Wearable technology can help you track your activity level and monitor your training progress.

Which Wearable Technology Is Best for You?

By now, you’ve probably heard of “wearable technology” – the wristbands, watches, pods, and even clothing available to help you track your health and performance. While these new devices and gadgets share many common features such as heart rate monitoring and general activity tracking, some also measure very unique health parameters. With more and more products hitting the market, the choices can seem overwhelming. Here’s a rundown of the various types of technology available and how to choose.

1. “I want to monitor my general health”

You need: Activity tracker

Activity trackers generally come in the form of wristbands, watches, or pods and use accelerometer technology to monitor your movement through the day. By collecting data over 24 hours, your activity monitor can assess the amount and quality of your movements to estimate your quality of sleep, calories burned, and physical activity. Many activity monitors provide even more in-depth information by measuring other biometric data ranging from heart rate to sweat volume.

2. “I want to monitor my performance”

You need:  GPS watch

For the most direct help in improving your performance, try a GPS watch, which monitors your movement via satellite to give you real-time data about your running pace and distance. Some GPS watches also track your heart rate, either directly or via a chest strap, yielding important data about the intensity of your workouts.

2. “I want to connect with other runners”

You need:  Your smartphone

It’s a great idea to join a local running club, but when your schedule doesn’t allow it, you can still make running a group effort through social media websites that connect the running community.  Find and compare running routes and follow fellow runners for challenges, support, and motivational encouragement.

3. “I want to try cutting edge technology”

You need:  Biometric clothing (and more products to come)

A handful of companies are now producing shirts and socks embedded with sensors that can interface with your computer and smartphone to measure everything from your breathing and heart rate to your running form and pace.

4. “I want something simple”

You need: Nothing!

There are plenty of ways to monitor your health without the use of fancy gadgets. For example, you can use a standard watch or the stopwatch function on your phone to time workouts, track sleep, measure your heart rate and calculate the amount of total physical activity you get per day. Gradually you’ll begin to correlate what you learn about your physical activity with how how healthy you feel, physically and mentally.

Eshwar Kapur MD, is a sports medicine physician who practices at Kaiser Permanente South San Francisco, where he specializes in running medicine. Dr. Kapur ran varsity cross-country and track and field for the University of Virginia and has been running for more than 25 years without injury. He has participated in medical coverage for races around the country including the New York City Marathon, the Cherry Blossom Run in Washington, D.C., and the Nike Women’s Marathon, where he was featured as a guest speaker at their Expotique pre-race expo.