Category Archives: gadgets

The Quantified Self & PE – Tracking Everything

I’ve always been interested in sport and technology, ever since I received my first ever sports watch as a teenager making it possible to time my laps and splits during athletic training. However while my passion for physical activity has remained, technology sure has advanced in leaps and bounds. Its truly unbelievable and with every new device,  we move closer and closer towards the quantified self.

So what exactly is this quantified self that everyone is talking about? Gary Wolf best describes it in the video below;

My journey on this quantified self journey began with a Polar Heart Rate monitor many years ago. The ability to exercise, while simultaneously observing my heart rate was something that motivated me to improve my overall health in ways I never thought possible. These same motivational qualities are reflected in our students, who revel at the ability to identify their physiological response to a lesson. The theoretical concepts that can also be explored are fantastic opening up a myriad of laboratory activities to improve student understanding.

Not too long after receiving my first iPod Nano, I found myself purchasing a Nike+ iPod sports kit which enabled me to track the distance and relative speed of my runs with a reasonable level of accuracy. However it wasn’t until the iPhone 3GS arrived that my obsession with tracking activity went to a whole different level.

The first ‘app’ that I downloaded on my new iPhone was Runkeeper. I found the whole idea of activity tracking truly out of this world, making it possible to accurately track all of the important metrics one would want within activity. My fitness levels rose to new heights and I began blogging on all of the ways in which activity tracking could be used in the PE Classroom. To this day, GPS apps have been used to teach senior PE concepts such as energy systems, training principles and acute responses in ways I could never have imagined when I was learning. Taking this even further saw the development of Heart Rate sensors such as the Wahoo Blue HR or the Polar H7 Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 9.47.00 PMwhich would enable HR tracking inside of the GPS apps. The data from these activities is full of rich goodness.

In recent months, my pursuits of health data has led me to purchase a groundbreaking device called a FitBit One. Which is an all in one tiny device that allows fluid wireless physical activity and sleep tracking. This has resulted in me being 100% aware of the total steps, total distance, stairs climbed and much more. I’m even informed of my sleep cycles and gently woken by a vibrating alarm when I’m in a light sleep phase.  All of this data is wirelessly accessible via the FitBit website or app allowing me to keep track of everything I do.

To extend my data tracking even further I have recently purchased a FitBit Aria Wifi Smart Scale, which allows me to track my daily weight, BMI and body fat percentages all of which are also uploaded to my FitBit account. This combined with the My Fitness Pal app enable me to keep an eye on my food intake and subsequent energy expenditure in a completely social environment.

This whole world of data collection and mapping truly excites me, making it possible to track health and teach health concepts in ways we could of only dreamed of in years gone by. I’m excited by where these opportunities might take Physical Education and the message we seek to instill in our students. With tremendous growth occurring in wearable technology you can be rest assured that as we gain access to even more data, the data itself will become even more readable and useable by all. This is the space I cannot wait to be in.

Bring on the Quantified Self 

What are you currently tracking? Where do you see this type of technology taking health and physical education as it becomes even less obtrusive and affordable?

Must Have Health Gadgets

The personal health space has exploded in recent years with heaps of cool gadgets that integrate with mobile devies to help people track their health in ever expanding ways. So I thought I would share a couple of the devices that I would love to see under my Xmas tree this year.

Withings – The Blood Pressure Monitor

Take your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to the next level with this awesome blood pressure monitor. Use it to track your  changes and share your results with your doctor or family. A great addition to a PE department to teach the theoretical basis of blood pressure and acute responses to exercise. Check the device out in action here

The Wifi Body Scale

What happens when you add WiFi to a set of scales? Introducing the Withings Body Scale which sends all of your vital statistics directly to you computer or mobile device. You can even setup your scales to tweet your daily metrics. Check out the video of it in action below.


Although plagued by initial trouble on release, the UP device by Jawbone is a cool health monitoring device set to record everything from sleep to exercise and sync it to your smartphone. Users can join challenges that seek to improve their overall health. Sign up for the next release at the website.

Wahoo Blue HR for iPhone 4s

I recently purchased one of these handy devices for my iPhone 4s and it has integrated nicely into my exercise regime, allowing me to track heart rate changes as compared to other data like speed, distance etc. The Wahoo Blue HR takes exercise to the next level with apps like Endomondo and Runkeeper allowing for live online monitoring.

Swivl – Personal Cameraman

I simply cannot wait to get one of these devices into my classroom. Simply place your iPhone or other mobile device in the cradle, attach the sensor clip to your clothing and you have your own mobile  cameraman who follows your every move. A great addition to PE classes and activity analysis tasks.

Scosche My Trek

An alternative bluetooth enabled heart rate monitor that is worn on your forearm instead of your chest. The device also integrates with mobile applications to gather and record your heart rate and training metrics. A perfect choice for schools where device sharing is required. Check out the promo video here


This groovy little accelerometer allows users to wirelessly track their activity throughout the day. All information is then accessible via a mobile application or the website. Use this device to determine if students are meeting the physical activity guidelines/sedentary guidelines. Check out the video of it in action below

Zeo Sleep Managament

A cool little sleep management unit that allows you to track your sleep patterns including the different phases of sleep. Considering we spend 1/3 of our life doing it, it certainly could be a worthy investment. I would love to integrate it into sports psychology discussion in senior physical education. Check out the video of it in action here

Zephyr BioHarness

At present only available for Android devices, however word is of  a future release for iOS devices. Attach this to your mobile device and run an app like SportsTracker Pro and you can capture heart rate, breathing rate and skin temperature. Simply awesome.