Wearable Fitness Devices: Helpful or Ineffective?

By Desiree van Heerden

Over the last decade, the use of wearable fitness devices has become increasingly popular. These trackers are marketed as a simple and effective way to keep track of your daily exercise and diet. Many wearables take the form of smart watches, such as Fitbits and Apple Watches. A number of these watches can be connected to an app on your phone, where you can pick daily goals for yourself to complete. In many cases there are even options to add additional data, not available on the watch interface, such as tracking your water consumption or weight.

Many people may believe that buying a wearable device will help them to solve their exercise and diet problems, however it could just result in a waste of their money. For some people, knowing that they have a daily goal to complete may be enough motivation to hit the gym, while for others it may not be as compelling. For athletes and individuals who require their physical activity data, for health reasons for example, these wearable fitness devices may be a great resource for recording their amounts of daily physical activity. However, for people who are looking to increase their level of fitness or overall health for personal reasons, such as losing weight or muscle toning, a wearable device may not be worth the money in the long run.

When I had started to wear a Fitbit this summer, it was helpful for motivating me to go to the gym more often – at least, it was at first. I found it really interesting to be able to look at my daily statistics. Checking my peak heart rate during my workout or how much sleep I had gotten the night prior became routine. It was encouraging to see each which goals I had completed and how close I was to completing others. Being able to visualize my statistics through the Fitbit app made me realize how little I had previously paid attention to my overall health.

While I had an enjoyable start with the Fitbit, the longer I wore the watch, the more bothersome it became. As someone who has grown up in the age of technology, I had never needed to wear a watch. It became annoying to have to wear something around my wrist all the time and by the end of the day I was very eager to take it off. The longer I wore the watch, the more it felt like a hassle to complete my goals, in addition to my other everyday tasks. After about a month of wearing the tracker, I realized I was not as motivated to complete my daily goals as when I had begun, so I decided to stop wearing the Fitbit for a while.

At first, I thought the absence of the tracker would affect how often I decided to exercise and that I would stop paying as much attention to my overall health. Although some weeks I would take an additional day of rest, for the most part my exercising schedule did not change. The novelty of the Fitbit had worn off within a couple weeks, but I was still motivated to exercise and to participate in other healthy living practices. I found that my personal motivation to improve my health was a more powerful driving force than the daily goals I had set on the Fitbit.

I believe that personal fitness tackers, such as Fitbits, can be useful if you want to put numerical values on your daily physical activity. For people who are under the impression that an everyday fitness tool will help keep them motivated to improve their health, it may not be as useful. I believe that those who purchase a wearable tracker planning to rely on the device for motivation are more likely to get bored of the device within a short amount of time. Those who are serious about wanting to improve their health should not need the help of a fitness tracker to complete their personal goals.

Therefore, if you are contemplating purchasing a wearable fitness tracker, it might be wise to first ask yourself if the device will be an effective tool for your goals. It may be a practical tool for casual everyday users, as well as for those who are required to define their physical activity numerically. The usefulness of the tracker essentially depends on your own personality and your motives towards its use.
The iOS Fitbit app home screen. The circles in green are the daily goals that have been completed, while the blue circle is the goal that has yet to be completed. Additional app features are located below.

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