Fitness: Meet The Quantified Self

The quantified self is a term that at first sounds slightly sci-fi and maybe a bit absent from conversations you’ve had while working out at the gym. That said, it’s quickly gained traction as a movement in the exercise and wellness world.

But what exactly are we referring to when we talk about the quantified self and fitness? Here’s Wiki’s definition:

The Quantified Self is a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person’s daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical).

Thus, the quantified self movement aims to track and measure all areas of our lives as we go through our day. Also called “self-surveillance,” it’s the shift to take a deep look at ourselves through easily accessible data. The term “self” as part of self-surveillance implies an absence of the usual inclination to feel weary of tracking. It moves more towards taking personal responsibility and control of our behavior. The very act of purchasing a tracking tool for fitness opens up many possibilities: the potential to visualize/affirm conscious patterns, the chance to uncover unconscious patterns through parsed data displayed on an easy-to-digest interface, and the convenience of friction removed from having to analyze all this data ourselves.

Photo Credit: Image by IntelFreePress shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

This space has piqued mainstream interest through the growing availability of wearables and companion apps/platforms. There is a massive market opportunity in automating workouts, tracking athletic performance in professional sports, and at the very core, understanding daily habits in hopes of eliminating those detrimental to our long term health and wellness.

Long term, it’ll be interesting to see how this space plays out as large data sets are aggregated. We’ll likely see some privacy concerns creep up, as is the norm. There is an exciting opportunity for areas like VR in professional sports. Could we see visualization exercises that mimic reality and prepare athletes cognitively in tandem with the physical? Conversely at home, there is a lot to be said for syncing personal health data with food, water, and sleeping patterns (much of which is already being tracked by your run of the mill activity trackers.) Preventing injuries through identifying patterns of wear and tear will be valuable as the quantified self collides with sports medicine.

What are your thoughts on the future of the quantified self? Comment below, and join the conversation on Twitter. #smartshinyobjects

Photo Credit: Fitbit

One thought on “Fitness: Meet The Quantified Self

  1. There are two things I think need to be addressed for the quantified self to really take-off. First is the quality of the data. Aggregation of data may help to iron out the kinks in poor tracker quality or user error in obtaining accurate data, however there remains some uncertainty in the reliability of these devices and certainly in their lack of ability to be calibrated to the users. Secondly the security of personal data. The rise of cloud computing continues to challenge our antiquated laws governing personal data across national boundaries. Until this issue is addressed the possibility that my data may end up being sold to a marketer, insurer, employer or government department encourages me to, like security analyst Bruce Schneier suggests, mix up real data with invented misdirecting information, to protect my privacy. Both these concerns corrupt the data-set and will make drawing accurate conclusions from the data difficult, if not impossible.

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