Fitness Trackers: Hero or Villain

With the upsurge of technology in every facet of our society, it is no surprise there are more and more gadgets popping up claiming to help you get fit. From the ab shocker belts to smart treadmills, you can see the tech industry getting in on your workout almost everywhere. One of the fit gadgets that has caught my eye are fitness trackers, the most popular of which are FitBit, Jawbone, or Garmin. Usually in wristband form, these pieces of tech track your steps, heart rate, and even your REM sleep. However, are these numbers really important to leading  healthy lifestyle? Do they actually benefit us on a day to day basis? I did some research toes what professionals had to say and for the most part they came to a pretty clear conclusion.

They work, if you’re willing to pay for it. Fitness trackers aren’t exactly cheap, and in a society on increasing costs, this may not be a logical addition to your fitness and health regime. That being said, if you do want to invest in these gadgets, they can certainly put you on a path to achieving your fitness goals.fitnesstracker

Lisa Cadmus-Bertram of the University of Wisconsin–Madison says, “Fitness trackers combine the key ingredients for motivating people to reach their health goals. They use self-monitoring, setting goals, and give frequent feedback on your progress, revising goals as needed, social support and developing a sense of self-efficacy.” The only thing fitness trackers don’t seem to do is the actual workout for you. However, that may be the easy part.

Humans are animals that desire instant gratification, and essentially, that is how fitness trackers work and motivate you. Combined with the smartphone or tablet apps, fitness trackers show you your progress, differentials from the day before, and day-to-day efficiency. This is great for seeing how we are achieving our fitness goals, but it also acts as extremely strong motivation. There is no guesswork, we KNOW if we are working harder than the day before or running as far. Also, and I thin this is one of the most successful aspects of this gadget, it creates competition within yourself. Seeing where you were yesterday, whether its the amount of steps you took, how long your heart rate was at an optimal level, or even your basic activity rate, pushes you to beat that score today. As you continue to improve, you continue to want to best your own high-scores (if your pardon the game reference).

Now, as I mentioned, these bad boys can get a little expensive, some upwards of $250. However, there is some definite hope for those not looking to drop the cash for a bit of wrist-candy. According to a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, free smartphone apps can be about as accurate at measuring your steps as popular wearable fitness devices. There are also dozens of apps for calorie counting and fitness tracking. The difference with free or small-fee apps is the ease and personal responsibility. You have to input the data, track your meals and time your workouts. It’s not hard but can be lost by the wayside if we are feeling lazy. Fitness trackers cancel out that possibility because all you have to do is wear them.

It comes down to this. Fitness trackers are useful, versatile, and for the most part, do what they proclaim… but for a price. The apps you can download for free or a small cost can do the same, but require a more hands on approach to tracking your goals and progress.