There are a plethora of fitness apps on the market – Nike+, Lose It, iFitness, etc. – that track your activity, but how are you supposed to keep track of your physical metrics? Breathing and heart rate are just as important to safe and healthy fitness plans, but are less readily tracked.
Looking to change that is the FitnessSHIRT. Developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Germany, the FitnessSHIRT looks completely ordinary but actually contains sensors that monitor cardiac activity, including breathing, pulse, and changes in heart rate. Using conductive textile electrodes for ECG recording, a flexible belt in the chest/abdomen region of the shirt helps measure respiratory motion and heart activity. The data is then transmitted from a removable sensor to a memory card and/or computer for analysis and tracking. The hope is that FitnessSHIRT can serve a dual purpose: maximize exercise performance, and improve safety through monitoring.
Trainers and professional athletes will be able to use the data to improve performance, as well as spot early warning signs of heart issues. The Under Armour Armour39 Fitness and Heart Rate Monitor is currently on the market to supply similar metrics, but isn’t as comprehensive from a potential medical standpoint. Further expanding the idea, Fraunhofer is also working with BitifEye Digital Test Solutions to apply this approach to bicycling to provide a safer exercise alternative.
Aside from athletic training, the FitnessSHIRT can also improve safety for firefighters and rescue teams. By monitoring cardiac and respiratory activity in critical situations, response teams that are in danger of exhaustion can be evacuated or assisted. Additionally, if successful, the FitnessSHIRT could possibly be used as a long-term electrocardiogram, but it has yet to gain certification as a medical device.
The technology will be demonstrated at the Medica 2013 Trade Fair in Düsseldorf, hopefully drawing support and partners for further development.