Fitness Tracking: Are you using yours right?

 

Fitness trackers (like smart watches, fit watches, etc..) are increasing in popularity and for good reason. It allows the average person to see how much movement they make in a day and possibly give them a better advantage on their health and fitness goals. But, there is little information on what trackers are intended for- and what they are not. This article will focus on how fitness trackers are so much more than step trackers now, which is why wearing one has to come from a healthy mindset.

copy-of-copy-of-copy-of-benefits-of-the-arch-3.pngThe inspiration behind this graph actually came from one of the Facebook groups I am in. Within this thread, everyone was comparing how much they burn in calories each day from what their trackers said. After more than 50 comments, I noticed everyone was comparing and asking what others were doing to burn so much in a day compared to them. Now don’t get me wrong- being curious about what others may burn in a day is not bad at all. BUT, and I mean this because I have been there, comparison hardly ever ends well.

First, let’s figure out why comparing calories is not only bad for your own transformation story but also inaccurate.

Are fitness trackers accurate? 

Several studies have reviewed the accuracy of fitness trackers when it comes to energy expenditure (calories burned) in a day or workout. Some trackers underestimated calories burned, while others overestimated. In comparison, they all ranged widely and were anywhere from 70-99% accurate (1).

This doesn’t include any limitations that can be present with any other tracking methods provided by a fitness tracker like sleep, steps, and heart rate. There are definitely limitations to any study published at the moment until more populations are reviewed along with the need for testing to be done by the company before releasing any new products.

What should someone use a fitness tracker for? 

This is definitely up to you! Focus on your reasons for buying a fitness tracker. Was it to increase your activity through the day? Was it to keep track of your workouts? Track your heart rate for interval training? Whatever it is, use it for that. But, no matter what you use it for- use it as guidance and not as your only tool or method for tracking progress.

What should someone NOT use a fitness tracker for? 

Let’s think about the discussion thread I mentioned earlier. These individuals were comparing each other’s calories burned in a day and asking each other advice on how to burn more calories. They felt that their current routine was inadequate because someone else’s tracker showed a higher energy expenditure. Do you see where this can easily become a negative mindset?

When it comes to buying a fitness tracker, do it for the right reasons. Don’t buy one to try to burn more calories in a day, don’t focus only on daily energy expenditure, and don’t let it be the only method to determine if you’ve had a great workout (especially since that could be inaccurate). Take days off from wearing your tracker when you workout. Take that time to focus on your strength and try to beat your previous personal records. Focus on how you feel instead of how long you’ve been at the gym or how many steps you may or may not have taken today.

 

Fitness trackers are meant to be a tool to create a healthy mindset around fitness. They are not meant to be the only tool. Especially when these feelings can cause stress when you don’t wear one or reaching a certain step goal each day. It’s about self-awareness around your movement. If you feel yourself becoming obsessive over wearing your tracker- take a break. Even a few days off can help you recollect your WHY behind improving your movement.

 

 

 

 

References

  1. El-Amrawy, F., & Nounou, M. I. (2015). Are currently available wearable devices for activity tracking and heart rate monitoring accurate, precise, and medically beneficial?. Healthcare informatics research, 21(4), 315-320.
  2. Evenson, K. R., Goto, M. M., & Furberg, R. D. (2015). Systematic review of the validity and reliability of consumer-wearable activity trackers. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 12(1), 159.

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