In some parts of the world, the concept of a gym is a ridiculous proposition. Particularly in countries where agriculture is abundant and farming is a way of life, people work and interact in harmony with their natural environments, integrating health and fitness organically. The notion of going inside a room, to run on a machine that doesn’t move, and pay money for it, is strange and ostracizing.
Yet in many parts of the world, this man-made construct -- the gym -- is an accepted habitat necessary to become connected with one’s body and one’s health. While gyms are nothing new, other man-made health-saving constructs are on the rise, with 2014 witnessing the greatest shift towards technological inventions that are predicted to improve our health: mobile apps.
According to the International Herald Tribune, 500 million mobile users, or about 30% of an estimated 1.4 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, will be using health and fitness apps by 2015.
The Apple’s US App store itself currently shows 43,689 healthcare-related apps. Predictions indicate that these health apps will grow from 154 million downloads in 2010 to 908 million by 2016, and the number of wearable wireless “gadgets” will grow from 8 million to 72 million over the same period.
Impressive numbers. So what are these apps all about? The apps themselves cover all sorts of health-related issues.
Popular ones this year include, MapMyWalk (http://www.mapmywalk.com/), which tracks the pace and timing of walking, while Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale (http://withings.com/en/bodyanalyzer) tracks weight, BMI and body-fat mass, transmitting those details to a personally-password protected web site. Then there’s Fitocracy Macros (http://www.fitocracy.com/knowledge/macros-101/), an app that tracks calories one takes in from macronutrients.
Essentially, what these apps seem to have in common is some sort of tracking system: a way to monitor one’s own well-being, while providing an information platform, triggering the popular consumer behaviors of control and prevention.
Wellness has become about prevention:
It’s nothing new that the Western world is entering an enormous health care crisis, with obesity and diabetes’ rates higher than ever, and the focus of preventative care becoming central to a better health system.
These mobile apps allow us to move health care out of hospitals and medical centers and into our everyday lives. It’s already happening with the rise of apps that allow us to monitor our bodies from the inside, offering us more information, insight and control over our lifestyles.
The next question to consider is: if we know more about our bodies, can we save them? Or all these apps just another form of entertainment and coercion to buy more things?
If we consider the gym trend, has the rise of these fitness centers actually helped us towards healthier lifestyles, or simply allowed us to control them more?
While gyms and apps and other commodities allow us to control our bodies more, brands will need to provide a more legitimate sense of health security to create a shift in health care statistics.