Hilkka Aronen is Partner Marketing Manager for Consumer Technologies at Firstbeat, the leading provider of physiological analytics for sports and wellbeing. Originating in Finland, the company transforms heartbeat data into personalised information on exercise, stress, and recovery to help individuals reach their health and performance potential. We spoke to Hilkka about:
- How tracking technology has evolved over the years
- How operators can use this sort of technology for client engagement and retention, and
- What’s next for fitness and tracking
How has the market for tracking technology evolved?
Enormously, both in terms of hardware and software. In the past 10 years, there has been a significant development in technology, particularly sensors. Nowadays, wearables mostly come with an optical heart rate sensor. This type of sensor is more user-friendly, and the data accuracy has improved greatly. There are different form factors – watches, trackers, wearables – all of which can be used for activity tracking purposes and sports/fitness use.
Regarding software, the number of features has increased a lot. There is a huge amount of data available from different devices, and people have a much better understanding of their data. Features are getting more in depth. They aren’t just showing heart rate or heart rate zones but analysing the data and giving guidance for the user.
What are the most important measurements we should be paying attention to?
For sports and fitness, training load measurements are most important. This is useful to keep the training in an optimal range and determine if the user is working hard enough to see results. For wellness, heart rate variability (HRV) based stress and recovery measurements are the most interesting data points. This sort of data can give you a holistic view of overall wellness.
What are the benefits of using tracking technology for the operator, trainer and client?
Whilst there are many benefits to using tracking technology, the key one is that it provides you with personal insights. Regularly taking a deep dive into your performance is empowering as it enables you to prioritise your attention and make focused changes to your habits and lifestyle. Being able to identify your personal stress triggers, track your activity and visually see how much recovery you get during the day and whilst you sleep, provides tangible data that are personal to you and can be measured and adjusted on a continuous basis. Having access to this data allows you to take
preventative action to improve your health and achieve the desired results.
Operators and trainers can use this data to create truly bespoke training plans for their clients. For example, you may notice that your client has a strong stress reaction following evening workouts that causes disruption to their sleep. As a result, you can create a plan prioritising earlier or weekend
workouts to optimise their performance.
How can operators and personal trainers use tracking technology to maximum client engagement and retention?
Tracking technology enables PTs and operators to add more value to their service and help their clients to achieve optimal health. By assessing at the beginning of your client’s journey and measuring throughout, you are able to create a clear picture as to how they are currently performing and create a bespoke programme to help. Reassessing at regular intervals allows your client to
monitor their progress and stay motivated, provides you as the trainer, the opportunity to make any relevant changes and reinforces how the investment with you will enable them to achieve the results that they want.
What do you see being the next big thing in tracking technology?
Today, tracking technology is very focused on specific data points: calories burned, heart rate, steps. But in the future, we will see a greater emphasis on holistic data. This means providing users with information on their overall wellbeing (sleep quality, stress) and tying this into activity tracking and sports-related features. This way, users are also getting better, more tangible information which allows them to make changes to their habits. For example, the data may reveal that a person slept poorly and their stress reactions are high in the day. Therefore, they should go for an easy workout or rest day, regardless of what might be on the training plan that day.