Guest Post: Fitness Activity Trackers – A Brief History


Even though it sounds as if they are part of the latest, high-tech smart gadgets, there were various versions of ancestors of fitness activity trackers that we use now, in the 21st century. From the first industrial revolution, and rapid progress in technology, we have managed to create devices that would be unthinkable for mankind just 50 years ago. Today, we use some of these gadgets daily, and can’t imagine everyday life without them. So, let’s take a look at how we get there historically.

The polygraph, 1921

The first prototype of the famous “Lie detector” was invented before World War II by William Moulton Marston, an American psychologist. A polygraph is a machine in which the multiple (“poly”) signals from the sensors are recorded on a single strip of moving paper (“graph”). So, how does the polygraph work? When a person takes a polygraph test, four to six sensors are attached to him.

Throughout the questioning, all of the person’s signals are recorded on the moving paper. In general, a significant increment of a heart rate, blood pressure or perspiration indicates that the person is lying. This is the first time that such changes in body activity are used to telltale physiological indicators.

The wearable computer, 1964

In the 1960s Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon, professors at MIT were working on a mathematical formula that would beat the game of roulette or blackjack. In the process of answering whether such a formula can be created, they have built what is widely regarded to be the first wearable computer. The computer looked like a small box, that could fit a shoe, filled with wires and electronics. Input and output were handled with the tap of a shoe and an audible tone in an earpiece.

The computer contained 12 transistors that allowed its wearer to time the revolutions of the ball on a roulette wheel and determine where it would end up. Another set of wires led up to an earpiece that provided audible output in the form of eight different tones represented octants on the roulette wheel. When everything was in sync, the last tone heard indicated where the person at the table should place their bet. Pretty neat, isn’t it?

First sports watch – 1984

In 1984, by combining a basic EKG and a radio chest strap, we got the first sports watch that put biometric information live onto the display and showed us the heart rate while exercising. However, later studies have shown that just checking our heart rate while exercising is not enough to know whether we can do more harm than good to our bodies.

Besides that, there are other things to take into consideration, such as your daily activities, sleeping habits, weight, and many others. Thanks to developments in technology, some of the best fitness watches that we can buy today are able to track all this, which is crucial for understanding how much exercise we need to stay fit but don’t harm our health.

Stationary bike with pulse meter – 1995

The ancestor to the modern-day stationary bicycle dates back to 1796 when Francis Lowndes invented what is called the Gymnasticon. The Gymnasticon utilized two wheels connected to rods that one could crank with their hands and feet. People could do a full-body workout by pressing down large wooden pedals and rotating the top crank. Stationary bikes have come a long way since those days. Throughout their genesis, In the 1990s they were added video screen that shows vital exercise data including time spent exercising, miles, resistance and calories burned and heart rate.

Heart Rate Sensor Enabled Smartphone – 2014

A lot has changed since the first cell-phone was invented. Features we today take for granted, like changing our background or ringtone, type with a full keyboard and send unlimited messages were all developed and introduced over a rather long period. However, in 2014 things went even further when the first cell phone with an embedded heart rate sensor appeared.

Today, various mobile apps can also turn your phone into a heart rate monitor, and without the need for uncomfortable chest straps. Smartphones can also help us eat healthier and stay fit. Apps with nutritional information can help you make a healthier choice when it comes to mealtimes and snacking. Once you see how much calories just one piece of chocolate has, you will be grateful for having your phone to inform you.

From lie detectors to smartphones, people created gadgets that allowed us to link technology with our bodies. Thanks to them, it has never been easier to check our heart rate in a second, and know when to slow down or find out what combination of food we should avoid to stay fit. Pretty helpful, isn’t it?

Author Bio

Ian Lewis is a father, writer, and a fitness nut. He’s passionate about many forms of strength training and spent years lifting all kinds of heavy objects.His favorite quote: There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.