The use of wearable technology

Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, is helping to monitor health and capture wellness data. We learn more about what is out there and how it can help you.

Chronic disease management requires you to remain diligent in monitoring your activities and symptoms. Together with the help of your healthcare practitioner and wearable technology, you can keep track not only of your steps but also receive information about your heart rate, activities done, sleep routines, medication intake reminders and so much more.

Tracking your progress

Smartwatches have become a growing craze within the fitness world today. However, wearable technology, such as smartwatches, make tracking your progress and monitoring your heart rate quick and easy. Therefore, becoming a useful tool in chronic disease management.

These watches can provide information on heart rate, the number of steps taken, as well as VO2 max (maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during exercise) and activities done. Some can even provide information on glucose levels. However, more research is needed on the accuracy of those findings1.

The use of smartwatches can provide a platform for monitoring your own progress and heart rate, including heart rate maximum, heart rate recovery and the average heart rate during an exercise session. This info ensures that you are working-out within the correct intensity level as well as providing important data for objective fitness assessments.

The step-counting feature can be highly motivating as it provides a guideline on the steps you need to take each day to stay fit and healthy.

New exciting wearables

There has been huge growth in the development and availability of wearable technology. Not only has there been better advancement of the original step counters (pedometers), chest straps to measure heart rate, and wrist or smartwatch devices. But the market has opened for many new exciting wearables such as:

  • GPS shoes, where satellite tracking can determine speed, distance and even stride length changes.
  • Full body suits or clothing which can detect the amount of sweat excreted and body temperature. It even alerts for hydration if the body needs replenishment due to sweat and high temperature.
  • Smartphones can track the number of steps a day. Various apps can help track health measurements and cycles, such as menstruation, sleep and rapid eye movement (REM), medicinal script update reminders, and even blood glucose monitoring (connected to wearable BG monitoring technology).
  • Smartglasses have emerged. These can be tracked by GPS and offer routes to walk or run, restaurant recommendations and more. These are also developing into working on calorie counts, and possibly even carb counting or fat content of certain meals, based on the picture picked up by the sensors of the glasses.
  • Ring and other jewellery technology aren’t considered terribly sensitive but also pick up hand gestures and movement.
  • UV sun ray patches which can detect whether your skin is overexposed to harmful sunlight rays.
  • Hearables not only refers to hearing aids. Think of the effect of earphones, headphones, ear buds and the like with regards to fitness, travel, and work.
  • There is also a fall detection tool which can alert emergency services so that someone who has had a fall can be found and medically treated quickly.

Saving lives

Wearable products are geared to providing accurate data, and medical class sensors aren’t only helping track fitness, movement and general health, but is helping to save lives.

The Apple Watch has released an FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) which can measure the electrical activity of the heart and can detect signs of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat.

This proved true for 76-year-old Hongkonger Gaston D’Aquino, when his Apple watch alerted him to go to hospital even though he was feeling fine. It turned out his coronary arteries were almost completely blocked.

How to interpret your smartwatch data?

It’s best to have a clinician, such as a biokineticist, who understands all the measurable data to help interpret the results. And, in turn assess and guide what data is most appropriate for you as an individual.

A biokineticist will also assist you to create healthy lifestyle changes and strategies to obtain health and improved quality of life.

It’s important for people with diabetes to be monitored closely during exercise to analyse their response or symptoms during the session and therefore make any necessary changes.

Using wearable technology during exercise training, whether it involves aerobic or resistance training or a combination thereof, facilitates improved glucose regulations, and helps monitor progress.

Therefore, although diabetes is a complex chronic condition, it can be managed through exercise to avoid secondary complications, progression of the condition, and exposure to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.

The goal for your biokineticist is to help optimise the use of wearable technology for everyday living, training and improving your fitness levels. But, especially in the case of monitoring blood glucose and medication, such as insulin requirement.

With the help of a biokineticist, training can be adjusted and monitored according to your needs, which can be influenced by the environment as well as other medical factors.

This article was written by Biokinetics Association of South Africa (BASA).  


  1. Jason P Burnham, C. L. L. H. Y. T. C. B. M. H. K., 2018. Using wearable technology to predict health outcomes: a literature review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 25(9), p. 1221–1227.
  2. Kirwan, J. P. J. S. a. S. N., 2017. The essential role of exercise in the management of type 2 diabetes. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 84(7).
  3. , 2020. Diabetes Focus eMagazine. [Online] Available at: [Accessed August 2020].
  4. Blair, M., 2016. Diabetes Mellitus Review.
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