Data Standards in the Fitness Industry
The fitness industry is evolving and it requires a new approach to data management
When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into place on May 25, 2018 in the European Union (EU), every industry in our global economic arena was impacted and the fitness industry was no exception.
Fitness companies such as Life Fitness, Under Armour, and Anytime Fitness are taking steps towards becoming GDPR compliant. Doing so, however, is extremely challenging.
The fitness industry is one such industry uniquely positioned to capture data that other industries do not have the luxury of capturing. An article written by Craig R. Waters from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) states “Health clubs collect personal data from members and nonmembers…They collect names, addresses, emails, bank details, medical information, and lots of other information”.
In the GDPR, the six principles applied for the processing of a person’s data are:
- Personal Data (PD) must be processed lawfully, fairly and transparently;
- PD can only be collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes;
- PD must be adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary for processing;
- PD must be accurate and kept up-to-date;
- PD must be kept in a form that the data subject can be identified “only as long as necessary” for processing;
- PD must be processed in a way that ensures its security.
As mentioned, complying with these six principles is extremely challenging especially with the various types of fitness equipment, mobile apps, wearable devices and genomic tests entering into the fitness industry. With all of these emerging technologies, cross-industry collaboration can only happen if there are common data standards.
Blockchain technology as a foundational trusted data infrastructure layer has the potential to support common standards and these six GDPR principles, allowing fitness industry companies to achieve full GDPR compliance as well as scale business to new heights. In its simplicity, blockchain technology is a unique computer software that is rewiring our global economic and political arena because it represents a paradigm shift in how we trade value and how we input, store, retrieve and share valuable data over the internet.
Fitness industry blockchain projects are already being built by startups in the EU such as Lympo and BEAT, both of which are looking to become the go to platform for fitness industry adoption. However, before these blockchain projects can be adopted by the fitness industry, common data standards need to be established. In order to achieve this there are many challenges to be considered, such as how to collect, store, and use personal wellness data.
Although the fitness industry does not have a universal means of how data is collected, the industry does share common practices for what data is collected such as health, nutrition and fitness data.
When a new client joins a health club, box gym or personal training studio, it is a common practice to have new clients fill out a Physical Fitness Readiness Questionnaire (PARQ) or International Physical Activity Questionnaires (IPAQ). These questionnaires ask new clients a series of questions pertaining to relevant medical, exercise, and nutrition history.
After questionnaires are completed, it is a common practice for trainers to measure and record a client’s baseline health metrics (e.g. height, weight, and body mass index) and then put them through a series of physical fitness tests. The problem is that these questionnaires lack common standards for what questions are asked and how responses and results from the tests are recorded. This includes how performance data gets collected and logged during every bout of exercise.
Often times, personal wellness data goes unrecorded or is hand written on paper and stored in a file cabinet, leaving vast amounts of valuable data unanalyzed. In high-end luxury fitness facilities, wellness data gets recorded on ipads and exists in centralized databases, which has major disadvantages, especially when it comes to data security.
Not only do the fitness equipment, genomic, and wearable companies need to think about becoming GDPR compliant and adopting common standards, but also the cloud services providers servicing the fitness industry such as MotionSoft, Mindbody and Virtugym need to as well.
With the growing chronic disease pandemic, common data standards have the potential to bridge the gap between the medical and fitness industry. These standards have the potential to allow physicians to communicate with trainers and vice versa.
The promise of blockchain technology in the medical industry will give patients full control over their medical records. This in turn will allow the aforementioned patients to share their verified medical history with trainers, as well as share wellness history with physicians.
Additionally, chronic disease researchers will have greater visibility into chronic disease progression and regression outside of the researchers’ lab. As most clinical trials are typically done in controlled labs, rarely do these studies extend their reach into fitness facilities where people are exercising, and hence, limit the view of exercise on people.
This matters because exercise is said to be a miracle drug that can treat and prevent chronic disease.
“If we had a pill that can afford all of the proven health benefits of exercise, physicians would widely prescribe it to their patients and our healthcare system would see to it that every patient would have access to this wonder drug”
— Robert E. Sallis M.D. FACSM and former President of ACSM.
Blockchain has the most promise as a trusted foundational common standards layer as it affords true interoperability between industries. If the fitness industry is able to establish common data standards, then it will induce many other adjacent industries including sports, life science, finance, agriculture and education to adopt common data standards as well.
Blockchain is a challeging concept. It will take a lot of open discussion and collaboration to achieve the unimaginable. After reading this, if there are any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out and I’ll be happy to chat.
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