Technology is something that is forever evolving and is slowly taking over some of our daily tasks. That being said, when it comes to fitness trackers, no one is really knocking it out of the park when it comes to wearables. Fitness trackers are no exception. In fact, I’d tell you to keep your hard-earned money in your pocket rather than wasting it on technology that honestly doesn’t do much for you, and here’s my reasoning why with a little science.
Sure, it’s cool that these fitness trackers can tell you how many steps you take each day, but who cares? It’s not like it’s a new Rolex on your wrist that people notice and admire. Wearable fitness devices can tell you if you’re on track to hit your goal for steps each day (around 10,000) but what does that actually mean and should you even care? What you have is an expensive bracelet on your wrist that truly isn’t going to help you reach your goals or lose weight. Science even backs this up.
Does the Research “Fit” Your Needs?
Scientists are saying that devices such as fitness trackers are measuring devices that track your steps/activity for a given period of time (generally 24 hours) and they’re correct. But how exactly does an object help give you the motivation to get up and exercise (which includes walking and taking steps) if you simply aren’t motivated to get off the couch to be active? It can’t. It’s something you need to have the will and desire to do for yourself, a piece of plastic on your wrist simply isn’t going to cut it. One researcher was quoted saying, “Knowing how active you are doesn't translate into getting people to do more and the novelty of having that information wears off pretty quickly."
A study was conducted where researchers actually gathered a group of participants (800 to be exact) and sought out to find exactly what these measurement devices did for an individual’s overall health and weight. About 2/3 of the participants were overweight or obese while 1/3 was already active. The device being used in this study was a Fitbit Zip.
The 800 participants were split up into four groups. The first group was a control group who were handed information about how to exercise but were not given a Fitbit to use. A second group got information on how to exercise along with Fitbits. Everyone in the first two groups was also given $2.92 each week as an incentive to exercise. The third group was given a Fitbit and $11 per week as an incentive to exercise as did the fourth group and both of the last groups needed to hit 50,000 to 70,000 steps each week. The only difference between the third and fourth groups was that the third group had to donate their money to charity while the fourth group was able to pocket the money for themselves.
When researchers checked the status of the participants after six months, the groups who were given the money to keep as well as the Fitbits showed the highest change in activity levels. However, following up with the participants after a year showed that 90% of the participants gave up on the device and stopped using it. Those who wore the Fitbits over that year showed no decline in activity levels when compared to those who were not given a Fitbit to use and who did indeed show a drop off in physical activity levels. Surprisingly enough, even though there was an increase in activity levels within some groups, it wasn't enough to improve the participants' blood pressure or weight.
Following the study, one researcher said, "These trackers can encourage people to take more steps, but it still seems like these random extra steps aren't enough to improve your health." You can take steps that truly don't do much for your cardiovascular system and because of that, researchers are saying for steps to be counted as efficient, the steps themselves need to be active — through laborious exercise or a brisk walk at the least.
Fitness Trackers are Just a Small Part of Solving a Bigger Problem
I, for one, was not surprised by what the study showed. You can purchase a wearable tracker (regardless of brand), but if you aren’t increasing your heart rate, the calories burned through minor movements (causing a reading of a step) will be minimal. Not only that, but without a change in diet, the results will vary. A saying that rings true is “you can’t out-train a poor diet”. You can exercise, but if you’re hitting up McDonald’s when you’re done then what’s the point of putting in the effort to exercise if you’re just going to fill back up on fattening calories and negate any workout you just completed? One researcher even went so far as to say, “We should not be so naive to believe that by simply giving a sleek-looking gadget to someone, they will change deeply-rooted lifestyle habits.”
For many of you reading this, you are already active and engaged in a workout of some sort. For you, these devices wouldn't change much in terms of your weight or motivation levels. It's simply an expensive piece of jewelry that you are now wearing daily. And for that reason, you shouldn't purchase a wearable fitness device — keep your money. Trackers like the Fitbit Zip are more beneficial to those who need motivation and are not currently engaged in an exercise regimen. Even then, wearing a device that tracks your steps might not even help those individuals. More goes into improving your health and dropping the pounds than just seeing how many steps you take each day.
Don’t be fooled by the over-hyped and unscientific marketing that many of these companies are putting out to bait people into buying their technology. In order to achieve your health and fitness goals, you have to WANT to make the change for yourself and make your health and fitness a priority.