This new tech helps athletes stay calm and train more effectively.
A new class of wearable technology aims to improve athletes' performance not by focusing on muscles, but rather on the mind. Combined with manually entered data (such as mood levels and meditation goals), mental health wearables measure key biophysical markers tied to your cognitive state including blood pressure, heart rate variability, breathing, and skin temperature, which can all indicate stress. “A lot of the data that we have about biophysical markers and mental health are things that we’ve been following for years,” says Scott Goldman, Ph.D., director of the Performance Psychology Center at the University of Michigan. “What’s new is that technology is now making them easier to track.” Once they have your data, wearables can offer behavioral interventions, such as breathing exercises or guided meditations.
"When we breathe shallowly, that's often a sign of anxiety," says Goldman, which can negatively affect performance. Tracking breathing patterns can help you lower your heart rate and improve in endurance sports, he adds. Learning to control your respiratory muscles with the help of these apps is another way to enhance training; for example, it could prevent you from feeling winded during a workout.
The very act of tracking your mental status can prove to be a valuable motivator for reaching better health, says Paul Abramson, MD, a San Francisco-based internist and founder of My Doctor Medical Group. “At the very fundamental level, this wearable technology can help you become more aware of your current emotional and physiological state,” says Goldman. "What you do with that information, just like how hard you push yourself in training, is up to you."
Here’s a look at some of the coolest new wearables in the space.