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Smart Textiles: Maximizing Inclusiveness in Sport

Wearable technologies come in many forms and are usually classed as smart electronic devices worn on or close to the skin to detect and transmit key information relative to the body, such as vital signs and ambient data. From activity and fitness trackers to sensors, wearables can help people make more informed lifestyle choices, increase productivity, and support healthcare.

Smart Textiles: Maximizing Inclusiveness in Sport.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/ DisobeyArt

Now, as part of an initiative developed by the University of Exeter and KYMIRA Sport, developments in advanced wearable technology can help older women keep active and continue to play sports later in life. The technology includes leggings fitted with novel sensors that can track and record movements during sport and exercise, as well as insoles for training shoes to measure and feedback pressure and force.

The insoles will be developed by research partner CPI, which will offer additional data relative to the risk of potential injury, which would be extremely useful for those wishing to continue playing sports later on in life – especially women over 50.

Project MISFIT

The project, Maximising Inclusiveness in Sports through Female-centric Innovation and Technology (MISFIT), hopes to maximize inclusiveness in sports by keeping women active for longer. While it is well-known that regular exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle are good for physical and mental health, women are not particularly well-supported as they age.

While many people continue to be excluded from the main benefits an active sporty lifestyle offers, women are 3% less likely to be physically active than men. Additionally, women aged 55-74 are also 8% less likely to be active than those aged 16-34 – and this increases to 30% for those aged 75+.

Hence, this project is motivated by the data that shows that once over the age of 50, the number of women participating in sports tends to drop off, as does the amount of physical activity they practice.

Project MISFIT is about empowering women and giving them the confidence to keep exercising as they age.

Dr. Sharon Dixon, University of Exeter

In particular, a lack of understanding of the activity behaviours and the absence of gender- and age- specific footwear, hamper inclusiveness,” she added.

Therefore, the wearable technology developed as part of project MISFIT aims to tackle four main areas of focus to encourage women to remain active and take part in sports and exercise later on in life.

Areas of Focus

The areas of focus the wearables which contain novel sensors will address the following: facilitate self-monitoring before, during, and after exercise to offer suitable exercise data and help prevent injury; offer data-driven support for healthcare professionals such as doctors and physiotherapists, as well as other fitness professionals; allow for the harvesting of large-scale data to improve the knowledge surrounding women’s bio-mechanics, and finally inform the design and development of future wearable technologies and footwear for women wishing to participate in a multisport activity.

Overall, MISFIT should encourage women to participate in sports and remain active as they age without fear of pain or injuries, providing the known benefits of strenuous and sustained physical activity on health, happiness and mental wellbeing.

Dr. Sharon Dixon, University of Exeter

The project will take place over the course of 2-years, supported by funding from UK Analysis and Innovation (UKRI) as a part of the Wholesome Ageing Problem. The aim is to create new knowledge and expertise supported by laboratory assessments and motion-capture programs to fine-tune the novel sensors and offer suggestions in relation to the essentials needed to advance and improve smart textiles and wearable technology.

Therefore, project MISFIT could offer women a better chance at not only continuing to remain active later on in life but also improving physical, psychological, and social conditions amongst older women and help level and diversify the playing field in sport.

References and Further Reading

Exeter.ac.uk. (2022) Home page news - Experts developing wearable technology to support women to remain active as they age - University of Exeter. [online] Available at: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/homepage/title_919369_en.html

(2021) Active Lives Adult Survey report 2020/21. [ebook] Sport England. Available at: https://sportengland-production-files.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/2021-04/Active%20Lives%20Adult%20November%202019-20%20Report.pdf?VersionId=OjWdwCLnI3dNgDwp3X4ukcODJIDVG7Kd

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David J. Cross

Written by

David J. Cross

David is an academic researcher and interdisciplinary artist. David's current research explores how science and technology, particularly the internet and artificial intelligence, can be put into practice to influence a new shift towards utopianism and the reemergent theory of the commons.

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