Wearable devices like FitBit® aren’t necessary if you are motivated and enjoy being physically active. But, over the last 10 years, encouraging sedentary people to move has improved with the introduction of these devices. They provide a fun, easy way to increase activity levels.
Using an activity tracker is an individual choice. They can be motivating, especially for the “techie” types or those who need to measure and track results. Many enjoy them for friendly competitions with family and friends.
There is no one tracker best for everyone. It depends on your needs and goals. Some devices simply track steps, suitable for general health/fitness goals or for those needing inspiration to get off the couch! For weight-loss needs, some offer calorie tracking. And distance runners or cyclists may want GPS capability.
If you think you need a fitness tracker, consider that an estimated one third to one half of users abandon the device after only a few months. The reasons vary: boredom; no health improvement; or difficulty syncing with current devices. It may help to know some pros and cons before purchasing.
* Basic trackers monitoring only steps and calories are very affordable at less than $50.
* A phone app works just as well as a wearable tracker. Many of these apps are free and can track steps, as well as calories, and even sleep patterns.
* They are useful to determine a benchmark and then build on it by setting goals.
* Wearable devices with compatible apps allow you to connect with others who can see your progress. This support and accountability may help you stick to your program.
* Wearable devices and phone apps with more options can be expensive.
* Measurement of calories, heart rate and sleep patterns (and sometimes even step count) is inaccurate and inconsistent.
* The 10,000-step recommendation is misleading and misinforming. Number of steps is no indication you are burning fat or getting fit. Studies find wearable devices offer no advantage in losing weight and some users gained weight. Exercise intensity, even at fewer steps, is a bigger factor in burning fat and improving fitness than counting steps. Unfortunately, cheaper basic trackers won’t measure how hard you are exercising.
* A phone app can drain your phone battery. And they’re not suitable or convenient for every activity, particularly swimming.
* It’s easy to become obsessed with or controlled by the device (constantly monitoring and checking it).
If you are thinking of using a fitness tracker for weight-loss reasons, know that weight loss is not simply a matter of “calories in equal calories out.” We are all different, with individual factors affecting our weight loss that can’t be monitored or measured, such as health history, genetics, intestinal microbiota, or food allergies and sensitivities.
Trackers are merely tools to provide estimates. They can make fitness fun and interesting, but they can’t measure your overall health or your self-worth!
Eve Lees is a health writer and speaker. She was a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Counsellor for over 30 years. www.artnews-healthnews.com