I’m a huge fan of anything that motivates someone (especially me) to be more active and get fit. Fitness trackers like the Fitbit Force, or Jawbone Up are excellent at motivating the wearer to get up off the couch and get moving.
Personally, I have a Fitbit Force, which is no longer made by Fitbit. In fact, they recalled it just a few months ago. I have yet to send mine back.
Benefit of Fitness Trackers
So, how beneficial are fitness trackers? Aren’t they little more than glorified pedometers?
Well, yes and no.
The Fitbit Force tracks steps and distance like a normal pedometer, but it also tracks the stairs you take along with how many calories you’ve burned during the day and your sleep patterns. But the benefit of the tracker is the motivation it provides. It essentially lets you challenge yourself by showing you how far you’ve gone and taunting you to beat your goal.
When you reach 10,000 steps (or whatever your goal is), the Force vibrates and the display shows fireworks or another celebratory display and blinks your goal – in my case it blinks 10,000. For me, that’s a great feeling. I love the fireworks! But in all seriousness, it’s essentially a reward for reaching your goal.
Granted, it’s not a tangible reward like money or a new outfit, but it is an immediate recognition of your achievement. Although, if money motivates you, check out Achievemint. They reward you with real cash when you get a certain amount of points. In my case, whenever I hit 25,000, they send me a gift card for $25, which is then sent to my PayPal account.
You also compete with friends on a leaderboard via the Fitbit website, which provides another level of motivation. My sister is actually on my leaderboard, and I’m constantly trying to stay ahead of her since she’s a physical therapist and walks pretty much constantly.
Another benefit is that the Fitbit can adjust your calorie allotment for the day based on how many steps you take. Since it works with My Fitness Pal, for me this is indispensable. As a freelance writer, I’m sitting for the majority of my day unless I’m at my part time job as an ophthalmic technician. So on my writing days, my calorie allotment is adjusted so that I stay under my goal of 1900 calories.
Choosing a Fitness Tracker
To get the most out of your fitness tracker, there are a few things you need to think about before you make your purchase.
- Know what your budget is. Fitness trackers are an investment in your health and should be chosen with this in mind. While the most expensive trackers offer a lot of bells and whistles, some of the mid range trackers offer the necessities at an affordable price. So it’s important to know how much you are willing to spend on a device.
- Do your research. With so many choices out there, you can’t just pick one randomly, or go on one person’s suggestion. Read reviews, check out the company’s website, and do a Google search for any customer complaints before making a decision. Check out my ultimate guide for information on the top four trackers that give you the most bang for your buck.
- Know what features you want. Most fitness trackers are glorified pedometers, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Fitbit trackers have the ability to track steps, stairs, sleep and calories. But they don’t have heart rate monitors. Basis B1 has a heart rate monitor and sweat gauge, and can track walking, biking and running, but their heart rate monitor doesn’t always work when your moving… you know, when you need it. So make sure you know what features you want, and that all the features actually work.
- Consider the device’s wearability. I’m not talking about just how it feels on your arm or in your pocket. I’m also talking about how user friendly their phone app and/or website is. While the tracker should be a stylish, comfortable fit and not cause a rash, the app should be user-friendly, show you the information you want and work with a variety of devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
- It only works if you use it. Once you decide on a tracker and finally receive it, you have to use it. All the features in the world can’t help you if you don’t actually wear the thing. It’s a commitment to health and ultimately to yourself. One of the nice things about armband trackers is all you have to do is literally wear it. The device does all the work and you can see your stats on either a phone app or on the device’s website. Other trackers, like the Fitbit One, you have to wear on your belt, or put in your pocket. If you forget your tracker in the morning, you won’t get any stats for the day. This is why I decided on the arm band version. Since I wear it at night to sleep, it’s hard to forget the next morning.
Whether or not a fitness tracker will be beneficial for you depends on your personality. If you have no problem with motivating yourself to workout or go to the gym, or you’re already an active person, a fitness tracker may not be as beneficial as it would be for someone like me who has problems with motivation and is primarily sedentary.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. But the benefit of fitness trackers is real… at least for some people.