Longing for Fitness Apps Proactive Insight and Advice
As a fitness data aficionado that wants to improve his health and have a better understanding of my body and mind, I find that the current way fitness devices and apps lack proactive advice and insight.
I’ve been collecting data about myself and my workouts for a few years using different devices and Android apps: Fitbit, Polar, Garmin, Suntoo, Google Fit, Fitify… Most of these don’t talk to each other, so my data is scattered and lacks a full historic view. Even if I manage to sync some of the data (through MyFitnessPal and the FittoFit app with Google Fit as the ultimate repository) I get a lot of lagging information, instead of future helpful indicators and actionable insight.
I understand there are going to be disparities about how each one of them accounts for different things (heartbeat, temperature, distance…), but that could be approximated in a useful way. The state of sleep tracking is dismal. Apps rely on guesstimates that miss a lot of time that you are awake (I have small kids, I’ve been able to check times).
Fitbit has done some interesting work with their cardio fitness score (based on their own VO2 Max approximation) telling me of the improvements I could make if I lost weight and exercised more, but that’s about it. The health data it shares comes with interesting texts but not a clear indication of things going well, nor any warnings on what may be coming. This is the case for their recent health metrics brand-new stress management store.
It feels like there’s a lot of information going to waste.
All the aggregate data from the millions of people that are using the apps could be so helpful in understanding and providing leads to improve our health and help us with our goals. And individual users could be learning more with the assistance of the apps, not having to become researchers to try to figure out what could be helpful and what’s its meaning.
In terms of aggregate data and research, I want my anonymized data to be aggregated and used by many companies to develop new products, treatments, and knowledge. Even UNESCO has made a point of this in their International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport. Article 6 is dedicated to research, evidence, and evaluation, and says that they are indispensable components for the development of physical education, physical activity, and sport.
If companies make money with what they come out with, great! I don’t mind that as long as we all get new and better science. I just don’t want my own data to be copyrighted or patented by someone else: this data should not be locked or abused.
Here’s an example as an individual user: I’ve recently managed to get rid of some weight and have been recording every meal in MyFitnessPal (MFP) for months. The app basically gave me lag indicators about calories and macros, but never suggested what to eat so that I could reach my goals. MFP would tell me that a certain food I logged had lots of salt in it and remind me of my daily allowance, but it did not tell me how much salt was left in my allowance nor make any recommendations about what to eat or not to eat. It did not tell me either why I may have gone up or down in weight and body measures.
The same can be said for fitness trackers. They could use load evaluation techniques (like RPE) to advise on how much more exercise of a kind to do or not to do, using which body parts, and at which intensity to lower chances of getting hurt. In fact, none of the exercising apps I’ve used has ever taken into account when I got hurt doing one of their routines to adapt.
I still wear my fitness device and track my weight and body measures (I’m taking a break from food logging) and long for the day when all the apps and devices will give me proactive helpful insights and advice.
What’s your experience like? What would you like to get from your fitness apps and devices?