How Well Do Fitness Trackers Actually Work?
With advances in technology, many of us are finding our lives are becoming more sedentary every day. Nearly one-third of the world’s population is currently overweight or obese right now, and those rates are increasing constantly. One reason obesity rates around the world are skyrocketing is because so many of us no longer incorporate regular physical activity into our daily lives.
If you’re concerned about not getting enough daily exercise, you might be thinking about getting a wearable fitness tracker to record your movements throughout the day. The question is, do these mobile fitness trackers actually work?
What is a Fitness Tracker?
Wearable fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit or Garmin’s Vívofit, have exploded in popularity in recent years. Worn on the wrist like a watch, the tracker counts your steps as you move throughout your day.
The trackers range in price and have an array of available features. A basic tracker will start at about €51. At that price, you can expect to monitor your daily steps and sync the device with an online program or smartphone app to track the data.
More advanced options are also available. You can choose trackers that include options to alert you when you’ve been sitting for a certain amount of time. The trackers can also be used to monitor your sleep patterns, help you manage your running pace and track your resting heart rate. Of course, as the number of features increase, so does the price. For a fully featured device, you can expect to spend several hundred euros.
Even if you opt to start with a basic tracker, there are great benefits. First, you get the instant gratification of seeing your steps add up throughout the day. Suddenly, that trip down the hall to the copy machine isn’t as annoying because it means you’ll add a few more steps to your daily total.
If you decide to go with an upgraded tracker with alerts, you can get sound or vibrational alarms to remind you to get up and move around when you’ve been sitting for too long. Your metabolism can slow by up to 90 percent after you’ve been sitting down for more than 30 minutes. Having your fitness tracker remind you to get up and take a quick walk down the hall is a simple feature that can make a huge difference in your health.
Setting a daily step goal is a great way to motivate yourself to get extra activity in. Many people start with a goal of 10,000 steps per day. Ten thousand steps equate to about 5 miles and is a good starting point for most sedentary people. Adjust the goal up or down based on your fitness level and challenge yourself to hit your daily goal no matter what.
If you’re a serious athlete looking for precisely accurate data on your workouts, fitness trackers can present some problems. It can be difficult to tell how accurate the information obtained by the trackers is. Additionally, some environmental factors and movements can affect the ability of the trackers to work properly. For example, if you run while pushing a stroller, a tracker on your wrist might not be able to properly record your data due to the lack of movement in your arms while running.
Another issue to keep in mind when using fitness trackers is that basic versions only measure the amount of activity in which you engage. They don’t account for the amount of effort you are putting in or for strength-related activities such as weight-lifting or climbing. More advanced versions can track elements such as exertion levels based on your heart rate, but that’s a factor you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for your tracker.
For most of us who are simply looking to incorporate more activity into our daily lives, a wearable fitness tracker can be a great complement to a regular fitness routine. That being said, a fitness tracker is not a replacement for a gym workout or the advice of a personal trainer. You still need to do focused cardio and strength training workouts to maintain or improve your health and fitness levels. A fitness tracker is simply a great way to supplement your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
Do you use a fitness tracker? What do you think? Please leave a comment below and share your ideas.
About the Author: Caroline is a freelance writer and fitness technology blogger. She specializes in helping people integrate technology into their fitness programs in affordable ways. You can find more of her work at eHealth Informer and Secure Thoughts.