The global fitness tracker market has grown from a barely known element into a mammoth, worth close to $50 billion. That is a significant spike from $36.34 billion, the market’s approximate value in 2020. And the numbers can only go up from here.
What has fueled this tremendous growth, you wonder? The first catalyst is a spiking demand for fitness trackers. People in droves are buying and wearing fitness trackers daily. That is happening as more individuals join the fitness bandwagon and discover how these gadgets help them accomplish their goals. The other factor encouraging the fitness tracker market to expand rapidly is increasing awareness about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Read on to discover more about fitness trackers, including their history and future.
When Was the First Fitness Tracker Invented?
As you may already know, the first smartwatch was invented in the 90s. Different sources mention different dates and devices. Some believe the first-ever smartwatch was the Datalink 150, made in 1994. Others mention a Linux wearable that was developed in 1998. That said, although “smartwatch” and “fitness tracker” are used interchangeably today, their histories are entirely different.
Compared to fitness trackers, smartwatches are newbies. The reason is the first fitness tracker was invented in the mid-60s.
What Was the First Fitness Tracker?
Most people picture wearable gadgets when they hear of fitness trackers. But the first fitness tracker wasn’t a wearable. It was a simple tracker invented in 1965 by Dr. Yoshiro Hatano, a Japanese professor. Hatano named his device Manpo-kei, which means 10,000 steps.
Dr. Yoshiro wasn’t a stranger to fitness issues when he invented his tracker. A few years before, he’d begun to study and fret over the increasing obesity in Japan. Together with other researchers, Hatano discovered that most people in Japan walked up to 5,000 steps a day. They also determined that to tackle the obesity problem threatening Japan, people would have to increase their daily steps to at least 10,000 a day.
The findings of Hatano and his team made a significant splash, courtesy of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic craze. The event also gave the infamous professor and his partners in Yamasa the perfect opportunity to introduce the first-ever fitness tracker: Manpo-kei. Thanks to these two entities, fitness trackers and taking 10,000 steps a day are now more than a fad.
What Percentage of People Wear Fitness Trackers?
Here’s a quick peak:
Smartwatch Users Over the Years
|Year||Number of Smartwatch Users|
By 2020, 21% of Americans wore either a fitness tracker or smartwatch. But the numbers have spiked since then. According to recent statistics, around 45% of people in the US wear popular smartwatches like Fitbit and Apple products. As of 2022, there were over 200 million smartwatch users.
Many Americans wear fitness trackers frequently because they are committed to monitoring vital health information like heart rate and sleep quality. Such info is indispensable, especially in a country like the US, where heart disease alone kills approximately 697,000 individuals.
Research by ValuePenguine showed some interesting findings.
Smartwatches that can track fitness metrics are owned by around 45% of Americans. However, ownership varies significantly by income level. Individuals earning $75,000-$99,999 annually are far more likely at 58% to have a smartwatch compared to just 31% of those making under $35,000 per year. This disparity is likely due to the high cost of these devices.
Smartwatch usage also declines sharply with age. A whopping 70% of Gen Z between ages 18-25 wears a smartwatch regularly. But that number drops to only 36% for Gen X aged 42-56. Among baby boomers aged 57-76, just 25% use smartwatches. The tech-savvy younger generations have clearly embraced smartwatches much more than their elders.
The data shows both income and age are key factors determining who owns these increasingly popular wearable fitness trackers. With costs often in the hundreds, smartwatches remain out of reach for lower-income consumers. And older generations seem more reluctant to adopt these high-tech gadgets compared to Gen Z who have integrated them into daily life. As smartwatches evolve and prices eventually decrease, we may see usage rise across demographics.
Why Do People Wear Smartwatches
Smartwatches are getting crazy popular these days, but why exactly are folks strapping these high-tech timepieces on their wrists? For a lot of people, it’s all about the awesome fitness tracking features.
