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Listen to your body, not just your device

by Josh Wakerman on Thursday 23 February 2017

Ok, here’s a question. And yes, it may sound a bit weird. But is there anyone out there who exercises without some kind of fitness technology?

Without a device that tells you how many steps you’ve taken or how many calories you’ve burned? 

And, if you don’t take a selfie while you’re at the gym, were you even there at all?

Existential questions, I know. But they must be asked. Because good old-fashioned exercise, you know, like going for a run and knowing when you’ve achieved your goal by listening to your body, is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

So is it a good thing? Is technology ushering in a new era of exercise? 

To answer some of these questions, let’s just state upfront that any exercise is good for you. So any device that encourages you to get into the gym, or go for that run, is a good thing.

In fact, today’s wearable fitness tech is becoming smarter everyday. There are now apps that deliver workouts for different fitness levels and styles of workout. The technology is becoming more personalised and acts as a coach of sorts that also offers a wide range of data including heart-rate monitoring and tracking pace, elevation.. pretty much anything you need. 

So all that’s a good thing, right?

Well, yes and no.  

Larry Rosen, a Professor and research psychologist at California State University, says that although workout technology can be valuable there’s also a downside.

'If you’re constantly checking your stats on your device then that’s going to create anxiety,' says Rosen, 'exercise is supposed to produce endorphins and dopamine – chemicals that make you feel good, not anxiety neurotransmitters like cortisol.'

Essentially, Rosen is asking us why we’d want to feel any stress whatsoever when we’re trying to do something that’s supposed to be good for us.

A fair question. 

Exercise apps are also a concern for Jo Zimmerman, a trainer and instructor of kinesiology at the University of Maryland.

'By focusing on apps and data and milestones, people are tempted to push too hard when they should really be listening to their body and not their iPhone,' says Zimmerman, 'so exercise technology is a double-edged sword – for some it’s the reason they get off the couch. For others it makes them too competitive and veils their real physical limitations.'  

So are we now on the exercise tech superhighway hurtling towards an isolated future? Or is there still room for good old fashioned training? 

The answer?

There’s still room. 

In this world of tech hyper-connectivity, the gym - especially group training - gives people the chance to breathe, move and interact for maybe the only time that day. People crave that contact, people need that connection.  

Sure, tech can play a part - music blaring, clock ticking etc - but fitness is about more than just athletic results. It's also a stress release, a social event, a bit of 'you' time and most of all, a break from technology. 

Oh, and yes, the after gym selfie is totally harmless. So go for it.

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