First there was the Thighmaster. Then came the Bowflex. There was the shake weight, hot yoga, juice cleanses and about a million more crazy ideas that were supposed to change the way you work out and eat forever. It seems like every week there’s a new fad in the world of fitness in nutrition. It can be hard to tell sometimes what is just a passing craze and what is actually a great new technique or idea that you should capitalize on. One of these fads that has become popular in recent years is electronic fitness trackers.
The electronic fitness tracker industry has exploded in the past couple years and there are plenty of models to choose from. From Fitbits and Jawbones to models made by Nike, Adidas and Under Armor, it seems like there’s a fitness tracker for just about everyone, whether you’re a hardcore athlete or just signed up for your first gym membership this morning. We wanted to take a look at wearable fitness trackers as a whole, sort out the pros and cons, and help you decide if this is just another passing fad or if this is a piece of technology you should invest in to help you take your work out and nutrition routines to the next level.
Convenient: we all know we should be tracking our progress, but sometimes it’s just a pain. No one has the time to measure their resting heart rate multiple times a day, count how many steps they take, how many hours they sleep and figure out exactly how many calories their workout burned every day. Your fitness tracker will record all this information—and more—for you.
Accountability: you see it every day. It sends you email and text alerts. Some models are even programmed to vibrate or make a sound if you haven’t hit a fitness target by a certain time of day or day of the week. There is literally no way to forget or put off your workout with one of these things.
Awareness: there could be unhealthy things that are part of your life that you’re not even aware of. For example—how often do you move around at work? Even if you make an effort to try and walk around the office every once and a while, you might only be logging 1,000 steps or so during the workday. That’s not a lot of movement for eight hours. A fitness tracker will give you a clearer picture of your daily life.
Motivation: any time you feel like skipping your work out or ending it early, you’ll remember that there’s a little piece of plastic attached to your wrist that will shame you at the end of the day if you don’t give it your all. Nothing motivates like being workout-shamed by a bracelet. Also, with some devices, like the Fitbit, you can challenge you friends to online challenges like who takes the most steps over the weekend.
Accuracy: not as accurate as they claim to be—so don’t rely on your tracker entirely. Some measure steps based on motion registered, so if you move around a lot it may think you’re walking when you’re not. Others measure steps based on distance travelled, so it may not register your steps if you’re walking in place, like on a treadmill or stair stepper. This also goes for the “daily calories burned” measurement of each tracker. It’s not scientific—it’s an estimate. So treat these features with caution until you know how reliable your particular model is and rely on your gut.
Differences: each tracker is different and each is better at tracking different things. Some are great at tracking sleep but not so great at counting steps, while others are much more accurate at tracking calories burned but not great at tracking resting heart rate. If there’s something that you think you need help monitoring, identify that and then figure out which tracker is best for that specific area by talking to friends or reading expert reviews.
Wearable: while this makes it easy to carry around all the time, if you forget to put it on, it’s useless. And if you’re not used to wearing something on your wrist all the time it can be hard to get used to. Figure this in as you shop around and look for one that is small and lightweight which will make it less noticeable as you start wearing it.