One-third of U.S. consumers plan to buy a new fitness tech in 2013, but most buyers are already healthy

Fitness Tech Buyers Looking to Price, Quality CES Survey 2013Over one-third of U.S. consumers plan to buy a new fitness technology in the next year, especially women. They’ll buy these at mass merchants (females in particular, shopping at Target and Walmart), sporting goods retailers (more male buyers here), online and at electronics stores like Best Buy. These potential buyers consider themselves in good or excellent physical health. They’ll see the latest applications on retail store shelves in pedometers, calorie trackers, fitness video games, digital weight scales, and heart rate monitors that will be launched this week at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

In advance of the CES, the CEA published Getting Connecting with Emerging Fitness Technologies, a survey conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) just-in-time to launch the Digital Health Summit at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

Some of the top line findings are that:

  • One-half of online U.S. consumers have used a fitness technology in the past year, growing from 47% in 2011 to 56% in 2012.
  • Most people intending to buy a new piece of fitness technology in the next year are in excellent or good health, together 90% of people planning to buy devices.
  • 4 in 5 people using fitness technologies are highly satisfied with these devices, leading people to consider acquiring more such devices.
  • The most important product features for fitness tech’s are functionality (88%), quality (87%), ease of use (87%), durability (87%), and price (86%).

Most Americans say they engage in at least 10 minutes of leisure-time physical activity every week, ranging from walking (by 74% of people) and housework (59%), to gardening and yard work (32%), strength training/weights (23%), running/jogging (20%), cardio via machine (19%), cycling (18%) and exercise videos (15%), among other activities such as yoga/pilates (11%), dancing (11%), and swimming (9%). The most popular places to exercise are home (by 72%), outside (49%), and at a health club/gym (18%). The average duration of exercise is 43 minutes for both light/moderate and vigorous exercise routines. Among online U.S. adults who are physically active according to the “10 minutes a week” definition, only 1 in 10 is getting enough light or moderate exercise; but, 63% are getting enough vigorous exercise according to the American Heart Association guidelines (which suggest engaging in 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week, or 25 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days a week).

Why do people exercise? Improving health is the #1 reason, for 76%, followed by looking better (56%), losing weight and reducing BMI (58%), reducing stress (52%), and building muscle/strength (43%). Doctor’s recommendation as motivation for exercise was cite by 18% of people, dropping from 23% in the 2010 survey.

Why don’t people exercise? It’s lack of motivation for one-half of people, and “health problem” for 26%.

Tracking has become increasingly popular among U.S. adults who exercise. The most commonly tracked fitness measurements are, on a yearly basis:

  • Weight, 84% of active online U.S. consumers
  • Amount of physical activity, 57%
  • Progress toward fitness goal, 51%
  • Heart rate, 48%
  • Calories consumed, 47%
  • Calories burned, 43%
  • Body fat, 37%
  • Metabolic rate, 28%.

While 55% of online U.S. consumers used a fitness tech in the past year, up from 47% in 2010, there are demographic differences across users. More women than men use them, and while more people in the youngest age cohort (18-34) have used fitness techs, there was fast-growth among older adults, up to 55% of whom used a fitness device in the past year.

Pedometers, by far, are the most common fitness device, owned by 31% of U.S. online adults. Fitness video games (18%), portable blood pressure monitors (16%), digital weight scales with body composition metrics (e.g., BMI, by 12%), and heart rate monitors (12%) are the most popular fitness techs in the U.S. Frequency of use of fitness techs has increased since 2010: one-third (32%) of people who use fitness techs in 2010 use them daily versus 26% in 2010.

Over two-thirds of U.S. online smartphone owners have not synced their fitness device to their smartphone; 76% of those with a tablet haven’t synched their device to their tablet. Those who sync tend to be younger people. Most syncing happens during exercise while using the device, or immediately after exercising.

For this survey, the CEA polled a national sample of 1,516 online adults in November 2012.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: It appears that more people are demanding – that is, intending to purchase with their own out-of-pocket dollars – fitness technologies in 2013. This is more evidence of the growing healthcareDIY movement, where people are morphing into health consumers and taking on more responsibility for co-creating their health. If buying a digital pedometer that motivates self-tracking and sustained behavior change means more walking, then look for America’s waistline to shrink as BMIs fall.

Note, though, that it’s people who see themselves are already-fit and in at least good health who mostly intend to purchase fitness devices. While I’m all for bolstering health, and seeing healthy people stay well, that’s not where the burden of chronic disease is. And that’s what consumers 75-80% of U.S. health care costs. It’s real money in the form of about $2 trillion (yes, that’s a “t”) dollars annually.

Where we can close the circle is in Connected Health, where the data collected by these fitness devices get synced not only with “my” computer/tablet/phone but with my medical home’s electronic health record. In marrying up the Observations of Daily Living (ODLs) to clinical data in our EHRs, our clinicians, health coaches, diabetes educators and caregivers can work with us to co-create health — to move the needle on our lab data so that diabetes and heart disease can be managed, keeping us out of ERs, ORs and inpatient hospital beds and safe and well at home and working.

But most people using fitness devices aren’t even syncing yet with their smartphones or computers. So while the CEA report is titled, “Getting Connected,” we’d best remember how we’re doing so: not much yet, and when we are, we’re getting connected to our own devices.

Still, the changes in the 2012 data show promising movement forward since 2010. This week at the CES, I’ll be reporting from the convention floor and in informative panels where I’ll share with you the latest new consumer-facing health devices and wisdom from people like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra, et. al. Stay tuned to Health Populi this week for these updates…and stay well!

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