We’ve tracked the trackers and they don’t stop us from being slackers.
My first-grade rhyming aside, I’m mostly neutral on them and take a “if it works for you, then great” attitude about them. And that’s pretty much the best approach to take when assessing whether you
need want one or not.
Nobody needs one.
Most of the research on the use of activity trackers as it pertains to sustained behavior change is…”meh.”
Once the initial fascination of having one wears off, they don’t lead to sustained changes in various measures of health. In general. In studies. With lots of people.
It turns out, the promise of a product to change behavior is as empty as it has always been. And other research shows that measuring can undermine the intrinsic motivation of physical activity, making it feel more like work and a to-do list item rather than something pursued for its own enjoyment.
And the problem is getting worse because the product lines for trackers now feature an avalanche of watches, bracelets, rings, monitors, straps, and bands to track just about anything. You can track your sleep, your activity, your heart rate, your heart rate variability, your glucose levels, your brain wave activity, and on it goes. You can end up wearing more accessories than Johnny Depp.
First, you don’t need these things to pursue health. Second, they may be just the thing to help. These are not contradictions.
IF You Are…
…the type of person who has a sense of wonder about learning about your body and looks at your numbers from a tracker in a spirit of curiosity to learn about the inner workings of your body, then they may be a boon to your efforts. 👍
IF You Are…
…the type of person who needs to know if you’re doing “enough” and stresses and obsesses about how much sleep/exercise/omega-3 fats/fiber/Vitamin-D/etc., you are getting, then they may hamper your efforts. 👎
A Final Consideration
One thing I definitely don’t like about the popularity of trackers and their relentless promotion by health figures is the economics. Fitness and health should not only be available to those who can afford several hundred to thousands of dollars on trackers plus the monthly subscriptions that often accompany them.
For any one person, they may be great. But too many people feel like they need them, when they are really optional. No one needs these devices to pursue basic health and fitness. If they are useful and enhance our experience, then they are helpful. If all they do is remind you of how you’re doing less than you should, then they are not.