About Wearables and Wellness Apps and Measures that Matter

May 24, 2024

This blog is ostensibly about health wearables and apps AGAIN. It seems that I write a lot on this subject. Why? Because I truly believe that for many people, the motivation to invest in ourselves—in exercising, eating more healthfully, or doing almost anything that stretches or challenges us—increases when we track our progress and achievements.

I believe this not just because it resonates with me personally but also because I have studied this as an academic. Some of you might know that I started my professional career as a professor of accounting and finance. I have thought deeply about how and why measures matter and how powerfully behaviour and attitudes can be influenced by measures. Indeed, when I was in my twenties, I was captivated by the idea that societies, companies, leaders, and communities regularly use social controls, including measures, to influence what the man on the street thinks is important, good, popular, or proper. Can you believe it? THIS is a subject of much discussion in accounting circles. At least, it was at the London School of Economics where I studied. In truth, I just went there to learn a bit of basic accounting because I thought it would be important if I were to do an MBA. But, instead, I found myself drawn into this fascinating study of social technologies. For me, at least, measures seem to matter.

The great philosophers who contributed to this area include Max Weber, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and my favourite, Michel Foucault. But it’s the accountants who have looked very particularly at how societies use numbers to exert control.

Just think, for example, about the use of goals in organisations and linking pay to performance. To tie someone’s pay to the achievement of some goal—perhaps sales numbers, lines of code written, or social media ‘hits’—is one of the most powerful ways a company has to exert control over their employees and to motivate a particular type of behaviour. Of course, people will change their behaviour to ensure a larger check at the end of the month. Almost always.

But there are other ways to motivate behaviour. One way is to simply make the numbers more obvious or somehow more important to the target audience.

Think about how companies and countries can raise consciousness about safety, for example. If you’re living here in the UAE, you have undoubtedly driven by a construction site at some point. Perhaps you saw a sign about ‘Days Worked Without Injury?’ I saw one recently near the Guggenheim site on Saadiyat. The number of days this particular company had worked without injury was impressive. You have to believe that sign made a difference to people on the job. And the impact must certainly have grown over time. Over 1,000 days without an incident or injury...that’s impressive. After having done so well for so long, don’t you think this achievement would become a point of pride? To me, it seems obvious that focusing attention on a measure like this—a key performance indicator—publicly and openly, will shift the way people think about the company, themselves, and how they behave.

This discussion of pay for performance and the use of key performance indicators is exactly what is examined within goal-setting theory. The importance of setting and publicising targets probably seems obvious, but the ‘how to’ gets a bit trickier when we start thinking about how to set goals for a year, who should be involved in the process, and how to manage ‘exceptions’ or deviations from target. But this isn’t an accounting class. In general, all we need to remember from this blog is that clear, measurable goals can enhance motivation and performance by providing a sense of direction and purpose. And let’s remember that achieving these goals activates the brain’s reward pathways, reinforcing the behaviour. That’s a great thing!

But back to issues about pride—isn’t a 5-star general more important than a 4-star general? The number of stars is a measure that matters. To generals, at least. In a gym, the amount that someone can bench press is also a measure that matters. Is it 80 or 90 kilos, or more? And it’s much more impressive to say ‘I just completed a 100k trek’ than to say ‘I just finished a long walk.’ Again, measures matter. They provide specificity.

All of us know that people use measures to compare themselves with others and, in that process, influence their self-esteem and motivation. Upward comparisons (comparing ourselves with those who perform better) can motivate improvement but can also lead to feelings of inadequacy. Downward comparisons (comparing with those who perform worse) can boost self-esteem but may also lead to complacency. This is what we’ve learned from social comparison theory. Clearly, measures matter.

I love that there is new insight into how measures—and how they are used—can impact our mindset and resilience as well. This insight comes from Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, the book that introduced us to the distinctions between a growth and a fixed mindset. In short, her theory predicts that individuals with a growth mindset, who believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and learning, are more likely to achieve success and overcome challenges. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset, who think their talents are innate and unchangeable, often avoid risks and give up easily, limiting their potential for growth. Apparently, Dr. Dweck has found that how measures are framed, i.e., as indicators of innate ability vs. effort and improvement, can impact our perceptions of ourselves and promote either a growth or a fixed mindset and, consequently, our long-term learning and performance.

This is a big point for parents. We must remember that we can encourage a growth mindset in our children if we can frame our children’s experiences and achievements appropriately.

