You likely know someone who uses a fitness tracker to monitor wellness benchmarks, such as heart rate and activity level. But do these gadgets really lead to healthier lifestyles?
From Apple Watch to Fitbit, wearable tech—the umbrella term for devices such as fitness trackers, heart rate monitors and smart watches—is dominating the fitness industry. The American College of Sports Medicine recently named wearable tech the No. 1 fitness trend for 2016, and at least 10 percent of Americans own a fitness tracker.
Designed to help people live more active lives, wearable tools detail a range of day-to-day functions. Depending on the sophistication of the device used, fitness trackers and smart watches, for example, track food intake, the number of steps taken in a day and personal sleep habits, according to Consumer Reports. Some smart watches also allow users to download wellness apps and manage incoming text messages, phone calls and email.
Helpful Tools or Passing Fads?
The concept behind fitness trackers isn’t new. Health and wellness professionals have long recommended that people trying to lose weight or get more exercise use food journals and activity logs to get a clearer picture of their habits. After all, it’s easy to forget about the handful of candy you ate after lunch or overestimate the distance of your daily walk. By automatically recording certain aspects of your daily routine, fitness trackers take the inconvenience out of remembering to log miles and calories. They also make you more mindful of your habits—71 percent of older adults surveyed by AARP, for example, said wearable devices made them more aware of their activity levels and sleep patterns. Finally, fitness trackers act as personal cheerleaders by sending reminders when you’re falling short of your fitness goals, which may inspire you to move more.
The potential downfall? Wearable devices are pricy. Some fitness trackers cost upwards of $149, and smart watches may cost even more. You need to wear your fitness tracker at all times to get the most benefit, which can become an annoyance. Many people have also relegated monitors to the dresser drawer because the devices didn’t tell them anything new about their health or habits, they became bored, or they experienced technical difficulties. The bottom line: Fitness trackers and other wearable gadgets can be useful training and weight-loss tools, but not everyone sees benefit. Before making an investment, make sure you know what you’re getting.