Why this wearables company is touting its fitness tracker as a tool for mental health

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read

Wearable devices can help individuals bolster their mental health by providing key data about their bodies, Whoop founder and CEO Will Ahmed recently told Yahoo Finance.

There's a connection between sleep and mental health, for instance — and tracking the former can provide vital insights on the latter, according to Ahmed, whose company makes fitness trackers.

"We've been doing a lot of research around mental health," he said. "One of the core things that Whoop measures is, of course, sleep and we've been able to show that getting more consistent sleep... increases overall mental health. So it's a very exciting time and I think the promise of this technology is to make people both healthier and happier."

The wearables space has some of tech's biggest names in it, including Apple (AAPL), Samsung, and Xiaomi. Wearables have surged in popularity in recent years, as the Apple Watch and Google-owned (GOOG, GOOGL) Fitbit have gained increasingly widespread usage and step-tracking smartwatches have made their way into popular culture. Shipments for the worldwide wearable market hit 533.6 million units in 2021, up 20% from the previous year, according to consumer research firm IDC.

Though we traditionally think of a smartwatch as a step counter or heart rate monitor, Ahmed believes the product's future is in easing your mind, too.

A woman checks her wearable, which is monitoring her health indicators. Getty Creative.
A woman checks her wearable, which is monitoring her health indicators. Getty Creative.

For example, he says, beyond sleep-tracking, wearables can also help users manage stress on a moment-to-moment basis and over time — training the consumer to operate under stress similar to the way an elite athlete might.

"The fascinating thing about professional athletes is that they're able to control the way that they feel under a lot of stress," he said. "So it's not necessarily that they don't feel stress at all. It's that they've learned how to cope with it. That's also something that Whoop helps its members do, really understand what I can do to control my body to live in a state of comfort and happiness."

Buy-in from big names

Boston-based Whoop has raised over $400 million since it was founded about a decade ago, and SoftBank's Vision Fund led the company's latest round of funding, a Series F, according to Crunchbase.

Additionally, Whoop's investor group comprises some of the biggest names in sports — a fact that's important, given the company's ambitions. Whoop's investors include current and former NFL stars Patrick Mahomes, Eli Manning, and Larry Fitzgerald, NBA superstar Kevin Durant, and pro golfers Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

Still, the wearables space is deeply competitive and could be even more so in the coming years. Recently, Google announced its plans to launch the Google Pixel Watch, slated to be a direct competitor to the market-dominating Apple Watch. The Pixel Watch will be the first product to emerge in the aftermath of Google's 2021 $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit.

The pandemic has also driven both competition and adoption in wearables. Ahmed confirmed Whoop's membership has grown "enormously" through the pandemic, though he declined to disclose numbers. The pandemic has simultaneously evolved Americans' public discourse about mental health, which had begun to open up even prior to COVID-19, according to a 2019 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association.

"Right now is a very exciting time for health monitoring and especially for Whoop, [and] the potential to continuously measure the human body," he told Yahoo Finance. "...Mental health right now is a very important topic on a lot of people's minds. Obviously, we've been dealing with a global pandemic, and mental health is at the forefront."

Allie Garfinkle is a senior tech reporter at Yahoo Finance. Find her on Twitter @agarfinks.

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