Fitness trackers are some of the hottest tech gadgets on the market. They can measure your daily steps count, monitor your heart rate, log how many calories you’ve eaten, and even analyze your sleep quality. Some models can read your blood oxygen levels and use GPS technology to keep track of your running, walking, or biking route. Many people swear by making this type of “wearable” technology a part of their daily routines.
But is there any merit to all this hype?
Are fitness trackers a passing trend or a worthy addition to your health and exercise routine?
Why wear a fitness tracker?
We all know that it’s important to exercise regularly, especially as we age. Studies have shown that physical activity can extend longevity, prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke, and combat the onset of dementia. Having a regular exercise routine is an important part of keeping your body feeling young and in shape. The trouble is that many people struggle with keeping up a consistent workout routine. This is where fitness trackers come in.
Fitness trackers are wearable health devices designed to monitor your activity level. They come in all shapes and sizes, from simple models that are little more than glorified pedometers to advanced smartwatches that can track your body’s vital signs in micro detail.
Tracking your fitness activity also can be an important step to taking charge of your health because it makes people more conscious of their health. Having a log of your activity level and vital signs can also be a valuable tool to share with your doctor or personal trainer. Seeing hard data makes it easier to create a sustainable routine you can stick to.
The Pros of Using a Fitness Tracker
Helps build routine
For many people, blindly exercising without any way to track their progress can be frustrating. It can be hard to find the motivation to get moving when you have no way of knowing if your efforts are working. Wearing a fitness tracker allows you to see your progress in real-time and make adjustments. If you track 5,000 steps a day, you can make it a goal to gradually increase to the recommended 10,000 steps per day. It can be motivating to see your numbers improve, which makes it easier to stick to your routine.
Motivates you to move more
Most of us spend far more time than we’d like to on the couch. Sitting too much can be deadly. It’s a good rule of thumb to get up and move for 15 minutes for every hour that you spend sitting down. Many fitness trackers come with built-in reminders for this exact reason, helping you remember to get up and move throughout the day.
Keeps track of your dietary choices
Many fitness trackers offer ways to input your daily food and water intake via the connected apps. Keeping track helps make sure that you’re getting adequate nutrition. Studies have shown that tracking your food intake can lead to weight loss, even without following a specific diet plan. The information can also help a dietitian or a personal trainer get an idea of your daily meal plan. They can use this data to help you formulate a healthy diet, and logging your choices regularly can help you stick to it.
The Cons of Using a Fitness Tracker
Can be overwhelming
Some people may find the amount of data to be overwhelming. Many devices offer far more options than the average person needs, and the high cost of some premium models means they may not be an ideal investment. Those who are less technically savvy may also find the device’s smartphone app frustrating to use, or simply not worth the trouble.
Ask yourself what’s most important to you to keep track of — such as your heart rate, number of steps and estimated number of calories burned — then look for models that only track those features. You’ll save money and save your brain from information overload.
May lead to obsessive behavior
The detailed stats that a fitness tracker provides can be a tremendous motivation for some people. But for others, this may open a gateway to obsessive behavior. Many people can’t help but fixate on obtaining perfect stats, and may push themselves too hard to achieve them. The number on the screen is only a best estimation of your daily activity, not a measure of your self-worth! It’s also worth noting that fitness trackers are not medically accurate with their stats, and there can be vast discrepancies between different models.
Not as useful in the long-run
While a fitness tracker can be a valuable tool to motivate you in the early stages of your fitness journey, they’re not as useful for keeping the weight off in the long-run. Surveys have shown that around ⅓ of people who buy fitness trackers stop wearing their devices after six months. Other studies have found that they’re not as helpful for losing weight as most people would believe. A randomized trial by the Journal of American Medicine found that people who didn’t wear a fitness tracker actually lost around 8 pounds more on average compared to their device-wearing counterparts.
Does that mean that wearing a fitness tracking device will inhibit your progress? Not necessarily. Those in the study who wore the trackers still saw improvements to their body composition and physical fitness thanks to their new diet and exercise routines. That’s because the trick to living a healthy lifestyle is finding a routine that works and sticking to it. If the fitness tracker helps you do this, excellent! If not, another method of motivation might be better for you.
The Best Alternatives to Fitness Trackers
It’s worth noting that shelling out hundreds of dollars for a fitness tracker isn’t the only way to monitor your health. If you want to get an idea of what your heart rate is like while exercising, try this simple experiment: go for a brisk 30-minute walk around your neighborhood. When you get to the halfway point, try singing one of your favorite songs. If you can sing it perfectly without any hesitation, up the pace.
You can also set “stand up and move” reminders on your watch or smartphone. For tracking your food intake, there are a number of apps available to let you log your daily meals. Some people enjoy keeping a physical food journal rather than going with a purely digital route. You can always experiment until you find the right method.
The Bottom Line
When used correctly, a fitness tracker can be a helpful tool that offers detailed feedback on your body’s activity level and other aspects of your health. If you need an extra boost to get moving or want to keep a close eye on your progress, they can be a worthwhile investment. However, if you have a tendency to obsess over small details or don’t need the extensive data that a fitness tracker provides, another option might be better to track your progress. Ultimately, how you choose to track your activity is your choice. Whatever option you choose, the important thing is that you keep moving and stay active at a healthy level.
Originally printed on aviv-clinics.com. Reprinted with permission.
Aviv Clinics delivers a highly effective, science-based treatment protocol to enhance brain performance and improve the cognitive and physical symptoms of conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, fibromyalgia, Lyme, and dementia.
Our intensive treatment protocol uses Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and cognitive and physical training as well as nutrition management for better brain health. The medical program closely tracks clients’ progress before, during, and after the treatment protocol, using customized tablets and other technology. Based on over a decade of research and development, the Aviv Medical Program is holistic and customized to your needs.
Aaron Tribby, M.Ed is Head of Physiology for Aviv Clinics where he is responsible for managing a team of physiologists, physical therapists, dietitians, and stress technicians at Aviv Clinics – the first hyperbaric medical treatment center of its kind in North America dedicated to improving brain performance. He also oversees the cardiopulmonary exercise tests and CPET in the clinic, responsible for analyzing each test. Leading to Aviv Clinics, his clinical experience is focused on health and wellness, strength and conditioning and nutrition within both the non-profits and private sectors including Mercy Hospital and MusclePharm, respectively.
- Aviv Clinics – Brain Performance. Aviv Clinics USA. (2021, July 1). https://aviv-clinics.com/hyperbaric-medical-program/.
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- ScienceDaily. (2019, February 28). Tracking food leads to losing pounds. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190228154839.htm.