Sports & Fitness

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Sports Technology - from the Simple to the Complex

Sports technology can be defined as man-made means or devices developed to help athletes or sport enthusiasts to improve training and achieve goals in any particular sport. Such technologies can be in the form of equipment, wearables, and applications or computer programs, and other fitness products. Recent developments in sports technologies have brought a variety of devices aimed at improving performance, treating injuries, and monitoring progress.

Health or fitness conditions can be monitored by paying close attention to important indicators such as heart rate and body fat. Thanks to such devices, it is easier to obtain a better understanding about the body and create training program suitable for you. Other items include not only devices with computer-processing ability for examples performance monitors and electronic muscle stimulators, but it can be mechanically-engineered training equipment such as a balance board.

Balance Board

Also commonly referred to as wobble board, a balance board is one of the simplest examples of mechanically-engineered sports technology. It does not have a computer chip and relies solely on the user. Balance boards have a flat surface for you to stand on placed on top of a rounded base to balance. It is designed to be out of balance, so when you stand on it, you must continuously fix your balance by making many little swift movements.

Balance boards were initially used only by surfer and skiers to develop and better hone their balance skills.  However it has now used for other purposes including non-athletic purposes. It is fairly inexpensive equipment. Because of its effectiveness in training balance, the board is also utilized to improve martial arts abilities, motor coordination, core strength, and weight distribution. It can be used for rehabilitation after injuries as well. Balance boards can be used effectively regardless of age.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation

A prime example of high-tech sporting equipment is EMS or Electrical Muscle Stimulation. Also known as NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation).  The devices work by elicitation of muscle contraction generated by electric impulses. Electrodes, in the forms of pads, are attached or applied to the skin within direct proximity to the muscles to be stimulated. Every impulse mimics potential actions from the central nervous system which trigger muscle contractions.

The use of electronic muscle stimulators has been increasing in popularity because its ability to potentially serve as a strength training tool for athletes and non-athletes alike. For non-athletes including partially or totally immobilized subjects, EMS can be used as rehabilitation tool or testing tool to evaluate muscular function. In the United States, EMS devices are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

All manufacturers of electric muscle stimulator devices must comply with FDA regulatory requirements before they can put their products in the market. Most stimulators available that have been reviewed by the FDA are intended for rehabilitation or physical therapy. If a company wants to sell an EMS device, it has to show the FDA that the device can be used effectively and safely.

Similar to many fitness equipment and tools, an EMS device is able to temporarily firm, tone, or strengthen muscles, but there is no device confirmed as effective for permanent weight loss, obtaining muscular abs, or girth reduction. Now portable muscle stimulators are becoming more popular and easier to use in a home setting by individuals.

Performance Monitors

Another popular sports technology are performance monitors. The main function is to keep real-time data about fitness levels by measuring indicators such as heart rate, cadence, VO2 Max, stroke, pace, speed, calories, and required recovery time depending on the sport activity. Since the data is obtained in real-time (during the workout), you will have a better understanding of what you are doing and figure out the best methods or training intensity to improve your performance.

Some performance monitors are wearable devices for examples watches, heart rate monitor straps, cadence sensors, foot pods, or mountable to sport equipment. Some of them can record, process and analyze data on-board, while others require further processing on complementary computer program. One of the most practical examples is a fitness tracker wrapped on a wrist. An advanced fitness tracker can be equipped with an optical heart rate sensor or paired with heart rate strap to measure calories burned, heart rate, steps taken, and even how well you sleep.

Some sport-specific performance monitors for running or bicycling activities have GPS functionality and smartphone compatibility features. When activated, the GPS measures not only distance traveled while running or biking, but also display your position on a map. To provide more detailed analysis report, a companion sport app installed on a compatible smartphone can continuously synchronize to the monitor and record the data. Performance monitors are generally easy to use; you do not need a coach or technology professional to understand how it works. Even better, the price is relatively inexpensive. There are also performance monitors for swimming in both indoor and open water environment equipped with waterproofed housing.

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