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Fitness watches

Join Techno Mum as she looks at the ideas and engineering behind the gadgets!

Smart watches are pretty clever.  You might use one to track the number of steps you have done and some can even tell if you’re swimming or riding a bike – or doing yoga!

How do they work?

It’s down to something called an accelerometer. They’re tiny devices that can detect the direction of movement by sensing changes in gravity.  They convert that movement into digital information that’s translated into steps or other measurements.  It’s a bit like balancing on a bar – your brain is collecting information from your eyes and senses to give your muscles the instructions to stay on track.

Counting Calories

Fitness watches can give you information about the number of calories you have burned in your work out but how do they do it? It’s a combination of the technology in the device and information we already know about how our bodies use energy.  All human bodies use a basic amount of calories – or energy, at rest.  This is called the basal metabolic rate.  Scientists have studied millions of people to work out what this rate usually is.  It will differ depending on your gender, age, height and weight, but it’s a variable we can look up.

Sometimes we upload information about our height, weight and age to an app connected to the tracker and so the information the app gives us can be personalised to each user.

There’s lots of data to show how much energy is used when doing different types of movement.  Your watch is just putting it all together. 

Heart Rate

Keeping an eye on our heart rate can help us to stay healthy and get fitter.  Your heart beats faster when you’re exercising, but it’s important that it returns to normal when you’re at rest.  By counting our pulses, our fitness watches help us see how hard our hearts are working.  A high heart rate can mean you’re burning more calories… and the watch can pull that data into the calorie counter too!

Helping Athletes

If you watch an event like the Long Jump you can  see how hard they come down onto the sand.  Imagine how many jumps they’d have to do in her training sessions!

The thing is fitness watches – or wearables as they’re sometimes called, aren’t just handy to give us basic fitness information, they’re really important for the athletes and their coaches in training.

They can count the amount of jumps an athlete has done in a session and calculate the force on their feet and body.  And by using both existing data and data from the watch, a coach can work out what is a safe amount of impact for any one session – helping athletes avoid injury.  And remember, the harder you work your heart in training, the more you’ll experience fatigue.  

Sleep Science

Getting enough sleep of the right quality is important for our health and wearables can help. They can measure how much sleep we’re getting and how deep our sleep is.

Origins of wearables

Abraham-Louis Perrelet … (9 January 1729 – 1826) was a Swiss horologist. He was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He was a horologist (someone who designs watches) and an inventor and is said to have invented the first pedometer.

So, why 10,000 Steps?

You might have heard that a good target for fitness is to take 10,000 steps a day.  But where did this idea come from?

Fitness trackers, as we know them today, first surfaced in 1965 with the Manpo-kei, which translates to ‘10,000 steps meter’ and was invented by Dr Yoshiro Hatano. Dr Hatano was a Japanese professor at the Kyushu University of Health and Welfare. He was researching at the time how to combat obesity, and this number came as a result of his research. However, a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity suggests that 15,000 steps may actually be a better target to aim for.

For more information visit The IET.

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Techno Mum

Ever wondered how things work? Ask Techno Mum!

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