Are Activity Trackers Beneficial?

Wrist-worn activity trackers from the likes of FitBit, Polar, Garmin and Apple have not only become vastly popular, they have turned into exceptionally capable devices. Tracking steps is no longer sufficient and features such as heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and caloric expenditure are considered standard. What makes these features beneficial, though?

Personal Accountability

Accountability is essential for adherence, and there’s no one better to hold you accountable than yourself. Devices are designed to keep your health and fitness activities at the front of your mind, and if that’s the sole benefit, then it’s worth the expense!

Goal Setting

Goals create direction and set you up for progress. Activity tracks enable you to set goals and then prompt you to work towards them. You’ll be notified when you attain a goal before being prompted to set new goals. Some health companies have even gamified this feature by offering incentives for users to reach the goals set on their devices. The goal setting functions keep you motivated.

Social Support

Support networks are proven to be highly effective at increasing physical activity in unmotivated people. Many devices have social platforms that enable you to link with others to share goals and progress. Whether it’s receiving encouragement from another user or challenging yourself to keep up with a friend, the social environment keeps you positively engaged.

More than Activity

Thanks to advances in technology, devices track more than just physical activity. One of the best features, in my opinion, is sleep tracking. Sleep is arguably the most overlooked factor of health and it’s often a case of changing small habits such as switching the TV off earlier. With daily reminders to get to bed on time you are more likely to pay attention to your sleep habits.

While there is a lot in favour of using an activity tracker, there are other factors to consider. The devices are designed to keep you engaged—what developers refer to as in app time. It’s easy to get caught up in the device and its numbers, which may rob you of the true experience of being physically active. When you achieve goals, some devices automatically set new goals these are often farfetched. That can be more discouraging than motivating, so if using a tracker, remember to follow the SMART goal guidelines.

Lastly, the numbers aren’t always accurate. Caloric expenditure in particular is a complex calculation that is at best estimated on devices. Moreover, physical activity guidelines such as heart rate zones and types of exercise for calorie burning are based on unsubstantiated data.

As with any decisions in life, weigh up YOUR pros and cons before spending on an activity tracker. And if your main pro for buying one is that it looks good, then do it!

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