Fitness technology hinders society’s perception of healthy living

It’s startling to think how little I know about life without technology. From very early on, I looked to the computer for entertainment and additions to my school curriculum. I later relied on my cell phone to communicate with my family and friends rather than talking face-to-face. I’m barely able to navigate campus without a GPS, let alone greater Los Angeles. I silently vow never to say to my future kids, “Back in my day we didn’t have …” because these technological conveniences I’ve experienced are quickly becoming a timeless notion.

Wendy Fu | Daily Trojan

Wendy Fu | Daily Trojan

It seems like every facet of our lives is controlled by technology. With the dominance of social media, trends in fashion and food are shared with our increasingly small world. In more recent years, fitness has become entangled with technology as well. I have always been one to blare music on my iPod while jogging or put on some television show to divert my attention from the gruesome task of working out. The development of wearable fitness electronics like the Nike+ FuelBand introduces people to physical activity tracking. This makes exercise statistics, otherwise only estimated or absent because they aren’t able to be calculated, available. The slim bracelet collects data based on habits and behavior from a person’s circulations, awarding points for various forms of exercise. These statistics are routed straight to the consumer’s Apple device. On April 18, however, The Verge reported that Nike will abandon its developments in the FuelBand, halting this surge of fitness wearables in the mass market.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that the Nike+ FuelBand was unable to engage with the public. Firstly, it’s impossible to ignore the glitches the device carries. When the FuelBand was first released in 2012, The New York Times reported people being dissatisfied with the FuelBand due to its inconsistencies. One might spend a lazy Sunday lounging around and still find the bracelet alerting the iPad or iPhone that today was a successful day of exercise. When the consumer is paying more than 100 dollars for this gadget, they are bound to be disappointed by its shortcomings.

But more than that, exercise technology seems a little bit like an oxymoron. Physical activity should be when people are at their most natural state. Exercise is a natural part of human existence, and technology complicates that. It pushes us to calculate our motions and quantify them in calories or heartbeats per minute. This mentality — that exercising is anything but innate and free — ultimately overwhelms any inclination I have to work out. I can’t imagine I am the only one out there more cognizant of that doughnut I’m burning off than the benefits cardiovascular exercise brings to my body.

Instead of labeling all forms of exercise with a caloric value, people should feel encouraged by the physical activity in which they partake. We cannot deny the problems of obesity looming upon the world, and we also can’t shun the skewed media images. These are definitely the factors that drive us to use products such as the FuelBand, which in the end do very little to teach us the value of our health. Instead, when I think of the effective modes of exercise awareness, I think of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign or Matthew McConaughey’s just keep livin foundation. These projects start at the very root of our nation’s self-perception problem and educate people about important nutrition and exercise facts.

So, in the future, what with all the hovercrafts and other gizmos bound to be present, I hope my words will last long enough to warn people about too much dependence upon technology products. No piece of technology can actually cure body woes. They might be convenient (and sometimes faulty) for tracking movement, but at the end of the day, it’s how people view exercise that really matters.


Danni Wang is a freshman majoring in psychology. Her column, “Pop Fiction,” runs Tuesdays.