A fitness tracker is an inarguably helpful tool when it comes to tracking exercise. In 2022 alone, around 500 million wearable fitness trackers were sold worldwide, according to data from Statista. There’s got to be a reason they’re that popular — right? Indeed, there are numerous benefits. But like all technology, there are downsides too. So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker.
Benefits of using a fitness tracker
1 – Helps you set goals
Proper progress comes down to specific goal-setting. With a fitness tracker, you can assess your progress daily as you work towards those goals. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you can set a time limit and run for that specific time. If your goal is to lose weight and get healthier, many trackers can set realistic timeframes to lose weight healthily. All of this helps you keep moving forwards.
2 – Shows visual progress
Fitness trackers visually monitor all kinds of training-related metrics. These include heart rate, blood oxygen levels, calorie consumption, and sleep quality. Activity-wise, you can also use a fitness tracker to take down your distance and speed. Seeing these in black and white gives you more knowledge — and in turn, power — to fine-tune your fitness.
3 – They are motivating
It’s not surprising that trackers are so popular — so many of us in the world today want to do better, achieve higher goals, and be our best selves. So, seeing your progress can give you the daily motivation to keep working to achieve your goals. Not to mention the frequent notifications to get you up and moving, such as reminders if you’ve been sitting still for too long.
Downsides of using a fitness tracker
1 – Can encourage users to ignore their body
“I haven’t hit my step goals!” is a modern phrase that is great for preventing sedentary living. But this way of thinking can encourage fitness tracker users to ignore their body cues. This can work two ways — it can make people keep exercising when they shouldn’t, or stop all activity for the day when their pedometer says they’re done. When you stop paying attention to how your body feels, you can miss cues for rest, or cravings for more movement.
2 – Can interfere with training
Another potential problem with fitness trackers is that users can become so preoccupied with getting the data down, they can actually hinder their workout. For example, becoming so fixated on the numbers that if they leave the house without their tracker, they won’t workout, because it ‘doesn’t count’. Or, some users may opt for activities that are easier to track, such as running, when for example, swimming may benefit them more.
3 – Fitness trackers are not always 100% accurate
A report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that trackers evaluated were found to be out by more than 10% when measuring total energy expenditure (TEE). While fitness trackers are useful as a general guide, it’s important not to rely on the data. Chances of errors and inaccurate calorie information could lead to thwarting your progress, or worse, injuring yourself.
Whether they’re in the form of watches, clip-on devices, earbuds, mobile apps, or even smart clothing, fitness trackers are here to stay. The stats say so. And that’s great! There are many benefits of taking control of our own progress. What is important is to listen to our body, regardless of what fitness tech is saying, in order to move playfully, skillfully and progressively.