If you have been anywhere in the western world lately you have probably seen an ad for, or someone utilizing a fitness tracker of some kind. These can range from fashionable wrist wear to chest straps and provide many more bells and whistles than pure fitness tracking. The question comes up frequently – Are they beneficial?
Here’s my quick take.
After training for many years without a tracker I hardly think it is a necessity for successful training…… but man are they cool.
I have owned and used a Fitbit, Fitbit Charge HR and most recently an Apple Watch. I also utilize the HR strap monitoring during use in kickboxing classes and HIIT workouts.
I have observed a few differences, pros and cons to all of them and you can look up the technical reviews elsewhere on about a hundred different sites with a hundred different ideas. I want to get right to the root of the actual fitness benefits of wearing a tracker.
#1 Will I Have More Motivation?
A lot of fitness items can bring short term motivation to your workouts. A new workout outfit, a new gym location, a workout partner, a new workout plan, music playlist and then fitness trackers.
The worst thing you can do is put your reason for working out in an item. That item will get old and break or you’ll forget it one day and it will begin collecting dust.
I think they definitely help motivate but don’t make your workouts around your tracker. The tracker is just a supplement to your already daily training regimen.
#2 – The Tracker Says I’m Burning Tons of Calories!
Many times these trackers will make you feel very good about your exertion throughout the day. So many steps and calories burned with milestones can make you feel satisfaction with your day. However, the basic tenants of fitness success still remain. Energy consumed must be less than energy exerted. (We are talking about FOOD)
I find that people will eat more because the feedback from their monitor says that they burned X amount of calories which gives them license to eat. In addition, visualizing the amount of energy exerted causes us to feel hungrier than normal upon seeing food. Interesting psychology here.
# 3 – What is the Best Way to Use a Fitness Tracker?
This is my humble opinion, but after 7 years of seeing the recent trends and being on the inside track of clients fitness I believe I have a firm foundation to stand on. To many times we are looking for distractions from the task at hand. No one wants to focus on the pain but that pain is what promotes change in the body. I recommend using a HR strap tracker. They are the most accurate and you never use it for anything else but working out. (No checking your texts or emails on this thing.) Pair it to your phone or a big board and only check it at times that you absolutely need to. Maybe it’s a the peak of a workout or you are trying to still your heart rate to a normal level.
The distraction of constant checking can cause you to make poor use of the time you can devote to exercise. Don’t let the fitness tracker become the focal point of your exercise. Use it efficiently and it will work for you. use it poorly and it may very well hinder your progress.
Kickboxing Certified, MMACS Conditioning Expert, COBRA Self Defense Certified
B.A Community Health, Kinesiology