But we should all remember this for ourselves as well. Shouldn’t we all be trying to adopt growth mindsets?

And couldn’t most of the wellness wearables and apps help us with that?

I am absolutely certain that if we could track and measure certain indicators of health in real time, we could change our lives. If we could see what happens to our blood sugar when we eat a fast-food lunch, or how our sleep changes after a night of too much wine, or how our heart rate rises when we see the congestion on the highway, we could and probably would change what we eat and how we manage ourselves and our lives. Truly, if we could see clearly what hurts us and what helps us, we could build actionable insight. We would know how to change our lives.

Yes, yes, of course. Knowing how and actually doing it are two entirely different things. But, honestly, I think seeing something that obviously hurts you—like constantly elevated blood sugar—changes your attitude towards that thing. It’s hard to unsee it.

And this is exactly where health apps and wearables come into play. They provide the user with real-time data and actionable insights to enhance the user’s well-being.

So having taken a very long detour into why measures and measurement are important for motivating our wellness journey, let’s wrap up with a quick review of the wearables that you might easily find here in the UAE and how you might benefit from them:

Apple Watch Series 8

The Apple Watch Series 8, particularly the 41mm GPS model, is a standout in the world of health wearables. Known for its sleek design and advanced functionality, the Series 8 offers comprehensive health monitoring features. It includes an ECG app for heart rhythm assessment, a blood oxygen sensor, and advanced sleep tracking capabilities. The watch also features a new temperature sensor that provides insights into women's health by tracking menstrual cycles and ovulation periods. Additionally, its fall detection and emergency SOS features make it a robust choice for safety and health monitoring. The Apple Watch Series 8 seamlessly integrates with the Apple Health app, providing users with a holistic view of their health metrics and personalized recommendations to improve their well-being.

Available on Apple UAE.


Fitbit has been a pioneer in the wearable technology space, offering a range of devices that cater to different health and fitness needs. The Fitbit Charge 5, for example, is one of their most advanced models. It features an ECG app for heart rhythm assessment, an EDA sensor for stress management, and a comprehensive health metrics dashboard that includes heart rate variability, skin temperature, and SpO2 levels. These features make it an excellent tool for users looking to gain a holistic understanding of their health.

Available on Amazon.ae


Whoop stands out with its focus on optimizing performance and recovery. Unlike traditional fitness trackers, Whoop provides detailed insights into sleep, strain, and recovery. Its advanced sleep tracking includes sleep stages, disturbances, and efficiency, helping users understand their sleep patterns. The device also offers personalized strain scores based on heart rate variability and resting heart rate, which guide users on how much physical activity is appropriate each day to avoid overtraining and promote recovery.

Available at Whoop.ae

Oura Ring

The Oura Ring is renowned for its sleek design and comprehensive health tracking capabilities. It monitors sleep, activity, and readiness, offering insights into how well the body is recovered and prepared for the day. The ring tracks various metrics, including heart rate, body temperature, and respiratory rate, providing users with a detailed understanding of their overall health. Its compact and stylish design makes it a favorite among users who prefer a less obtrusive device.

Available on Amazon.ae 

Ultrahuman Ring AIR

The Ultrahuman Ring is a newcomer in the wearable market, designed to provide metabolic health insights. It tracks sleep, activity, and recovery, similar to other wearables, but its standout feature is its focus on metabolic fitness. The ring helps users understand how their metabolism responds to various lifestyle factors, providing personalized recommendations to optimize health and performance.

Available at: Ultrahuman.com

Ultrahuman M1

The importance of blood sugar monitoring cannot be overstated, especially for individuals managing diabetes or those interested in optimising their metabolic health. Several innovative apps have emerged, offering advanced tools for tracking and understanding blood sugar levels. The one easily available here in the Middle East is the Ultrahuman M1. This continuous glucose monitor integrates with an app to provide users with real-time insights into their glucose levels. The app offers detailed analytics on how food, exercise, and sleep affect blood sugar, enabling users to make informed lifestyle choices. The Ultrahuman platform

Available at: Ultrahuman.com

All of these devices discussed above have revolutionised personal health management by offering a wealth of information right at our fingertips, making it easier than ever to monitor various aspects of health, from physical activity to sleep quality and even blood sugar levels.

And, with AI coming on board, the benefit of these tools will only get greater.

They’re offering a lot of measures that matter!

Yours in Health and Happiness,