As consumers become more invested in a holistic approach to their health, they’re looking to different modalities to maintain their wellbeing, with convenience and functionality taking top priority. Enter wearable health trackers and devices. Designed to be worn throughout the day to capture health information in real-time, these booming products are steadily taking over the wellness space, thanks to their ease of use and cutting edge technology. In fact, according to recent statistics, global spending on wearable devices is expected to reach more than $90 billion by the end of 2022. And while wristlets like Apple Watches and Fitbits may have pioneered the wearables industry, the market is rapidly growing and in a variety of forms, from a headband to train your brain and reduce stress to a ring that tracks your menstrual cycle.
Over the years, wearable technology companies have become more and more sophisticated, tackling insights that go far beyond step count. Brands are directing their focus to journaling and maintaining your mental health, depth of sleep, and period prediction, tackling wellness from the inside out. That said, consumers are becoming savvier, too, and feel a new measure of confidence thanks to the insights they receive. “Patients tell me what they think is happening. That’s where the struggle is,” says Parsley Health physician Dr. Nisha Chellam, MD. “I notice that they feel so confident, so we have to sit down with the data and analyze it. It's not as simple as you didn't have deep sleep tonight. So I feel wearables need a little bit of education before you start interpreting the data. A lot of what has been studied is your physiological processes like body temperature changes, heart rate changes, and oxygen saturation. Most people can get enough data from these wearables and tweak their habits based on it.”
While brands like Apple and Fitbit have already hit mainstream for some time now, an array of emerging companies are rising in wearable ranks, keeping users on their toes. Here, we’ve compiled a list of wearable health trackers to watch this year.
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What started as a wearable crafted with athletes in mind — two of its first 100 users included LeBron James and Michael Phelps — has become a mainstream device for the masses. Whoop, the screenless wrist watch — which can also be worn anywhere on the body when you detach the sensor — tracks fitness, sleep, and recovery, while identifying fluctuations in each user’s individual bodyweight baseline.
One of its newest features is called the Whoop Journal, which allows users to input the supplements they’ve taken, diet, and different recovery modalities on the brand’s app. But the core concept and goal here is to report one’s mood. At the first of each month, the app will provide the latest analysis as to how each tracked behavior impacted your recovery and sleep metrics. “You can report how you’re feeling and list things you’re grateful for,” says Will Ahmed, founder and CEO of Whoop. “At the end of every month, Whoop will tell you what improved your mood and what negatively impacted your mood.”
FocusCalm hones in on brain function, using the power of neurofeedback to reduce stress and help control your mindset. The headband includes passive sensors that detect subtle AI activity that your brain naturally gives off. “The headband is picking up on signals and passively reading them and quantifying how at ease versus how active or stressed your brain looks,” says Max Newlon, president of FocusCalm.
FocusCalm gives you a score from zero to 100 to represent your levels of relaxation (the higher the score, the calmer you are). The device is meant to be worn for about 15 minutes a day and encourages you to utilize the brand’s guided meditations and brain games. For example, one of the games involves a rocket ship, which is controlled by your FocusCalm score. As it goes up, you start earning more points. Newlon added, “What we’ve found is that completing 20 sessions seems to be the cutoff for seeing statistically significant improvements in things like burnout, wellbeing, and anxiety.”
Aesthetically pleasing, Oura Ring is just as the name implies. The ring was designed to be worn around your finger because it fits more snugly than a wristwatch. It creates a stronger signal between the LED sensors on the inside of your Oura Ring and the arteries beneath your skin by eliminating space and gaps. “Having it be on the finger means that people also get credit for activities that you don’t normally get credit for with other devices,” says Caroline Kryder, science communications lead at Oura. “A lot of devices are looking for steps. But for Oura, we have this automatic activity detection feature where you can get credit for washing the dishes, doing the laundry, playing with your kids, or doing yard work.”
Oura has seven research-grade temperature sensors in the ring and has the ability to get to know your personal temperature. “If something looks off, you might be showing signs that you’re under the weather, or it enables us to pick up on a lot of hormonal changes in women,” explains Kryder. Oura recently completed a study with the University of California, San Diego, where the brand was able to detect pregnancy five and a half days after conception because of the rising heat levels detected in the body. Kryder added, “Oura delivers a lot of empowering information to look at the journey of your body over time.”
Levels, a sensor worn on the back of your arm, continuously tracks your blood glucose in real-time to maximize diet and exercise. After a brief questionnaire, which is reviewed by a Levels-affiliated physician, a continuous glucose monitor prescription is granted and a pharmacy sends two sensors. The device is not meant for treatment of any medical condition, disease, or diagnosis, but to get a holistic view of your general health and wellness. Each is worn for 14 days and the Levels app takes a data stream and transforms it into actionable insights to help you understand what’s happening. “It's incredibly difficult to get on top of things like metabolic health if you have no way of tracking it or understanding what’s leading to metabolic dysfunction,” says Dr. Casey Means, Levels cofounder and chief medical officer. “Most people wait until their yearly physical to get a finger prick or a blood test about blood sugar. And that’s the only information you have about what’s happening with your metabolic health.”
When using Levels, you log your food in the app, which is paired with your glucose monitoring data. After each meal, you’ll get a review called a zone score to help you understand, on a scale of one to 10, the glycemic impact of that meal and how big of a glucose spike it caused. It will also offer feedback and personalized data on how your diet and lifestyle choices impacted your metabolic health. Means noted, “We fundamentally believe that people should be able to own their health data and have access to information about how food is affecting them.”