Not long after finishing her hour-long workout at the Orangetheory Fitness studio in Edina, Emily Hansen received a text message of a flexed bicep emoji from her daughter.
Sharing fitness information is a daily occurrence for her family, Hansen said. The Hansens use Apple’s Family Sharing system to see each other’s exercise activity through the Activity App. The app — on devices like the Apple Watch or iPhone — tracks how often a person stands or moves using GPS and sensors that measure acceleration.
During family pickleball games, they synchronize their devices to see who attains the best exercise metrics. Sometimes, they just check in to ensure grandpa has walked at least a half-mile for his daily exercise.
From fitness studios to senior living communities, wearable technology has enabled a new generation of fitness enthusiasts to not only track their performance but also see how they measure up against peers, friends and family. About one in five Americans use a smartwatch or fitness tracker, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey.
For Hansen, a 39-year-old nurse from Bloomington who has been a member of Orangetheory the past three years, the ability to view this data in real time — gathered through Bluetooth-connected wearable devices that measure heart rate and calculate burned calories — is encouragement to perform better. Sometimes it’s just to best her previous workout, others to push her co-workers on who can burn the most calories in a week.
“Seeing the change in my performance is super motivating,” she said. “The [feeling] of hitting that calorie burn has been really helpful.”
Wendy Petersen, 59, from Edina, watches her metrics intently while on the treadmill at Orangetheory. Members wear OTBeat devices, the fitness chain’s line of wearable straps that track heart rate, distance and calories burned. Petersen attaches the OTBeat to her Apple Watch to view both sets of data, as does Hansen.
The data from the wearables displays on large TV screens in the studio, as well as treadmill and row machine dashboards, allowing members and the instructor to track everyone’s progress.
“For me, it’s, ‘Can I eke out some more?'” Petersen said, adding her competitiveness often fuels her to keep pace with some of the younger members. “‘Can I get into that [higher] zone or am I overdoing it?'”
The OTBeat devices sync to exercise machines in the studio using Bluetooth, studio manager and instructor Kat O’Leary said. An adjoining app allows people to see their metrics and trends through a period of time. Purchasing the device is optional, and members can use it outside of the facility, too, O’Leary said.
Most people associate fitness improvement with how they’re reacting to the workouts, such as feeling out of breath, O’Leary said. But the actual data gives insight into when the human body ascends into higher calorie burn zones and how quickly it can recover. So people don’t necessarily have to always push themselves to the point of gasping for air, she said.