Reasons and Percentages
|Reason||The Percentage Used By The People|
|Health and Fitness||92%|
|Achieve a fitness goal||88%|
|Get regular exercise||48%|
1. Health and Fitness
Let’s get real – these smartwatches can help you get into better shape. A whopping 92% of smartwatch owners use them for health and fitness reasons. The feedback you get from seeing your daily step counts, calories torched, heart rate zones, and all that is motivational AF.
2. Achieve Fitness Goals
Nearly 9 out of 10 smartwatch users say the device has actually helped them hit a fitness goal. Whether it’s getting more regular exercise (48% say it helped with that) or increasing their daily steps (34% report boosting their step counts), smartwatches provide accountability.
3. Get More Active
When you can visually track things like your steps over time and compete with friends on leaderboards, it makes getting active fun rather than a chore. Seeing those stats right on your wrist throughout the day keeps you focused.
4. Increase Your Steps
So for many folks, the biggest appeal of strapping on a smartwatch is getting those sweet fitness insights that motivate you to improve your health. When you gamify exercise with rewards and goal setting, suddenly working out isn’t such a drag. Tracking progress and seeing yourself hit targets and milestones is super satisfying.
Latest ValuePenguin Survey on Fitness Trackers
Fitness trackers and smartwatches are useful devices that provide health insights to help people improve their well-being. By tracking metrics like steps taken, sleep patterns, heart rate, and even stress levels, these wearable gadgets give valuable feedback. They show users areas where their health could benefit from more focus and better habits.
In a recent survey of over 1,500 Americans by ValuePenguin, around 70% said they would be open to wearing a fitness tracker if it meant a discount on health insurance. This indicates a strong interest in utilizing tech for health analysis.
The survey also compared health ratings between people who use smartwatches versus those who don’t. It found that smartwatch users generally rate their own health higher than non-users.
Clearly, these devices provide advantages by increasing self-awareness about aspects like activity, sleep, and stress. With helpful data right on their wrists, smartwatch owners gain knowledge to make positive changes. The Quantified Self-movement is all about utilizing technology to optimize health.
The survey revealed several interesting insights about smartwatch usage and health:
Health and Smartwatch Statistics
|69% of respondents said they would wear a fitness tracker if it meant getting a health insurance discount. 46% would even share the data with their provider for the discount.|
|45% of people already use smartwatches like Apple Watch or Fitbit regularly. They are most popular with Gen Z (70%), millennials (57%), and women (51%).|
|92% of smartwatch owners use them for health and fitness purposes. 88% said the device helped them reach a fitness goal, like getting more exercise (48%) or increasing daily steps (34%).|
|42% of users have discussed their smartwatch health metrics like heart rate and sleep with their doctor. This is common among Gen Z (56%) and millennials (46%).|
|Smartwatch users exercised 4.3 days per week on average, compared to 3 days for non-users. They also rated their health slightly higher at 3.5 out of 5 versus 3.3 for those without smartwatches.|
According to ValuePenguin Fitness Expert: “Wearing a fitness tracker — and getting a health insurance discount for it — is a huge positive……….. A tracker increases your awareness of your health habits, which can improve your overall well-being.”
In summary, the survey showed strong interest in using smartwatches for health insights and insurance benefits. Smartwatch owners are more active and discuss their data with doctors. These devices provide valuable feedback to improve fitness and wellness.
Who is the Leader in the Fitness Tracker Market?
In a market valued at over $44 billion, one company, Apple Inc, reigns supreme.
Apple has completely dominated the universe of fitness tracking. According to Statista, this gigantic technology company shipped 146 million wearable gadgets in 2022 alone. Presently, there are over 100 million Apple Watch users.
Many people prefer Apple wearables for diverse reasons, including:
- Health and Fitness: This is the most obvious reason people love Apple’s wearable gadgets. Every Apple Watch has an Activity app, which lets you track your movements as you go about your day. The app’s primary function is to encourage you to keep moving and meet your fitness goals. Most of these gadgets also help users to track sleep, monitor heart rate, etc., which are indispensable in improving overall health and well-being.
