This is Why You Don’t Need That Fitness Tracker

Nisha Mathur
Posted on March 28, 2017, 10:56 am
5 mins

Practicality is a popular trend these days. In the health and beauty world, we’ve opted for a more natural look, comfier outfits, and classic colors. It’s even “cool” to stay in on Friday night and binge your favorite Netflix series instead of going out.

While neutral is in, functionality made its entrance with the fitness tracker. Being healthy, or using technology to be healthier, is all the rage. But in most cases, fitness trackers don’t help us become healthier. Yet, we fixate on interpreting numbers these fitness trackers provide.

FitBit just ran a press release on their new technology due out this Spring: Sleep Insights and Sleep Stages. The technology uses advanced research to help users get a better night’s rest. FitBit pounced on a great need in the market, because most Americans still don’t get the recommended amount of sleep. But scientists are coming out with more and more research that show fitness trackers don’t actually help their users become healthier.

A fitness tracker like FitBit or Garmin can run you as much as a few hundred dollars. Relying on a gadget and the subsequent distraction of processing the data costs a lot more. It also disables your ability to create the fundamental habits your body needs to maintain good health. FitBits are good for people who enjoy tweaking solutions from data, but there’s no proof that users are using that data in any beneficial way.

The Research Says…

Scientists also say there’s little research behind FitBit’s suggestion to walk 10,000 steps a day. A benchmark number is great, but blanket concepts don’t speak to individuals and how they like to exercise. For example, yoga and pilates won’t help much with getting to 10k steps, but it’s still great exercise. Furthermore, FitBits track various data such as steps, calories burnt, and heart rate, but that just creates room to obsess over numbers and induce stress. These numbers don’t magically get you to change habits, just like weighing yourself every day doesn’t usually help. If you drive to work, go straight home and eat a heavy dinner, you don’t need a FitBit to tell you that you didn’t walk enough or burn more calories than you took in. For some people, it can work, but fitness trackers are selling a specific product to non-specific audience.

A fitness tracker with an advanced sleep functionality can be beneficial so that you don’t have to go to a sleep lab with an EEG to track your sleep. However, the ability to monitor sleep daily can induce more stress. It doesn’t do you good if you’re thinking about getting better sleep or forcing the right sleep schedule. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy if your FitBit says you didn’t get enough sleep. And knowing that information might just make you even more tired.

Five Fundamentals Before FitBits

Instead of focusing on an expensive gadget, you might want to try focusing on these benchmarks instead.

  1. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
  2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  3. Use public transit if possible. Make up reasons to walk more frequently.
  4. Exercise and make it personal. It could be motivation from a healthy celebrity to testing your limits. Aim to work out at least 150 minutes a week.

And most importantly:

  1. Find your community.

Oprah raves about Weight Watchers for a reason. It’s the community of people who support you, fight with you, and hold you accountable. They ask you if you’re taking care of yourself, not the number of steps you walked on lazy Sundays. The Seattle area is a haven of healthy groups. Despite talk of the “Seattle Freeze,” this is still a community that values human connection. Seattle meetups, a running club, outdoor yoga groups, and so on are always looking for members. It’s these fundamental habits that you need before a fitness tracker even becomes relevant.