Fitness trackers have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years and the number of products available in this market category has exploded. Some examples of fitness trackers include the Fitbit, iFit, Nike+ Fuelband and Garmin brands, each containing multiple different versions of fitness trackers at different price points. Fitness trackers have also now been incorporated into other products, such as the Apple Watch, Apple iPhones and Samsung Gear watches. With the increasing prevalence and promotion of fitness trackers as a way to get in shape and track your exercise efforts, it’s easy to get caught up in the popularity of the product without really knowing what it does for you. So, do fitness trackers actually work and how useful are they in your efforts to get in shape and stay fit? These are important questions to answer before you run out to the nearest store to pick up one of these devices.
What do Fitness Trackers Measure?
All fitness trackers, even the most basic and most inexpensive ones, will measure the number of steps that you take in a day. Most fitness trackers also measure your sleep cycles, including how long you are asleep for, how often you wake up and how much of that sleep is REM sleep. When you move up to the more advanced and more expensive versions they can also measure things like heart rate, body weight and body mass, perspiration, and various other measurements. These measurements are important in your fitness, weight loss, exercise and overall health, which is why they are included in these devices. However, even the most basic version will still give you important measurements about your exercise in a day (step counter) and your sleep cycle, both of which are extremely important to your fitness and health.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fitness Trackers
Some of the advantages of fitness trackers include:
1. Ability to see measurements everyday
A lot of the measurements that are included in the more advanced versions of fitness trackers are things that you would normally get checked at a doctor’s office about once a year. A fitness tracker allows you to see these measurements on a daily basis rather than only once a year when you have a physical done.
2. Ability to track daily exercise
You can now keep track of how active you are everyday simply by wearing a fitness tracker. There is no need for you to keep track of how many steps you’ve taken or how far you’ve walked or ran during the day because the fitness tracker will automatically calculate it for you.
3. Ability to track calorie and water intake
An important part of fitness is the amount and type of food that you are eating everyday and how much water you are consuming. Some fitness trackers help you to keep track of the number of calories that you should be eating in a day to reach whatever goal you have set for yourself. Some, like My Fitness Pal and app for Iphone, will calculate how many calories you have left for the day based on what you’ve eaten and will even calculate how many extra calories you can eat because of exercise.
4. Ability to set goals and track them
A lot of fitness trackers will allow you to set a goal regarding your fitness tracking, for example losing five pounds. Using a fitness tracker will then allow you to be aware of how much progress you have made towards your goal, motivating you to keep going.
However, there are also some disadvantages to using a fitness tracker as well, such as:
This is perhaps the biggest disadvantage regarding using a fitness tracker. There have been a lot of studies done since fitness trackers first came on the market that have found that fitness trackers are not very accurate. There are so many variables that will affect how a fitness tracker works, such as where its positioned on the body, that the numbers you are receiving from it may not actually reflect what you’ve done for that day. Studies done where individuals have worn three different fitness trackers at the same time revealed that the fitness trackers all produced differing results.
2. No knowledge of what the measurements mean
All of the measurements that a fitness tracker can produce for you are of no use if you don’t know what they mean. Fitness trackers are often promoted as a solution for the everyday person to get in shape, but without the knowledge about how the different measured variables affect your fitness and health, there is little to no use that comes from it.
Wearable fitness trackers are costly, with even the most basic versions running around approximately $50. If you want one that tracks more than just steps, you are looking at paying even more with some of them costing as much as $250.
Conclusion – How Useful are Fitness Trackers?
So then, with all of these advantages and disadvantages of fitness trackers, how useful are they in helping you to stay healthy and achieve your fitness goals? The usefulness of a fitness tracker will depend largely on the characteristics of the individual who is using it. If you are someone who knows what these measurements mean and how they affect you, having a fitness tracker may be more useful to you. However, if you have no idea how these measurements affect your fitness, then a fitness tracker will probably just be an inconvenient expense. In addition, you must always be aware that fitness trackers are not entirely accurate and only provide a rough calculation, so they shouldn’t be relied on for their completeness. If you only need a ballpark calculation and aren’t too concerned about being extremely accurate, then fitness trackers can be a great addition to your overall health and fitness regime.