Can technology make us stronger, faster, and fitter?
I'm not talking about Wii Fit rowing or an Xbox dance-revolution here. It's the technology that helps to spearhead the heroic efforts you are already making to improve your health that interests me.
Of course nothing can actually replace the work you put in at the gym or sporting field but new technology can certainly help you to measure your performance, improve your comfort or just make the whole thing a bit more fun.
So here are my picks of some of the interesting new technologies pushing fitness into 2012 and beyond:
Porsche Design Bounce
Porsche Design has engineered some cool running shoes, which Adidas has manufactured. They include metal springs that not only provide heel suspension but also aim to deliver increases in forward propulsion - representing a complete reversal of the barefoot running trend.
During a run they are comfortable and functional like every shoe should be, but Porsche Design's shoes (RRP: $790) also look pretty futuristic, so you may even turn some heads.
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
Runners, bikers, and swimmers - this is the watch to watch. Whether you're swimming or paddle boarding, it provides swim metrics and the GPS path you have travelled. A one-touch feature allows you to switch sport modes so you can analyse your running and biking as you transition to the next sport. An altimeter provides accurate data for every run/bike session, and you can automatically upload data wirelessly when your watch comes within range of the USB stick.
Adidas has invested in technology, and the result is your own personal coach – miCoach. The miCoach engine is the Speed Cell ($100), which sits in the bottom of a running shoe or soccer boot. It tracks up to 7hrs of data – average speed, max speed, distance at high intensity, and time - then lets you wirelessly upload data to a PC or Apple product and share with mates on social media.
And when you cool down you can create your own avatar to compete against friends in your own video game - and your avatar is only as good as your personal fitness dictates.
Nike+ Sportswatch GPS
This watch and shoe sensor ($250) have been around for years, but now personal navigation from TomTom is powering the GPS feature. The watch tracks time, pace, distance, heart rate, calories burned, and maps the route run while providing a detailed history of up to 50 runs. The Nike+ software is easy to use, and you can easily personalise your watch. The watchband is smartly designed so you can plug your watch straight into the USB port to upload data and recharge the watch battery. The coaching programs are great, and with Nike's social networking you can join their community and explore favourite runs and hikes of other Nike users at one of the world's largest running groups - Nikeplus.com.
Mygene gene testing
A biotechnology company in Melbourne called Mygene has developed a kit to analyse your genes ($195), which determines which sports and activities best suit your genetic makeup. This is pretty new technology and scientists are still divided on whether you really can give an accurate indication of your ideal fitness pursuits - but I think it is a trend to watch. The kit will offer recommendations about rest and warm-up times, allowing personal trainers to design a program that they believe will individually suit your body type.
Workout Of the Day (WOD) App
With smartphones now an object of the masses, there are many cheap apps to partner up with your training sessions - from yoga, to performing 100 push ups, to building the perfect arms, and abs.
One of my favourites is the WOD App ($4.49 iTunes) which provides CrossFit WODs (workouts of the day), a timer, and a log tab which allows you to track your workouts completed and associated scores/times. The Couch to 5k/Get Running (Free iTunes) app is a great program for beginners to get their bums off the couch and turn into intermediate runners.
Fitness music tracks
Music during exercise has been around for ages, but science is starting to muscle in on the scene and some athletes swear that the right music can actually increase performance. Sadly it isn't always the music that you like that will help you most - but those in competitive sports who really need an edge may want to look into this.
Some researchers even believe that selecting appropriate songs for your exercise routine could help you feel less fatigued, train longer, and even minimise the chance of injury.
The Ministry of Sounds has a compilation called Running Trax to suit walking, jogging or running while Run2Rhythm (run2r.com) sells original songs to match up particular running speeds. Water company Mizone has taken things a step further recently, asking a number of local artists to compose unique tracks based on scientific research, for a range of endurance activities.
Do you have a favourite technology that helps you get fit - or do you think it is all a load of hype?