Are fitness trackers worth it?
You cannot step foot in a gym or fitness class without spotting at least one fitness tracker slapped on someone’s wrist, so are these trackers really helping us to move more or are they just another pricey gadget?
There are many companies that make fitness trackers of all different shapes and sizes. Some are petite and look like nothing more than a bracelet while others look like bulking watches, they track everything from your heart rate to the steps you are taking every day.
The latest versions of fitness trackers boast many features such as silent wake-up alarms that vibrate on your wrist to wake you when you are in a light sleep cycle, activity reminders that encourage you to get up and move throughout the day, and the ability to distinguish what kind of physical activity you are doing. All of these features and more have turned wearable fitness trackers into a $1.15 billion market crowded by everyone from Fitbit and Apple to Jawbone and Samsung, and there is a fitness tracker on the market for just about everyone, with prices ranging from $49 to well over $200.
While studies have shown that the data being collected is not always accurate, showing better sleep quality or fewer steps than reality.1 New studies have been looking more at the motivational aspect of fitness trackers instead of just the accuracy. In one study of overweight women, the researchers found that the group that was using a fitness tracker increases their physical activity levels while the group that was using only a pedometer as a way to track their movements did not improve at all over a 16-week period.2
So, is this part of the reason fitness trackers are so popular. They keep the idea of moving more at the front of the user’s mind, encouraging them to take the stairs to the office or take the long way home from the park.
A big part of these trackers is the social aspect. You can connect with friends who also use the trackers and compare your activities, making it a contest or just using it to motivate one another. It acts like another social network, where people are encouraging their friends to reach their goals, introducing them to new ways to work-out, or holding competitions to reach goals.
While it seems like fitness trackers are not great for providing completely accurate fitness and health statistics, they are proving to be a great motivational tool. They show data for your activity and inactivity, motivating you to work to improve upon the previous day. The gentle reminders during the day to get up and more are also helpful for people who work very sedentary jobs [link to negative effects of sitting all day article]. Wearable technology is giving people a closer (even if not completely accurate) look at their health and how moving more effects how they feel. This is not to say that putting a fitness tracker on your wrist will suddenly motivate you to get off your couch and run a 10k, it will help people who are already motivated to make healthier choices set goals and work to reach those goals.
- Bai, Yang. “Results of New Consumer Based Physical Activity Monitor Study.” Physical Activity and Health Promotion Research Group. Iowa State University. Web
- Godman, Heidi. “Can digital fitness trackers get you moving?” Harvard Health Publications. Harvard University, 27 Aug. 2015. Web.