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Health and Fitness at the Consumer Electronics Show

The world’s largest annual showcase for new products, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), featured a record breaking 1.92 square miles of exhibit space this year.  That’s the size of 37 football fields!  Included in that vast area were 210 booths devoted to health and fitness, a record in itself.  The amount of space and special sessions targeting health and fitness at CES  grows exponentially every year, reflecting consumers’ growing willingness to invest in a healthier life-style.  It seems that, along with today’s steeply rising health care costs, there’s an imperative to stay fit and avoid those costly doctor visits.

Last year at CES, I was amazed by the innovative products I saw; this year, I was stunned!  Health and fitness devices were more innovative, more useful, more exciting and, incredibly, more cheaper as well. As evidence of this, 3 health/fitness devices were among the 10 finalists in the popular “Last Gadget Standing Contest.”  Misfit Shine, a water-proof activity tracker with a 6 month battery life came in 2nd over the 50 other gadgets in the contest.

It’s innovation lies in its sleek, small, jewel-like design, wearable just about anywhere on clothes, underwear or swim swear.  Merely placing the quarter-sized unit on a smart phone’s screen will allow it to sync to a special application that records the results.  And Misfit Shine’s $99  price tag falls within what one fitness expert referred to as the ‘sweet-spot’ for consumer pricing of  fitness products: $100 – $200.

Misfit Shine’s wearable wireless connectivity and smart phone activity-tracking follow a trend found in many of this year’s new fitness tools.  Similar devices in years past were priced 2 and 3 times more and had fewer features.  It’s no wonder that last year, 30 million of these devices were sold in the U.S, up 37% from the previous year.

Tinke, a vital signs monitor from Zensorium is another example of the innovation found at CES this year.  For serious fitness enthusiasts, it logs blood oxygen levels, heart rate, respiration, and stress levels into your iPhone by pressing your index finger into a small plate that plugs into the 30 pin adapter of all but the very latest iPhones, iPads, and iTouches.  The cost, $119, is amazing considering its features.

My personal favorite fitness device at CES this year was 4 iiii’s (as in four eyes) Sport iiii’s performance coach.. It records your workout stats wirelessly via Bluetooth and gives you real time, heads up info on your workout.  That means with this product you can ride your bike or run or lift weights and get data, as it is being recorded, without looking down at something on your wrist or attached to your bike or shorts.  The displayed information is displayed on a device that clips onto your sunglasses.  It even talks to you with guidance based on that information.  The unit provides visual and audio cues about your activities while the data is being logged into your smart phone for post-workout evaluation.  As a serious bike-rider, I put this gadget on my birthday wish-list. And the retail cost, $149,  is again right within that perfect $100 – $200 price range.

Regardless of price or features, none of these cool gadgets will increase a persons’ fitness level unless they’re used consistently over time.  Motivation is a key component of a fitness program.  To keep their customers hooked on exercise,  most of the  fitness device makers at CES this year have a Facebook component and/or a website that offers a social context to their workouts enabling wearers to share training schedules, celebrate reaching their goals and offer each other advice and encouragement.

So what’s driving all this activity in the fitness arena?  In the opening CES super-session on health, a panel of experts pointed out that 75% of health care costs involve preventable conditions.  It’s basic exercise that plays a major part in controlling the chronic conditions of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the conditions that make up most of this huge percentage.   Increasingly, as people pay more out of pocket for their health care costs, they’re coming to understand the role exercise can take in reducing their costs and improving their lives.  My guess is that next year’s CES will have even more fitness tools for us to choose from.














controlling the chronic conditions






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