The burgeoning Quantified Self movement, consisting of those who track what was eaten and expended, vital metabolic statistics and even mood states, is fast taking root throughout the world. Amy Friedman reports.
Back in the day, before everyone was so tethered to smart device, those inclined to keep track of what they ate and how much they exercised did so with pens and paper.
Volumes touting the next miracle diet and thick paperbacks listing every sort of nutritional breakdown from soup to nuts were brisk sellers.
At health clubs, metrics were logged by hand on exercise cards toted from mat to treadmill to weight machine. Truly dedicated fitness fanatics even wore watches equipped with timers and lap counters.
Fast forward to today. All of the above and more are available on handheld and wearable devices, many of astonishing sophistication. Iffy pedometers and bulky heart rate monitors have given way to sleek wristbands or tiny trackers clipped inconspicuously to clothing, logging everything from steps taken and sleep cycles to blood pressure, calories burned and blood sugar levels. Wearable heart rate monitors let exercisers know their precise burn.
Functionality and sophistication continue to grow. Apple is rumoured to be close to coming out with its next product line – iWatches – that will track workout metrics.
Meanwhile, Samsung is on the verge of releasing its own line of smart watches, which will feature apps to count steps, monitor heart rates, measure calorie outputs, take pictures of meals, and share the data.
Gadgets such as the Endotheliometer, a device for the wrist developed by the University of Lancaster, purport to determine how long a wearer might live by assessing the rate of dissipation of the endothelium (the cells that line blood vessels).
Many of these tracking devices and Wifi-equipped scales, are linked to publicly available websites that compile and synthesise a user’s food, exercise, weight and sleep inputs into reports reflecting net input and output metrics.
Endomondo, for example, tracks and shares workout activity data with other social users. You can even find out basic details about your genome, including inherited conditions and the composition of your ancestry.