Fitness trackers have boomed in popularity in recent years. The ‘FitBit’ seemed to start the trend and was the hot favourite initially, but with the introduction of other trackers like the Jawbone UP and more recently the Apple watch, competition is heating up.
Whilst we may be spoiled for choice, the question is: are these fitness trackers actually worth investing in, and can they really help you make progress towards your health and fitness goals?
In today’s blog post, we share our opinions of fitness trackers and apps and if they really can help accelerate your fitness progress.
Proper Use Of Fitness Trackers
We feel the effectiveness of fitness trackers is largely related to how they are used.
We’ve seen people using them properly, including many of our clients here at Luke Bremner Fitness, and used the feedback from them to continue tweaking and improving their fitness regime and their healthy living plan to keep moving forwards towards their goals.
In one example, one of our clients decided to use his Apple Watch to monitor his sleep quality/duration, and his overall movement throughout the day – 2 areas in which we felt he could make improvements in.
He used his fitness tracker to set himself a target of between 10-12k steps per day – the widely accepted daily steps goal for general health. When we first started tracking, he was only doing around 3-4k steps, which was a bit surprise to him. Using the tracker, and the valuable feedback it provided, he was able to increase up to the desired amount, which massively helped in the progress of losing weight and becoming healthier.*
*N.B. How much you’re moving throughout the day is very important in maintaining health and weight loss as it helps to burn more calories and keep your metabolism happy. This principle is called non exercise activity thermogenesis – which you can read about here.
In addition, he used the sleep tracking feature to monitor his sleep pattern and quality, which was found to be poor as a result of broken sleep. This allowed us to work together and introduce strategies that improved his sleep quality and duration as confirmed by his tracker, which again helped in improving his overall health and assisting with weight loss.
Other clients who have fitness trackers use them to monitor their heart rate during workouts, which showed improvement over time as their cardiovascular health improved – a feature which may be particularly useful for those training for an endurance event such as a marathon.
These are examples of how fitness trackers can be used (in our opinion) properly, to gather feedback about areas of your health and fitness and determine whether the subsequent strategies and interventions prove to be successful in making improvements.
The Flip Side
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen people become highly obsessive about the data that their fitness trackers are providing. This lead to stress and anxiety (which is of course counterproductive to achieving any fitness goal) and they became more concerned by the data and lost track of the real world implications of what that data actually means.
We’ve also seen some people who have every feature of their fitness trackers enabled; the pedometer, heart rate monitor, distance measure, sleep monitor, movement reminders, etc. They became obsessed about hitting their targets in every area and got disappointed and frustrated if that didn’t happen.
This can lead to feeling like you’re ‘failing’, and the associated stress can be more damaging that the benefits of actually hitting those targets.
For this reason, it’s important to have some flexibility around your fitness tracker usage. Set yourself some targets but have a flexible approach to staying on track and always remember it’s simply a feedback mechanism to guide you towards real world results.
In addition to the points raised above, we feel there can also be quite a delusional effect of fitness tracker usage.
We believe many people are purchasing these devices as a way of making the feel as if they’re being productive in their progress towards their goals by tracking their stats.
In one particular example we spoke with a lady who was not implementing the advice we gave her around her exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset and unsurprisingly had not lost any weight.
Although she was not making progress because she wasn’t changing any of her habits, she purchased a FitBit to begin tracking her steps, sleep quality and so forth. Whilst this may be useful data, it didn’t help her lose weight. She was avoiding doing the difficult work required to lose weight but felt she was being productive by purchasing a fitness tracker, which unfortunately was not the case.
It’s important to realise these tracks are by no means a magic solution to improving your health and weight loss (regardless of how they are marketed) and should never replace implementing changes to your daily habits.
Overall, we believe the correct way to use fitness trackers should be used as a way to gain feedback on, and improve your current fitness regime to further improve your health and fitness. Used in this way they can be a wonderful tool and we would certainly recommend using them for that purpose.
If however you’re struggling to lose weight and improve your health and fitness, we believe it’s highly unlikely investing in a fitness tracker will help you improve, and expert advice and guidance would be the recommended path.
We’re by no means speaking badly of fitness trackers, nor are we trying to discourage you from using them. We are simply sharing our opinion with the intention of ensuring you are using you tracker for right reasons, and that you get the most out of them.
You can find a comprehensive overview of all the current fitness trackers available on this website.