Fitness Trackers: Passing Fad or Pretty Fab?


I may be a lady of a certain age (rotary phones, anyone?), but I happen to be really into technology and cool gadgets.  In fact, over the years, I have proudly owned, and mastered, most of them: from the Walkman and the VCR (I was the one who figured out how to get rid of the flashing 0’s!), to the pager and the Blackberry; from the digital camera to the mp3 player and the iPod to the iPhone: from the Apple MacIntosh to the MacBook, I love all machines that can DO COOL STUFF!

I love the internet, too, in all its iterations, I love phone apps and Echo Dots and Siri.  In short, I am an uber techie nerd in the body of a respectable suburban housewife. I even have the distinction of being the very first mom on the street to own a Roomba (the fun lasted three days until my 10-year-old decided it made a great skateboard and found out 9-stiches-under-the-chin later that it didn’t…)!

Other than loving technology, the one other constant in my life has been my never-ending quest to reach my weight and fitness goals.  So, imagine how thrilled I was when I heard about one of the hottest trends in the health and fitness market these days: the fitness tracker, a wearable bit of tech magic that helps you lose weight and get fit just by owning it!…

OK, not really.  You still must do the work, but If used correctly and consistently it can become a powerful weapon in your health and fitness arsenal.

What Is a Fitness Tracker?

Fitness, or activity, trackers, are devices that are worn on the body or apps you can download to your phone, that monitor fitness related metrics such as heart rate, steps walked/run, stairs climbed, calories consumed and even sleep/wake patterns.

Wearable devices are synced to your computer and smartphone and all your information is collated and used by the program to build a personalized fitness profile which you use to set your goals and track your progress.  Some trackers will also use this information to suggest a daily step goal, to help you figure out your optimal rest and activity heart rates, and to recommend a calorie intake depending on your weight goals.

Another feature of some fitness trackers is that, through their app, they allow you to interact with friends and community members by comparing weekly step counts and by competing in pre-set challenges. Motivation is provided with badges and awards virtually presented to you according to the distance and weight loss milestones you reach.

Do Fitness Trackers Deliver?

The scientific and medical communities are divided on whether fitness trackers really help people lose weight or not.  Some studies claim that because trackers can be uncomfortable to wear, or the apps are difficult to navigate, the trackers are just a gimmick, while other studies show that when used correctly and consistently, the trackers do help motivate people to stay on track.

While the studies may contradict each other, my personal experience with my fitness tracker has been very positive. Two years ago, I convinced my best friend to join me in purchasing a popular brand, very well-rated, fitness tracker, because, well, GADGETS!!!  Amongst much eye rolling from my husband and children, I proudly attached the tracker to my wrist (on the dominant hand, as per the instruction manual) and downloaded the app to my phone.

Both the set-up process of the band and the navigation of the app were extremely user friendly, even for my best friend who is terminally tech-challenged, and I was pumped to get started. I was hooked on my tracker from the first moment I strapped the purple (black is sooo 90’s!) silicone band on my wrist.

What I Love About My Tracker

Maybe because of my love of technology or maybe because I truly appreciate its usefulness, I feel like I have made very good use of my tracker.  While the tracker has a multitude of functions, with time, I have found the ones that are most useful to me personally.

For example, when I work out, I use the “track your activity” function which monitors and records the heart rate zones (cardio, fat burn, peak) I reached during the activity. Reading the results, I am able to adjust my next workout so I spend more time in the zone that best helps me reach my goals (that would be fat-burn, for weight loss!).

Additionally, I like the fact that the tracker tells me exactly how many calories I burned during my workout.  I find it incredibly motivating to know that my hour on the elliptical smashed 857 calories!

I love the social function of the tracker.  I like to see where I am on the weekly step chart as compared to my friends.  If I’m in the top three, I feel like the king of the world, baby! If I’m down towards the bottom, I get motivated to get more steps in and get back to the top. My best friend and I even have a thing where whichever one of us has less steps by the end of the week buys the other dinner. Motivation win!

I get totally excited when I earn milestone badges and I love the way my tracker vibrates when I achieve my 10,000 daily step goal! (Sometimes, when I’m about to reach my 10,000th step, I will let one of my kids wear the tracker for the last few steps so they can “feel the buzz”.  Seriously, they FIGHT over who gets to!)

When I’m really motivated, I use the daily calorie tracking function.  I enter the food I eat, and the tracker lets me know, based on my weightloss goal and my activity for the day how many calories I still have left to consume.

Occasionally, If I’m feeling particularly run-down, I use the sleep tracking option just to see how much REM or restorative sleep I’m actually getting over a few nights (apparently not enough, thank you, Netflix!).

Should You Invest In a Fitness Tracker

I truly think everyone can benefit from owning a fitness tracker in one way or another.  The trick, as with anything that requires some amount of effort, is to actually use it.  And I don’t mean wear it, I mean use it!

The main benefit of consistently using the tracker (even on those days…or weeks…or months that you are “off the wagon”) is that you learn a lot about the way your body works: what activities help you burn the most calories, how to tweak your sleep so you feel more rested, and how paying attention to the particular ebb and flow of your heart rate throughout your day can help you know when it’s time to take some deep breaths.

And even though the rewards, incentives and encouraging messages are of the virtual kind, you actually feel like you have your very own tiny cheering squad following your every step!


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