. For those who have always dreamed of dancing with Beto Perez, stop dreaming: do it via VR.

Besides Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive is coming, Sony’s PlayStation VR will be with us soon, along with Microsoft HoloLens; and Google is looking to expand Cardboard. The Samsung Gear VR headset, which Oculus also powers, enables you to select the Samsung smartphone to snap into the headset, a combination was used by Zumba. We are at the beginning of a VR and AR journey and, as a result of the billions been spent on this technology, we will all know about this cool, engaging and immersive experience very soon.    

As I walked through the event I was struck how the square photograph has become the norm. Square images fill our Twitter streams, Facebook dashboards and of course Instagram. Many of the suppliers know this and have adopted it as standard. Many consumers swipe the phone so photos are square on, permanently. Square is another example of how social media has changed the way consumers experience and report on the world around them. Are you square-on fit?


Pivotal Living Tracker Review


In LeisureDB TV’s recent video we referred to the Pivotal Living £15 fitness tracker which has revolutionised the concept of budget health tracking. The tracker is even sold out across America until January. Here at Leisure DB we have got our hands on our own Pivotal Living tracker and in the New Year, we will be giving you a personal review of how we got on with it.

In the meantime, here’s a few reviews from popular bloggers:

Up first is Valentina Palladino who thought the band looked subtly high end compared to other inexpensive trackers on the market. Even at its low-cost the tracker monitors all the essentials required to get healthy and the app made the data easy to understand, particularly with the graphs that broke down the steps, activity and sleep information. Valentina did highlight a few negative aspects of the Pivotal Living tracker including a recurring issue with the band resetting itself. They also found that syncing the band with the app could be challenging and occasionally resulted in lost data. After only 3 days the battery was nearly depleted which is much less than the suggested 7 day charge life. Valentina felt the band lacked a few things such as tracking specific exercises and offering advice for health improvement.

Andy Boxall reviewed the Pivotal Living tracker for Digital Trends and felt it was an amazingly low price with accurate tracking and collated a wealth of data. Whilst he felt the band was visually bland looking it was still very comfortable and unobtrusive. The battery life exceeded the 7 day expectation and lasted two weeks but perhaps this length of time was due to under use? A few let downs were the unfortunate use of a proprietary charger, slow syncing to the app and weak alarm vibration. Overall though, he felt it was a perfect entry level fitness tracker with great build quality and solid app performance.

Amie from The Senior List thought the tracker was a great option for first time activity band users. She felt the best selling point was the price but it was also easy to charge and had an average 5 day battery life. The band itself was considered unassuming and a simple design that looked nice with any casual outfit, however the width of band could be irritating for people with smaller sized wrists.

Dan Graziano for CNET thought the tracker was basic and comfortable, with a solid 7 day battery life. The benefits of the band included the silent alarm for gentle wake ups, inactivity alerts to motivate you and the hydration tracking. Dan felt one of the biggest drawbacks was that the tracker was not waterproof and he was concerned over the build quality due to the appearance of scratches after only a few days wear.

Judging by these reviews the most notable comments made were how comfortable the tracker is to wear and of course it’s value for money. Having read these, we are even more excited to try ours out. 

Technology in the swimming pool won't be an oxymoron for much longer!

We've all seen the impact of technology in the health & fitness sector - dozens of new products have hit the market in recent years, like young puppies marking their territory, all so eager to weave themselves into the fabric of our new fitness habits.


From Fitbit & Runtastic to Jawbone & MapMyFitness, some will surely disappear as quickly as they came, others will find their niche and thrive, but what about us happy splashers, still waiting for some of this new tech to hit our local swimming pool or lido?


Fitness Industry UK

In a word water. Water happened. Not an absolute barrier to the latest tech but definitely a hurdle/water jump that can erode magnetic chargers, scramble Bluetooth signals and has an unfortunate habit of leaking into the most thoughtfully designed and highly engineered miniaturised parts. It's not fair to say that the sport of swimming hasn't seen its fair share of innovation and by swimming I mean the kind of happy splashing you and I might do not Messrs Phelps or Thorpe.

The Poolmate took stroke tracking poolside and onto your wrist along with SwimTag who thought out of the box by leveraging technology combining with the physical environment of the pool. Splashpath app for iPhone got rid of those hard to read and out of date PDF swim timetables and then Speedo Fit app got in on the act with virtual swim goals and a growing global swim community. Zoggs used digital to get physical and had a crossover hit from the TV screen with their Peppa Pig kids goggles too!

Obviously this just a flavour of the new tech which has been rustling in the pool lockers up and down the country, but I'm still waiting for the next big thing to hit the pool. I've been swimming up and down at my local baths for 20 years and I'm ripe for disruption! There's some great hardware & software just landed or right around the corner from Speedo Aquabeat, Swimio, & Swimdotcom to Pebble, Instabeat & Bragi Dash, but the jury is still out who will be the game changer in aquatics. Don't forget swimming is the biggest mass participation sport in the UK though it's one of the last to see the latest tech. Is v1 of Apple Watch waterproof? Is it heck. Does Apple even list swimming as a fitness activity yet? Nope, not on their radar just yet.

Building hardware is a tough gig but somebody could win big in the water, digital is a global market that breaks through the old barriers, innovation is coming thick and fast and waits for nobody! Pebble has just put the finishing touches to some major hardware grunt work and launched the waterproof 'Pebble Time', breaking records and crowd sourcing $8m in 24 hours from their backers in the process. They're sharing the love and changing the game through their open source software platform to a new breed of hungry developers. Whether it's a buzz on my wrist to push me to go faster, a post swim stats dashboard, swimming flash mobs, underwater beats or lasers, I want it all, and I want it now!

Ok, fair enough... Hold the flash mobs and maybe the lasers, with all tech it's what I don't know about yet that excites me the most...

Jamie Buck - The Leisure Database Company

HCM 2015 Handbook - out now

The Health Club Management 2015 Handbook is now online - Take a look for lots of invaluable insights, stats, predictions and trends for the year ahead.

Check out p54 for David's latest views on the State of the UK Fitness Industry. Is the private sector growing? How is the low cost market faring? Is the public sector staying strong? What part is the latest fitness tech playing? Have a read and see!