Fitness Trackers: Are They Worth The Hype?
Aug 3, 2023
Once upon a time, you had to guesstimate how many calories you burned during a workout, rely on your energy level to understand how much sleep you got, and take your pulse during a workout to understand how hard you were pushing yourself.
Fitness trackers have changed everything when it comes to understanding your own health.
Wearable fitness trackers can be a great tool, depending on how you use them. Understanding the pros and cons of wearing a fitness tracker can help you decide whether using one is the right fit for you.
Benefits of Wearable Fitness Trackers
Many people find that fitness trackers are a game-changer when it comes to keeping them moving toward their goals. Here, we’ll take a look at a few of the ways wearing a fitness tracker can help you make strides in your health.
Constant Information and Nudges
When you get engaged in an activity or focused on work, it can be easy to forget about your movement goals. When you’re wearing a fitness tracker, you may find that you’re more aware of whether you’re staying active throughout the day.
According to Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin, M.D., M.H.S., “Being more active and changing your habits is important, but it can be difficult. Tracking likely helps a lot of people when combined with a clear goal to shoot for.”
Many fitness trackers can be programmed to give you a little nudge when you’ve been stationary for a predetermined amount of time. Getting a reminder to stand up and stretch can go a long way if you typically spend multiple hours hunched in front of a computer at a desk job.
Fitness trackers aren’t only great at helping you improve your fitness–they can also deliver important safety messages to let you know when something may be off with your health. While a fitness tracker should never be relied upon as your sole source of health information, knowing when your heart is beating irregularly or you’re at an increased risk for a fall can help you give your doctor valuable information that may inform your treatment plan.
According to a 2022 study, “Activity trackers were found to effectively promote physical activity in older adults, and safety features were shown to be an important part of the solution, regardless of health status or physical activity level.”
If your fitness tracker alerts you that you’re at risk for a health issue, it’s smart to reach out to your healthcare provider, even if you feel fine. Early detection of a problem can stop an issue before it starts.
Motivation Boost, Courtesy of Your Tracker
Fitness trackers do a great job of throwing you a party when you hit your goals, and the dopamine boost that you get from completing daily tasks can keep you coming back for more. Paired with the endorphin rush that you may get from adding extra movement to your day, many people find that achieving daily fitness tracker goals can go a long way in helping them stay active.
Trackers Can Foster a Sense of Community
Many fitness trackers offer social options to connect with other users. Weekly challenges, rewards, and messages of encouragement from others can motivate some fitness tracker users to go the extra mile–literally.
In addition to building virtual communities, many people find that using fitness trackers helps them to connect to others as well. When others around you are wearing a fitness tracker, you may be more motivated to get out for a walk at lunch, or to take the long way to a meeting. This offers a chance both for increased movement and for social connection.
Downsides of Fitness Tracking Technology
Like most technology, there are some potential downsides to using a fitness tracker. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why wearing a fitness tracking device isn’t the right fit for everyone.
Trackers Can Foster an All-or-Nothing Mindset
Some people who use fitness trackers find that they don’t feel motivated to move if they’re not wearing their tracker, or if they’ve already hit their movement goal for the day. Some people also find that they feel unmotivated to move at all if they know it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to hit their goal for the day.
Some Trackers Overestimate (or Underestimate) Calorie Burn
Unfortunately, no mainstream fitness tracker company quite has it down when it comes to accurately estimating caloric burn. For many people who are simply focused on moving more, this isn’t a problem. Working with a registered dietitian is the best way to get a meal plan and caloric goal that makes sense for your body, goals, and activity level.
Fitness Tracker Options
If you feel like a fitness tracker is the right tool for you, you’ve got plenty of options to help support your health and give you the information you need.
Our favorite fitness tracker brands include:
Fitbit®: Within the Fitbit family, you’ll find plenty of options for fitness trackers, ranging from budget to high-end.
Apple®: If you have an iPhone or a MacBook, you’ll find the Apple Watch to be intuitive–and you’ll love how seamlessly it merges with your other devices.
Garmin®: If you’re a distance athlete, Garmin is the way to go. Multiple data points will help you learn how to get the most out of your training.
Oura®: Don’t care for wearing a fitness tracker on your wrist? Oura gets it. The company’s fitness rings are perfect for giving you the data you need without requiring a watch or tracker band.
The Bottom Line: Are Fitness Trackers Necessary?
Necessary? No. Useful? Yes.
If you’re able to take data in stride and a fitness tracker feels like a positive way to get more movement into your day, go for it! If you tend to get an all-or-nothing mindset, we recommend staying away from trackers.
Fitness Together® studios Will Get You Moving–Tracker or No Tracker
Tracking your health and fitness can be a great step that can help provide insight into your health, but nothing can replace the help of a trained professional. Working one-on-one with a personal trainer allows you to fully understand your health data, putting it to good use to maximize your time in the gym (or on the track, or in the backyard).
Whether you’re in love with your Apple Watch or Fitbit, or you prefer to exercise data-free, Fitness Together studios are here to help you get healthy, strong, and moving toward your goals. The certified trainers will get to know you and develop a program that’s fit for your unique needs. They’ll meet you where you’re at, and support you every step of the way. Reach out to your local Fitness Together studio today to set up your first personal training session.