Wearable Health, Fitness Technology Gaining Traction

While men and women wear fitness bands in nearly equal numbers, women are more likely to use mobile health devices to monitor specialized health needs.

While about one in six consumers who have heard about wearable technology (wearables) are using them--with 61 percent are wearing fitness bands, the appeal of wearables goes beyond fashion accessories, particularly as more consumers adopt technology to help address their individual health and fitness needs, using both wearables and smartphone apps to meet their goals, according to a survey from Nielsen.

Overall, wearables owners tend to have more disposable income, especially among fitness band users, as one-in-three earn $100,000 or more in household income, according to the study.

The company’s recent Connected Life Report found that young adults lead the charge in adopting wearable tech, with consumers between ages 18-34 making up nearly half (49 percent) of owners of fitness bands.

Consumers also use fitness and health apps beyond wearables, with usage as varied as their own health interests, including everything from Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal (8.7 million users) to exercise apps like Nexercise (3 million users) and Runkeeper (2.1 million users).

Although most wearables owners are young adults, the majority of consumers using the MyFitnessPal’s app are over the age of 35, suggesting that health is important to consumers of all ages.

While men and women wear fitness bands in nearly equal numbers, women were more likely to use mobile health devices used to monitor specialized health needs, known as mHealth devices, than men.

Women are actually driving the growth in fitness and health apps, as 60 percent of women ages 30-39 use these smartphone apps, compared with 44 percent of smartphone owners overall.

While men and women are equally likely to own wearables, women used Fitbit’s smartphone app nearly twice as often as men (29 times per month versus 16 times per month in January) and accessing the app nearly every day.

The report also suggested that no matter who uses smartphone apps to keep tabs on health, consumers make them a part of their daily routines, accessing fitness and health apps 16 times per month and spending more than an hour using them, on average.

Nearly one-third of U.S. smartphone owners—about 46 million unique users—accessed apps in the fitness and health category in January 2014, an 18 percent increase in users compared with the same month a year earlier.

Popular apps that connect consumers with their wearables include FitBit (3.3 million users), Nike+Running (0.8 million users) and Samsung’s S Health app, which attracted more than 3 million users in January before the company announced its own fitness bands at the Mobile World Congress convention in Barcelona.

Insights from Nielsen’s Connected Life Report were gathered from general population survey of adults 18 years or older that consisted of 3,956 respondents who are either current users or non-users with high interest in Connected Life technologies.

Respondents completed an online, self-administered survey early November 2013, and the sample included 2,313 respondents interested in connected-wearable technology.