Should You Get A Fitness Tracker?
Fitness Trackers are incredibly popular these days.
There are now more brands than you can keep track of – such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, Garmin, and Withings – all with their own versions of fitness bands that will track your movements, calories, sleep patterns, and more.
Even Apple has recently gotten into the fray with their IWatch.
And, really, all of this couldn’t be better timed…
The modern fitness trend keeps on growing – with more fads, clothing, and other paraphernalia than you can keep track of.
At the same time, personal technology – in the form of smartphones and smartwatches – have been making great strides, allowing us to better manage our lives and track our daily habits.
Indeed, people these days love their data, and this is where fitness trackers find their appeal: they allow us to track our fitness in ways that we simply couldn’t just a few years ago.
And while on the surface this all sounds pretty cool, you have to wonder if these things are actually necessary.
Are they an integral part of modern fitness, or just another gimmick that you can safely do without?
To help answer this question, I’ll be looking at the pros and cons of using a fitness tracker, so that you can decide whether or not it’s worth your money.
What Do Fitness Trackers Actually Track?
The short answer is more than you may think, but perhaps not as much as you might want…
To break it down, pretty much every fitness tracker out there is capable of tracking at least 2 things: the number of steps you take and the number of calories that you burn.
The calories burned is derived from how many steps you take, making the most basic fitness trackers modern incarnations of the pedometer.
Some models take this one step further (pun intended) by tracking the number of stairs that you climb each day, using something known as a altimeter.
In addition to this, many fitness trackers are now able to figure out your sleep habits – ranging from the number of hours that you’re sleeping to your actual sleep quality.
Now these are features that you’ll often find even in many of the lower-end fitness trackers on the market, but some of the more expensive ones offer even more features.
One of these is heart rate monitoring, using optical sensors that sit against your wrist and are able to measure your pulse.
What’s more, there are various sport-specific trackers, which can more accurately track activities such as running, cycling, climbing, and swimming – often making use of GPS to measure specific distances.
Who Should Get A Fitness Tracker?
When deciding whether or not to get a fitness tracker, there are several factors that you should consider.
One of the most obvious is price.
Even though lower-end fitness trackers only cost about $50, they are still an expense, and definitely not essential, so if you’re on a tight budget then you can probably do without one.
Instead, put that money towards a gym membership and nutritious foods for your diet…
But if you do have the money, the next thing to ask yourself is what, specifically, you’ll be using it for.
If you’re a life-hacking type, and enjoy monitoring every aspect of your life, then these things are pretty much made for you.
You’ll be able to monitor your calories, steps, sleep quality, and heart rate – and then be able to optimize each one accordingly.
However, if you’re not a life hacking type, but want to lose some weight, then a fitness tracker can be a great way to start being more regularly active, and to hold yourself accountable.
You can set step goals for yourself, which you can then try to hit each day – turning exercise into a game that you play with yourself, trying to beat the number of steps that you took the previous day.
Finally, if you’re a certain type of athlete – such as a runner or swimmer – than I’d definitely suggest considering a fitness tracker that is specific to that sport, so that you can monitor your performance and have benchmarks to improve against.
Who Shouldn’t Get A Fitness Tracker?
Now fitness trackers certainly aren’t for everyone…
As I mentioned before, if you’re on a budget, there are better ways to spend your money.
But even if you aren’t on a budget, there is a limit to what fitness trackers can properly track.
If you lift weights, for example, there aren’t any proven trackers currently on the market that can accurately gauge the number of reps and sets that you’ve done – much less determine an accurate calorie expenditure.
Finally, if you are someone that gets overwhelmed with too much information, then you should think twice about getting one.
There is a fine line between simply knowing your daily steps, calories, and resting heart rate and becoming obsessed with that data.
The fact is, for many people, fitness trackers are something that can be cool to have, but hardly a necessity, and are unlikely to provide much actionable data that will actually help you get in better shape.
The Future Of Fitness Trackers
While admittedly fitness trackers are pretty limited at the moment, in the future they promise to be far more useful.
Basically, they’ll be able to track a lot more of what you do.
For example, in terms of health monitoring, right now fitness trackers are pretty much limited to heart rate tracking – and as I mentioned above, that is only the higher-end options.
In the future, health tracking promises to be more comprehensive, with fitness trackers being able to track your glucose levels, respiration, etc.
More importantly, as the healthcare industry catches up, this data will likely be used by your doctor to help make determinations about health conditions, and catch on to early warning signs of disease.
In addition to all of this, fitness trackers will be able to track more complex movements – not just steps and distance.
For example, a newer company called Athos has just released a tracker that combines with wearable technology to track muscle activity during exercise.
This means that you’ll be able to monitor the effectiveness of weight lifting exercises, including form and levels of exertion.
And while much of this is speculative at this point, the fact remains that we are currently at the very early stages of fitness tracking.
Right now it is just a fad, perhaps something of a gimmick – but in the future fitness and health tracking may be far more pervasive than any of us currently imagine.