Modern technology enables us to track any number of things, from daily appointments, to the performance of the stock market, to our evolving bank account balances. More recently, engineers have combined miniaturized space-age technology with advanced digital tech to produce reliable, functional fitness trackers.
Typically worn on the wrist like a watch, these devices enable users to track several measures related to physical fitness, simultaneously. At their most basic, trackers count steps taken. More sophisticated models also measure heart rate, time spent sleeping, stairs climbed, and even UV exposure, among other parameters. Devices typically interface with a computer or smartphone app, although readouts can also be obtained directly from most trackers, in real time. Software typically plots trends and patterns for you, to illustrate your fitness progress over time. Examples include tracking sleep patterns from day to day, to your resting heart rate.
Continually Evolving Technology
Experts recommend any number of trackers, from big names like Fitbit, Apple, Garmin, Lumo, Misfit, TomTom, Nokia, and others. Various Fitbit models tend to get high marks, as do models from Garmin, Nokia and TomTom (The TomTom Touch now features a body-composition sensor, ostensibly for monitoring of percentage body fat). The technology embodied in these amazing little devices is continually improving. The Garmin Vivosmart HR, for example, vibrates when you’ve been sitting for an hour, nudging you to get up move. The Microsoft Band 2 even tracks—and can be programmed to notify you—when you have absorbed too much ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
For the most part, trackers get high marks for accuracy across various parameters. Some fitness-related approximations, such as number of calories burned, rely on algorithms that may give misleading or inaccurate estimations, however. Until such time as this parameter becomes accurate and reliable, it’s probably inadvisable to rely on such information.
But other core functions, such as step count and heart rate, tend to be accurate and reliable. Assuming you’re willing to invest in a good-quality fitness tracker (none are cheap; better models start at about $100 and up), the question becomes: Will the money spent actually translate into improved fitness?
Do Trackers Help?
The answer depends on several factors. For starters, you have to actually use the device. The more faithfully, the better. Many enthusiasts find that a new fitness tracker inspires them to set and meet certain minimal goals, such as hitting at least 10,000 steps per day, or climbing the stairs 20 times in a day. There’s a certain novelty factor, which can help make working out fun again. Most devices enable you to program certain goals, such as step count, and will even notify you directly the moment your goal has been reached.
Such instantaneous feedback can have an undeniably positive effect on one’s sense of accomplishment. It’s also a significant motivator to continue pursuing—and achieving—new goals. If you suspect you will respond well to immediate validation that you’ve been working diligently to meet a particular fitness goal, then a fitness tracker could well motivate you to move a little more each day. And that’s invariably a good thing.