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Pros and Cons of Fitness Trackers, Apps and Wearable Technology

April 14, 2016 by HealthyFamiliesBC

Pros and cons of fitness trackers, apps and wearable technology

Remember the days you’d go for a walk or run and carry a Walkman? Things have changed! In recent years, wearable fitness technology like activity trackers, heart rate monitors, and Global Positioning System (GPS) watches have become commonplace. Ever heard of Jawbone™, Fitbit™, Garmin Vivosmart™? Here’s a look at these types of wrist activity trackers.

How do They Work?

Wrist activity trackers monitor the number of steps you take, activity levels and sleep quality with an accelerometer, which is an instrument that measures movement. Some kinds also measure heart rate using lights on the bottom of the tracker to peer through your skin and monitor the flow of blood. Other models have a built in GPS to track distance, speed, and elevation. You can then synch all this information up with fitness apps on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Pros and Cons of Fitness Trackers and Wearable Technology

On the plus side:

  • A great and easy way to monitor your activity (and inactivity!) levels. These devices give you a chance to see your data over a day or period of time.
  • You can use it to determine a benchmark and then build on it by setting goals.

On the downside:

  • They can be expensive.
  • Measurement of heart rate is not the most accurate, especially during exercise.
  • They measure movement but not the intensity (for example, lifting a cup of water versus a bag of topsoil will be recorded as the same thing).
  • Some people might not be active if they don’t have their unit with or very close to them.

Are They For You?

You don’t need an activity tracker to have an active lifestyle. But they might be for you if you like looking at numbers, enjoy setting day-to-day goals, and like to geek-out on technology. If you’re already self-motivated to be active, or if you want your active life tech-free, then have fun and keep up the good work without.

Using an activity tracker is an individual choice. Personally, I do not use one (I opt for self-motivation), but many of my friends really enjoy them and have friendly competitions. Do you wear one? Why or why not?

Related blogs

Smartphone Apps and Physical Activity
How Technology is Affecting Physical Activity

Recommended resources

The NewYork Times: What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See



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