Health

How Health Trackers Could Reduce Sexual Infidelity

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I wear a health tracking watch that monitors minute-by-minute my heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, and if I’m sleeping. Anyone who had access to my data, like a spouse, could tell when I was exercising. Most importantly, they would know if I was having sex — and how intense it was.

Indeed, I inadvertently discovered that people knew whether I was engaging in sexual congress after I gave my health tracker data to a friend and he wryly quibbed about my night time activities.

I instantly realized that it will become far more difficult  for anyone to cheat on a spouse or fake an orgasm, thanks to a radical transparency in daily exertion that will follow health trackers as they become ubiquitous.

Sexual Infidelity

Health trackers give me a daily read-out of my minute-by-minute exercise and when I’m sleeping. Here, for example, is the calorie burn profile of weight-lifting at the gym:

calories-burned-weight-lifting

Notice from 7:15pm to 8:45pm, I have a steady state of calorie burn around 5.7 calories per minute. It also records my steps as I walk between lifting stations (in the graph below, I start walking more than usual at the same time I’m at the gym).

steps-taken-weight-lifting

Sex looks quite different: it has a bi-modal caloric burn distribution (i.e. lots of calorie burn at the beginning and end). Most importantly, I wasn’t walking much while I was burning calories (not shown).

sex-exercise-bodymedia

Were I married, my wife might like to know why I burned 100 calories between 1:07 to 2:00 am, without taking a single step, and fell asleep right afterwards. Many married couples hold joint online accounts for Facebook and email, and even more share their passwords. Anyone looking at my exercise readout that night would instantly know that I was getting a sweaty workout.

Skeptical readers may claim that not all infidelity happens at night, and that clever philanderers could simply claim that they were hitting the gym, when they were actually knee-deep in sin hotel. But, as we’ve seen above, sex looks quite different than weight-lifting. In fact, the profile of sex looks distinct from any exercise I’ve recorded myself doing, including weight lifting, sprinting, yoga, martial arts (capoeira), TRX, spin class (stationary cycling), grocery shopping, and cleaning the house.

For reference, the first graph is Bikram Yoga and the second is a spin class.

yoga-calories

spin-calories

It’s important to note that health trackers aren’t perfect measures of calorie burn. For instance, the makers of BodyMedia tell me that the band has difficulty matching the minute-by-minute intensity of circuit training, like Crossfit, where the body moves from one high-intensity exercise to the next.

I remember a distinctly different experience than BodyMedia recorded that night. But, the accuracy doesn’t matter, since the calorie profile of sex is sufficiently different than normal exercise to alert a suspicious spouse to illicit activity. In other words, I couldn’t disguise my nefarious sexual escapades by doing them during the day, even If I wanted to.

Nor can someone remove their health tracker: they’re designed to be worn all the time, even in the shower (cue steamy memories). In fact, the next evolution of health trackers are patches, which never need to be recharged or removed.

Of course, in the future, very (very) sophisticated horn dogs could inject software in their health tracker that gave false readings while they are having unwedded relations. But, that wouldn’t help the more common drunken-hookup or an unexpected passion-fueled romp with an ex. Most people don’t get to pre-plan their cheating, which health trackers would virtually eliminate.

The End Of Faking It

Aside from cheating, there are a few deliciously intriguing twists from living a life of radical health tracking. Transparency is also likely the end of the fake orgasm, since I will know exactly how hard my partner is working. See, in addition to wearing the BodyMedia armband, I was also wear the Basis watch, which measures my heart rate and skin perspiration (I know it’s a lot to wear, but I think women in San Francisco have come to terms with uber-geeks like me).

During the hot night in question, my heart rate steadily climbed from 81 beats/minute to a peak of 135, and quickly dropped to 78 (indicated in red on the graph). My perspiration (blue dots), measured in microsiemens per centimeter (the scientific unit of conductivity), jumped roughly 10-fold throughout the horizontal mambo. In other words, I was getting slippery.

heartrate copy

“Faking it” doesn’t get the heart rate pumping nearly as much as a body-shaking orgasm.

While the Basis watch isn’t designed for accurate heart rate measurements during exercises, even this first generation device can tell you if your partner is working themselves up to a peak of ecstasy or laying around like a dead fish.

Indeed, there’s all sorts of fun statistics couples could do to quantify their love-making (or lack thereof). You could track the average duration of sex over a decade, the number of afternoon delights in a month, or the quality of one’s sleep with and without a partner to spoon.

For techno-optimists (like myself), radical transparency in sex is a welcome part of life: it will reduce cheating and prompt honest conversations about satisfaction. For techno-pessimists, it opens a can of worms (no pun intended) that people would sooner keep closed.

But, like it or not, transparency is coming. In fact, I bet after this article, a few suspicious readers will look up their partner’s late night exercise habits. And, statistically speaking, there’s a high probability that of those couples who have health trackers, some have been cheating on each other.