We’re constantly bombarded with news items about the nation’s obesity and inactivity levels, but at the same time, London seems to be at the heart of a wellness boom that is seeing health and fitness become the priority for many. Technology is at the forefront of this fitness revolution with activity trackers and fitness monitors being the ‘must have’ accessory in 2016. But here’s the question, do fitness trackers zap the fun out of working out?
Activity trackers come in a variety of forms, from the simple step and calorie counters, to those that track steps, distance, approximate calories and also monitor sleep, from fitness watches with a heart rate strap, to devices that count steps, calories, distance, heart rate and more, all from one strap on your wrist. The world really is your oyster when it comes to monitoring your daily activities.
I’ve grown quite a collection of fitness and activity trackers over the last year or so, with varying degrees of success. I’ve had devices like the Misfit and Fitbit Zip which have counted all my steps, but when I’m sweating it out in a yoga class, it thinks I’ve been doing nothing for an hour and a half. In my opinion, these are better for runners and walkers where distance and pace are the key measurable elements. These trackers are also great for those just embarking on a new healthy lifestyle and are trying to become more active in their everyday lives by walking more and being less sedentary.
The next set of trackers I own are those that monitor heart rate, much better for those hours in the yoga studio! My Polar watch is likely the most accurate, but I find it cumbersome and I more often than not forget to take it with me when I’m heading to class, but my most recent addition is becoming my favourite. I’ve now got the Fitbit Charge HR which has permanent residence on my wrist. Constantly monitoring my heart rate, it allows me to go about my daily activities and classes without having to think about setting up a heart rate monitor. A little chunky on my tiny wrist maybe, but I’m still a fan.
Back to the question at hand though, do all these trackers take the fun out of fitness by making people overly conscious of their step count or fat burn / cardio heart rate zones? I can see how this might happen. Imagine being in the gym or in a class and having the person next to you checking your heart rate monitor mid-workout, and adjusting their intensity accordingly. This would soon become tiresome, and possibly distracting for the instructor or trainer too. I know runners who feel liberated when they run ‘naked’ – no, not without their trusty lycra – but without technology constantly monitoring their time, distance and pace. Perhaps the need for completing 10,000 steps a day, or burning x,y,z amount of calories comes from the same place that makes our brain do a little dance when those instagram ‘likes’ hit double figures.
On the other hand, what’s wrong with simply being fascinated by how the body works? I was the teenager who got annoyed when I had to switch to A-level Biology instead of Human Biology because there weren’t enough participants in the latter. I love knowing how my body reacts when I teach 3 barre classes, go to hot yoga, or take a quick jog up the tube escalators and my Charge HR is a great way to see all that in one place. I know that on certain days, I need to eat more because my energy expenditure is far more than I realise and I need to up my intake. My experiences aside, making somebody accountable for their activity, especially if they’re needing to change their lifestyle for whatever reason, can make a huge difference in whether they succeed at sticking to a new plan or not. A little dose of healthy competition never hurt anyone, and competing with oneself from the day or week before might just incentivise someone to get off the sofa and go for a walk, or take that jog up the stairs instead of taking the lift.
I agree that fitness trackers can become an obsessive piece or technology, and I’m aware that this can lead to health complications in itself with the rise of orthorexia and similar issues. I also think however, that while this can be the case for some, it shouldn’t detract from the fact that getting to know your body and your activity levels can be hugely beneficial. It’s a delicate balance between knowledge and obsession, but overall I think the rise in popularity of fitness trackers, and now fitness watches, shows that the nation wants to get fitter and healthier!
Checkout someone of my fellow fitness bloggers commenting below for their thoughts on Fitness Trackers!