- Cellular Connectivity: Apple has released different smartwatch models that have cellular. They are loved by many and for the right reasons. Unlike other gadgets that require you to have your phone nearby to enjoy functions like receiving calls or sending texts, with an Apple Watch, you can’t do all that and more, even when your iPhone isn’t nearby.
- Safety Features: If you’ve ever used any Apple product, you know the company prioritizes the safety of its customers. Take its wearables as an example. Today, Apple Watches have numerous safety features, including Fall Detection, which detects when you take a hard fall and helps you seek help from your contacts or emergency services.
Top Players in the Fitness Tracker Market
Besides Apple, there are several other top players in the fitness tracker market, including:
By 2022, there were around 37 million Fitbit users. In the same year, Fitbit generated approximately $1.16 billion in revenue.
Millions have sworn their loyalty to Fitbit because the company manufactures relatively affordable fitness trackers. Let’s compare a Fitbit and an Apple product as an example. Today, the Fitbit Sense 2 costs around $100 less than an Apple Watch Series 8. That is despite the Fitbit being more fitness-focused than its counterpart.
Fitbits also come with incredible battery life. A standard Fitbit like Sense 2 can last up to a week on a single charge. That is incredibly higher than what many brands have to offer, including Apple Watch products, which often last for less than 3 days.
In the 2021 financial year, Garmin sold over 16 million units. Most smartwatch users who rock Garmin gadgets do so because the manufacturer is a reputable entity that has been up and running for over 3 decades. Plus, Garmin devices offer comprehensive fitness tracking, from basics like step count and calories lost to unique sports monitoring capabilities.
Moreover, Like Fitbits, Garmins have outstanding battery life. Most Garmin fitness trackers last up to a week on a single charge. But some, like Enduro 2, can last over 5 weeks in smartwatch mode with solar charging enabled.
Samsung makes decent wearables. That is why it shipped approximately 2.8 million Galaxy Watch products in Q2 of 2022 alone. One of the reasons why Samsung wearables are among the most popular options today is they are compatible with most Android phones. Most are also elegantly designed and made from durable materials like stainless steel and sapphire glass.
Founded in 2008, Withings has risen through the ranks and is now one of the most popular brands. The company’s products are trusted by over a million users. According to a credible source, Withing’s annual revenue is around $61.6 million.
Withings health and fitness trackers can attribute their popularity to various factors. First, many allow their wearers to monitor daily activities and track training sessions, like Pulse HR. They also have features that make fitness tracking a breeze, from 24/7 heart rate monitoring to automatic sleep tracking.
Additionally, Withings gadgets can last significantly longer than many other alternatives. Consider Pulse HR as an example. This gadget’s battery can go for around 3 weeks on a single charge.
Moov is a relatively new player in the universe of fitness tracking. The company was founded in 2017 by Wade Arnold, who’d held down significant posts in various companies, including BillGO.
That said, Moov fitness trackers are yet to become as popular as alternatives like Fitbits. But they are showing some promise. People are gradually replacing their gadgets with Moov products because they offer accurate results for diverse activities like swimming, running, and biking.
Last but not least on our list of outstanding fitness tracker brands today is Huawei. This company makes unique products known as Huawei wearables. So far, there are different Huawei wearables, with the most popular being the Huawei Watch GT, which sold over 2 million units within less than a year of its launch.
As of 2023, Huawei has shipped over 130 million smart wearables globally, and fitness enthusiasts love them. Why? Many are equipped with innovative sensors tailored for different exercise modes, from running to cycling to swimming. And they provide real-time metrics like heart rate and offer professional guidance to users.
What is the Future of Fitness Trackers?
The future of fitness trackers is bright; no one can deny that. We expect the global fitness market to grow exponentially and reach approximately $258.48 billion by 2032. That is an 18.5% CAGR from the 2022 evaluation, which was $47.54 billion.
Various factors are set to fuel the incredible growth of the fitness tracker market. These include increased interest in and awareness of the indispensable nature of health and fitness. So far, only 1 in 5 American adults exercise daily. But the numbers are likely in the coming years as more people become aware of the perks of regular workouts.
