How well do Fitness Trackers Work?

High-tech fitness gadgets such as Fitbit or UP band are all the rage. You’ve surely seen people using them at the gym or know someone who has one.

In general, these sleek pieces of wearable tech are meant to encourage people to lead a healthier lifestyle by counting steps, monitoring heart rate, keeping track of body weight and measuring perspiration. These are useful for helping you get motivated, but the question is: do they actually work? A closer look at some of the key features these devices offer will help find the answer.

Counting Steps

You’ve probably heard people say they need to take a few laps around the block or head to the park to reach their daily step goal. Unfortunately, what counts as a step varies from band to band.

Because of this, it’s important to find a tracker that is accurately counting your steps. After all, if steps are undercounted you can get discouraged with your lack of progress, whereas over counting can deny you benefits.

However, it’s important to remember a fitness tracker won’t magically get you to walk more. That part is up to you. All it can do is provide you with raw data about your progress, which will hopefully push you towards your fitness goals.

Tracking Heart Rate

How well do Fitness Trackers Work?

Besides counting steps, many fitness trackers also show your heart rate. To do this, most use an optical sensor on the underside of the band. While potentially useful, these monitors can’t always be trusted. Instead, you should use it more as a way to see when your heart rate accelerates so you can maintain or reduce it accordingly.

This feature can be useful, though, especially if you’re training to increase your endurance. With that said, once you get into the 160-170 BPM range, many fitness trackers’ accuracy drops significantly. Luckily, you can use a fitness app on your phone since they often provide the same data. If you decide to go the smartphone route, just make sure to protect your privacy (and fitness info) when connecting to unsecured networks to upload your data.

Calorie Tracking

While these fitness trackers can’t directly track how many calories you burn, they can calculate this figure based on the amount of steps you took and your heart rate. The further you move away from raw data, though, the more likely this data is to be inaccurate. Like heart rate tracking, it’s best to take any calorie counting feature with a grain of salt. Still, if you’re interested in knowing approximately how many calories you’ve burned, it’s a useful feature. Just don’t go sneaking in more snacks because your fitness tracker said you burned 500 calories.

So, Do Fitness Trackers Work?

Well, the jury is still out on this one. On the one hand, a recent study suggests that people who wear these trackers don’t actually lose weight. In fact, they lost less weight than those who did not wear a fitness tracker. This can be attributed to people associating the use of a fitness tracker with automatic results, which can cause them to work out less. On the other hand, they can work for people who are already motivated and keep you focused on exercise goals by providing visual representations about progress. Also, fitness trackers can bring you back to reality. How often do you overestimate how much you actually walk? You might not even be aware that you are miscounting and these types of mistakes can hinder your progress. A fitness tracker is a good wakeup call if you choose to listen.

Ultimately, a fitness tracker is just another tool in your arsenal. It’s only useful if you have clear goals. Don’t get caught up in trying to hit a certain number, but instead use it as another method of obtaining helpful fitness metrics. This will decrease the amount of pressure you put on yourself while still offering some useful data about your habits.

 

About the author: Cassie Phillips is a freelance tech writer and fitness enthusiast. She believes a good fitness program can include both holistic practices and modern technology.