Latest developments in health apps can push users to unsafe measures, German experts warn

By David Fischer, dpa

Cologne–It’s not so long ago that the personal heart-rate monitor was considered high-tech among joggers. Now we live in the age of wearable tech and health apps that can do more that just measure your pulse while you run around the park. The latest gadgets can count steps, monitor the heart, analyze sleep patterns and measure metabolism rates. Many of the latest wearable tech tools and apps were on show at the recent Fibo fitness trade fair in Cologne, Germany. One company showed off a sensor that is placed in the human ear. Jabra developed the device to allow users to make hands-free telephone calls and listen to music while it counts their heartbeats. The data is transmitted to an app that displays the information in readable format. The device is aimed at serious amateur runners, triathletes and sports enthusiasts with relatively deep pockets.

According to a study by Germany’s IT and telecommunications industry association, Bitkom, in 2014 about 13 percent of Germans used an electronic device to measure steps or calorie usage. Wearable tech companies such as Polar and Apple offer their customers individual training programs to go along with their devices. Fitness studios have noticed that competition, and are striking back. The company Technogym has developed software that collects data supplied by treadmills, digital weighing scales and cross-trainers in gyms and stores it in the cloud. According to the company, this allows users to follow an individual training program without the need for a coach �X that is when all the equipment is supplied by one manufacturer. Another strategy is followed by Myzone, which has developed a modern form of group training aimed at attracting people to gyms, according to company manager Mike Leveque. Myzone has invented sensors that can collect data from several people at the same while they work out on exercise machines in a group. That information is collected together and shown in real time on a screen to create a competitive atmosphere: who has the lowest pulse? Who burned the most calories? When a group reaches their goal, they are rewarded with prizes in the form of T-shirts or drinks bottles. ��Figures can act like a kind of currency and help bind customers to the gym,�� says Leveque. Some technical motivations can help you get healthier, but there are a few fitness apps that achieve the exact opposite. That’s according to a report in Germany’s biggest tech magazine, Computer Bild. The magazine tested several popular apps for smartphones and other wearable devices. It discovered that they often set training levels that are far too high for amateurs and pay too little attention to individual physical characteristics.