Do Activity Trackers Work?


Wearable technology, such as heart rate and activity monitors, are among the hottest trends in the fitness community. The question is—do they work? Wearable technology is fairly new, but prices have dropped since being introduced, with monitors ranging from $50 to $300. Before opting to purchase a monitor, one needs to consider if there is a need or if it is a waste of money.

Products, such as the Fitbit, can be very useful to keep track of activity levels and ensure one is getting enough sleep, assuming that the individual wears it throughout the day. However, does being aware of one’s activity level and sleep equate to increasing physical activity and getting sufficient sleep? A recent study (“The Impact of Wearable Device Enabled Health Initiative on Physical Activity and Sleep”. Crowley O, Pugiliese L, Kachnowski S. October 11, 2016. Cureus 8-10) looked into activity monitors to see if wearing one would increase physical activity over the course of an 8-month study. What researchers found was a decrease of physical activity in the fall and winter months compared to spring and summer. That fact is unsurprising, particularly because individuals tend to increase the amount of outdoor activities in warmer weather, such as hiking and jogging. Over the course of the entire study, however, participants did not substantially produce an increase in activity. Interestingly, sleep did increase for the test subjects while wearing the devices.

Wearable technology is a useful tool for increasing awareness of activity levels and sleep, but the act of doing something active and getting enough sleep still relies on the individual. While, for some, knowing that their activity goals have not been met on a given day, this may be the kind of motivation they might need to head out for a workout, but, for others, it may be nothing more than a nuisance. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and if an activity tracker might be of assistance, it would not hurt to give one a try.

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