Book Review and Thoughts: Unplugged By: Tabby Snyder

Brian Mackenzie, Dr. Andy Galpin, and Phil White, who are the authors of Unplugged, have spent most of their careers focused on exercise science and the overall health of individuals. Aside from writing several New York Times best sellers, Mackenzie has been highly involved in intense active programs. Not only is Mackenzie a cofounder of a program called XPT Life he has also trained and worked with athletes in CrossFit and the Olympics (“The Authors”). Dr. Andy Galpin, who has a Ph.D. in human bioenergetics, is known for not only working with elite athletes in the NFL or MLB, but he has also founded Biochemistry and Molecular Exercise Laboratory (“The Authors”). You can also listen to his discussions on his podcast. Lastly, Phil White, who is an Emmy-nominated writer, has worked tremendously with University of Michigan's football team and their overall performance (“The Authors”). Together, in order to shed light on the importance of how technology, specifically wearables, Mackenzie, Galpin, and White, explain the true causes and effects wearables have on society.


The advancement of technology has guided society through an accelerated pace in discoveries revolving around science and health. Well renowned companies and programs are constantly at battle as to which device is not only more efficient but more adaptable and accessible. In order to grab societies attention, companies and programs advertise their devices based on their looks and reputation rather than the quality of the device. Even though these devices can be somewhat beneficial for a certain amount of time, information regarding to the accuracy of the device tends to be limited and uncertain.


Unplugged, which was written by Brian Mackenzie, Dr. Andy Galpin, and Phil White, explores the issues regarding to wearable devices and the potential side effects they can create within the individual and society. By breaking down and explaining the main issues revolving around wearables, the authors implement a better alternative that humans have used for millions of years - themselves. In order to prove the importance of understanding the downside of wearables and how it can affect users.


Utilizing and improving technology has granted society an unlimited amount of opportunities and discoveries of not only about our surroundings but also with ourselves. Today, we can detect diseases rapidly and determine a more equitable diagnosis, create further detailed data, and even develop images that the naked eye cannot capture. This advancement has allowed individuals to take advantage of these devices themselves rather than going to professionals for help. Individuals can measure heart rate when running, calorie consumption, how many steps they’ve taken, and overall performance and improvement. Devices range from journaling to applying patches to the user’s body. Unfortunately, the number of devices there are and how attached civilians are to them has created a disconnection between the individual and their surroundings.


Today, rather than paying attention to their surroundings and paying attention to their body, individuals are focused as to what their technology is displaying. This has led us to become highly dependent on technology and forget to listen to our body. “As a result, we’re losing our ability to be conscious of what we’re doing, how we’re feeling, and what’s going on around us. This is bad enough in a gym, but it’s when we get outside that the constant checking of a tiny screen truly wreaks havoc, downgrading what should be a rich, elemental, and sensory experience into yet another task we need to complete to meet our daily goals for steps taken and calories burned” (MacKenzie, pg.22). Sometimes being your own analyzer are better than using a device because in the end you know yourself better than any device out there. Even though most of the exercise science consists of utilizing equipment to disperse data, it still depends on having individuals listen to their body and use alternative methods for recording. For instance, journaling and logging down their workouts. Researchers who work in exercise science understand the fact that the equipment will not always disperse accurate data, so the amount of dependence has to be limited.


With wearables being a recent fad, there has been concerns and questions regarding to the amount of ethics that fall behind them. The lack of consent and security behind the devices is rather questioning when it comes to keeping information about the user safe and secure. Those who are interested in wearables only need to have money in order to get their hands on these products. There is no concern regarding to signing any type of form that states where and how this information will be used. “While you imply that you’re giving a company permission to monitor you and collect your biometrics just by purchasing their devices, you never have the chance to sign any kind of permission form or waiver” (MacKenzie, pg. 50). The issue only goes further when concerns have been brought up about security.


Due to the lack of laws regarding on security, little information has been given as to how the information is secured and whether or not it has been “sold”. “The reality is that we have no idea how safe or unsafe our health information is once it’s sent off into the digital center” (MacKenzie, pg. 52). In exercise science, ethics is a huge deal. When it comes to developing studies and incorporating participants, researchers must factor in the safety and confidentiality of them. Once this has been breached, the study is most likely to be terminated and researchers are at stake losing their credentials. Majority of the time, participants are to sign waivers and consent forms regarding as to what can and cannot be released, the importance of their safety, and any personal information about themselves.


We like to assume that products, specifically technology spitting out data, we buy are 100% accurate. We do our research buy reading reviews and articles about these products and we base our opinion as to whether it’s the real deal. We have become blindsided at the fact that just because an elite athlete is sponsoring it, it's considered to be the new and the greatest. Reality though, this isn’t the case. Wearable devices can never be 100% accurate. The amount of limitations and flaws that are involved, wearables cannot spit out an exact result of how healthy the user is. These limitations can include the environment of the setting, not incorporating users’ characteristics, and only targets for specific workout/sports. Flaws can occur within the device as well. For instance, individuals who utilize pedometers can get inaccurate results from constant movement even when the user is not walking or not detecting movement when the user is walking. In exercise science, accuracy and reliability is critical when it comes to developing equipment. There is no point in spending millions of dollars on developing equipment if we are unaware as to whether it will spit out accurate data. Exercise science is all about making new discoveries regarding on how the body can perform in certain environments. This requires a mass amount of data, and if the data is not correct then how can we sure if the discovery is beneficial or not? With that being said, it is critical that individuals who are interested in wearables should put into consideration on what accuracy looks like for these devices and do the research.


LASTLY, even though wearables are acceptable and beneficial in certain areas of exercise, individuals should really consider researching how accurate they are and what benefits they can get out of them before buying the product. We should focus more on the background of the device rather than what celebrities/elite athletes use them. I have never been a fan of wearables or any other device outside of a lab that is worn on the body that collects data on the workout. In my opinion I feel as though that it’s too much. I generally prefer logging down what went on in your workout and how you felt before and after. Having devices on me while I am working out just feels as though they are either weighing me down or are constantly in the way. I never really understood the fascination towards the high-end workout gadgets. I always feel as though I never get the real experience from my work out if I was constantly looking at a device or hooked up to a machine. When I work out or go on my walks it is mainly a time for me to get away from everything and to just focus on my surroundings and what the environment has to offer that day.

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