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Fact Check: Do Fitness Trackers Really Improve Your Health?

Do fitness trackers actually work? (Image via Pexels/Photo by Karolina Grabowska)
Do fitness trackers actually work? (Image via Pexels/Photo by Karolina Grabowska)
Shuvangi Sen Chaudhury

If you are into fitness, you must have heard about fitness trackers. However, have you ever wondered whether fitness trackers actually help or not?

There are several brands and innumerable types of fitness trackers with a plethora of features. But do you think all the smartwatches that claim to track your level of fitness are accurate?


What do fitness trackers do?

To understand whether these trackers work or not, it’s important to understand what these trackers actually do. It is self explanatory - it tracks your fitness across several parameters. The question is - how do these devices track it?

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Trackers make you move

All fitness trackers are equipped to measure the number of steps you take in a day. If you check it regularly, you’ll be motivated enough to take more steps on a daily basis to get to at least 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

In fact, a fitness tracker can help you become more active with the data shown. You may want to improve your activity levels by walking more by checking the daily steps. However, it may not give the most accurate number. Nevertheless, it does help in giving you an estimate of how much you’ve moved on any given day.

Focuses on your sleep routine

Fitness trackers come with a mode where it can monitor your sleep. It takes into account the total time you spent sleeping and the time you’ve been awake. You can set a timer for your daily bed-time with it.

Advanced models take your heart rate, breathing rate, and other factors into account when determining your sleep hygiene. Again, this data is approximate and may not be the only one to rely upon when tracking sleeping habits.

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Estimate calories burned

When you work out, you burn calories. Each fitness tracker has the technology to measure the number of calories burned by measuring the heart rate. Some trackers have different modes for better estimation.

However, you need to wear the tracker properly so that it can focus on the heart rate to make the estimate. You can make an estimation of the number of calories you need to consume to balance your energy.

Improves your heart health

A fitness tracker uses heart rate to measure cardiovascular health. This measurement is compared against the generic data of various age groups, and a report is created. On the other hand, it can measure your resting heart rate to provide an estimation of your heart health.

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Measures stress levels

Some fitness trackers can measure your stress levels. It measures the same with a stress management score. It can potentially help you understand when you’re stressed and work on it to reduce it. Too much stress is unhealthy for the heart too!


Issues with fitness trackers

Technology, regardless of how sophisticated it is, cannot be perfect. Hence, there are some downsides to such trackers as well.

Inaccurate

All the data shown by fitness trackers are approximates and not the exact amount. For example, if you wear the tracker for one part of the day and not for another, it’s tracking only for the time you were wearing it. There is no way to understand your activity for the other part.

Can lead to obsessions

Wearing a fitness tracker all the time can lead to an obsession of checking it every few minutes. This can lead to stress, anxiety, and even a sleep disorder. Hence, it’s okay to rely on a fitness tracker but not make your fitness levels all about keeping track.

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May not show same information

If you own more than one fitness tracker and wear them on alternate days, it might lead to some confusion. You can do the same workout and repeat the same day for two consecutive days, but that doesn’t mean the two fitness trackers will show the same data. At this point, you can stress over which one is accurate, which is quite unhealthy for your heart.

Could overwork you

These trackers can only track your activity and fitness levels, but cannot track them against what you’re actually capable of.

For example, you may be able to see only 2,000 steps and the goal is set for 5,000. Now, it’s possible you’re not able to make the other 3,000 for an injury or otherwise. In such cases, it is easy to feel demotivated, which affects your mind and mental health.


Bottom line

Using a fitness tracker is not an issue. However, avoid becoming obsessed with it or taking the data it’s providing as the final word. Always remember that fitness trackers provide approximate information and not accurate information.

It’s worth investing in a fitness tracker, but purchase it from a brand that includes different features in their smartwatches. This enables you to track your fitness levels during various types of routines such as cardio or resistance training.


Edited by Sabine Algur

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