That’s not all that the future of fitness trackers has in store. Let’s explore some trends that will improve the health and fitness industry in a few years.
Read Also: Are Fitness Trackers Private?
Experts are currently testing and trying to improve an advanced algorithm to identify people with an infection before or at the onset of symptoms. Synder and his team of experts spearhead this endeavor. It started a few years ago as a study whose sole purpose was to check if the mentioned algorithm could perform said task using data from a Fitbit wearable. Over 5,000 subjects were involved in the study.
With technicians showing untethered interest in developing wearables that can identify unwell individuals, you can safely assume that sickness trackers will be a thing soon. These devices will be able to perform varied tasks, including recording crucial info like a specific person’s exposure to infection and their health condition. And this data will save countless lives.
Blood Sugar Monitoring
There are approximately 422 million diabetes patients worldwide. Most of these people have to visit a doctor or prick their fingers to test blood sugar. But smartwatches have saved many from the inconvenience and pain associated with such activities. Today, advanced fitness trackers are equipped with CGM sensors that enable people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar from their wrists.
However, only a handful of fitness trackers can track blood sugar. And a good chunk of those with this ability are known to provide inaccurate readings. But we don’t expect these problems to last long.
In a few years to come, most, if not all, fitness trackers will be equipped with technologies that allow noninvasive blood sugar monitoring. Moreover, these gadgets won’t have to rely on external CGM systems. On the contrary, they will have everything they need to measure blood glucose by themselves and present accurate results.
Workplace Wellness Applications
A recent report indicates that 76% of US companies are focusing more on stress management and investing more in the well-being of their team members. And that is more than justified. After all, an unwell employee is unlikely to perform optimally.
In the future, fitness trackers will play a crucial role in facilitating workplace wellness. And employers will incorporate them into their wellness strategies while using the data generated by the apps powering the gadgets to assess, manage, and inspire wellness in the workplace.
Moreover, our prediction is by 2030, most organizations will require every employee to wear a health and fitness tracker. It won’t be an option but a condition of employment. That might happen as employers gradually discover the ungodly amounts they lose annually courtesy of poor health.
Longer Battery Life
Standard fitness trackers last 2-3 days on a full charge. And that is a significant inconvenience because sometimes they shut down unexpectedly. Not to forget that some devices have considerably lower battery life and demand charging every other hour.
Expect fitness gadgets to last considerably longer in the future. We already know of next-level gadgets like Fitbit Zip and Garmin Fenix 7, which can last weeks on a single charge. And that might become the norm as smartwatch manufacturers continue increasing the energy density of their batteries.
Optimum Privacy and Security
Data breaches aren’t uncommon in the fitness industry. The other day, a cyber attack targeting Fitbit and Apple exposed more than 61 million sensitive records online. Sadly, cybercriminals are getting better by the day. So, we don’t expect data breaches to stop anytime soon.
Unfortunately, most fitness trackers are incredibly easy to hack. That is because many use Bluetooth to connect to a user’s smartphone. A skilled malicious actor can sniff the Bluetooth signal that a smartphone shares with a connected fitness tracker and use it to gain access to sensitive personal info.
The worst part is that a hacker can use the information your fitness gadget records to guess your PIN and hack into your phone. Yes, it’s possible. Researchers have discovered that malicious actors can guess your PIN with alarming accuracy- 90%, to be exact- courtesy of your smartwatch continuously and automatically recording your hands every time they move.
Fitness trackers have a rich, fascinating history. Although they look like modern inventions that might have been introduced a few years ago, we’ve established that these gadgets have existed for over half a century.
But the fitness trackers available in the earlier years are completely different from what we are exposed to today. Modern gadgets can do more than count steps, including monitoring heart rate and tracking sleep. Plus, many are fundamentally smartwatches.
Despite the marvels we are witnessing today, we are yet to find out what fitness trackers can help us achieve. All we can do is wait patiently for the future to unfold as we test and enjoy all the perks that tomorrow’s gadgets will have in store for us.