By Nick Nyman, Physiotherapist

There is an ever-growing list of features that modern smartwatches offer. With all this information at our fingertips, it can be hard to determine what is proven to help prevent injuries and what is just fun to track? Here is a list of our favourite features and why they are important for your health.

 

Cadence

Cadence is a measure of how many steps you take in a minute of running. When you run at a lower cadence you are typically taking longer strides potentially over-striding. Over-striding causes an increase in the sudden load that goes through your leg on foot strike increasing the chances of some muscle, tendon, and joint injuries. Additionally, it is less efficient resulting in slower run times. Gold standard cadence is 170-185 steps per minute. A cadence under 160 is considered over-striding. Most smartwatches will track your cadence giving you an insight into your running style. Some modern smartwatches feature a metronome vibration which can be used as real-time feedback to ensure you are running at a pre-determined cadence.

 

Load Management

A large portion of injuries are a result of overtraining. This can be from a long period of overuse or from a sudden period of increased demand. Different smartwatches utilise pace, heart rate, exercise frequency, training zones and more to determine your current exercise load. Modern watches will even alert you if they believe you are overtraining. Unfortunately, there’s no golden rule on how much exercise is tolerable for different body types and everyone responds differently. With this said, utilising the watches features to better understand your own ability & limits will help you to better prevent overtraining leading to injury.

Activity tracker

In 2020 the World Health Organisation released its updated guidelines on exercise outlining some changes in how we view exercise for health.

WHO exercise guidelines:
• 150-300 min of moderate exercise or 75-150 min of vigorous exercise a week
• 2 or more sessions of strength training at a moderate or greater intensity per week

What’s new?
• Health benefits occur with levels of physical activity below the recommendations, supporting the statement that some physical activity is better than none.
• Physical activity accrued at work, leisure, home or during transportation count towards the recommended amounts.
• Bouts of any duration now count towards these recommendations, reflecting new evidence to support the value of total physical activity volume, regardless of bout length.

To summarise, every time you choose to take the stairs rather than the lift, every time you walk to the further away café, every time you get off the bus a stop early, you are helping. All these small bouts of exercise contribute to your overall health and your watch will track all these movements. Even if is just a step counter it is still a useful measure for increasing your activity.

 

Sleep quality

Sleeping is a time when your body rebuilds and repairs itself. This is true of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and joints. When you have a prolonged lack of sleep you put yourself at an increased risk of many common musculoskeletal injuries such as muscle tears, over-use injuries, and joint pain. In addition, it has been shown that you experience greater levels of pain when you are sleep deprived even for the same degree of injury. A stimulus that would normally only cause mild pain might cause moderate levels of pain when sleep deprived.

Chronic pain (pain lasting greater than 6 months) is especially susceptible to these negative effects of reduced sleep. Smartwatches have a basic way of measuring your sleep, although they do not measure the quality of your sleep, they do however measure how long you sleep and how many times you wake and are active during this time. This gives you a rough measure of how well you are sleeping and a baseline from which you can improve your sleep.

 

Motivation and fun

Exercise is extremely good for your physical and mental wellbeing. Any feature on the watch that you enjoy using and makes you enjoy exercising more is an excellent feature. Any feature that gets you exercising more is a physio approved feature.

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