THE BLOG

Digital Health Revolution

14/05/2013 13:54 BST | Updated 14/07/2013 10:12 BST

A few years from now, a head coach looks up from his sheet and, addressing the row of young hopefuls in front of him, pauses dramatically for a few seconds (he's obviously been watching too many talent shows on TV) and reveals who's has made the squad. What makes this different - and worthy of an opening paragraph - is that the coach has based most of his selection not on what he's seen on the pitch, who was the most skilful or scored the most goals, but on data based on something the players can't effect or influence; their body's data.

The coach in question isn't looking after elite players; he's merely the local town's football coach. He's actually a chartered accountant from Swindon who started coaching a few years ago when his son was on the team. Anything to get out of the house for a bit, right? Unnecessary personal additional information aside, the fact that he's not an elite coach is important, as it shows how attainable access to this data has become.

Our coach from Swindon isn't selecting based on someone's flexibility or their bench press. He's picking people based on data he has received from their blood and saliva. Due to this, he now knows whether they are a high or low responder to cardiovascular training (and thus what their improvement is likely to be), whether they have a genetic predisposition to illness, what their levels of creatine kinase are (influencing their response to resistance training), and their levels of vitamin D and calcium, which indicate bone and muscle health.

"There is a growing ecosystem of new digital health products being released to the consumer in what is essentially a health revolution," says Stephen Davies, digital health consultant, in the next issue of Fitpro Business. "Ever since the first genome was sequenced in 2001, research has found connections between DNA and certain diseases, body traits and ancestry."

The cost of such services is falling pretty rapidly - thus our amateur coach being able to use it a few years from now. There's a whole ethical question around the use of this data (and where it could lead) that I'm not going to touch on here for lack of space. Suffice to say, some people are worried about a Gattacatype future - by that I mean that our lives will be predestined by our genes upon birth, not that we'll all be impossibly good looking and Hollywood-esque.

What is for certain is that the increasing accessibility to our body's data, and tools to measure them, will have significant impacts on sports and health and fitness. Instead of putting a client though a first session involving a press-up test, 200m row and flexibility stretch, a personal trainer could potentially have a good idea about what's going on with their client before they've even started training. Of course, this information would merely be a marker, as nothing will replace personally assessing a client and listening to their wants and needs. However, finding out whether their client is deficient in certain vitamins and genetically predisposed to a certain type of exercise can surely only lead to a more specific and well-rounded training programme.

Thanks to XRPredict, I recently took a test to find out where I fit on the high/low responder scale to cardiovascular training and I'm awaiting the results with interest. They could furnish me with an excuse as to why I started on the bench last week in our team's promotion decider and, more importantly, provide me with some a new focus to take into my training.