Fitness trackers are all the rage right now– Fitbits, Apple watches, Oura Rings… I haven’t used them all before, so I can’t really speak for all of them since I don’t know exactly what they’re like, but some of the things I’m going to say apply to most - if not all - fitness trackers.
We’re going to get into some of the benefits of fitness trackers, as well as the drawbacks - as benign as they seem, I’ve experienced some pretty convincing drawbacks that have made me take breaks from my own fitness tracker several times.
Whenever I’m wearing my fitness tracker, I find that it motivates me to hit that 10,000 step mark - even though I usually get there without too much trouble. It definitely serves as a reminder when I’m not quite hitting the mark that I maybe need to take a walk or stand up and do something non-sedentary for a while - even just going to the bathroom gets some steps in.
You can go back in the app and see your stats over time, which can help you identify patterns that will make you see how active you are one which days, as well as what times of day, days of the week, or days of the month need a little bit of extra effort in order to make sure you’re getting to 10,000.
Shows you your sleep quality
This is one of my favorite features of my tracker - it shows how long I’m in deep, REM, and light sleep, as well as all of the little times I’m awake during the night.
I’ve noticed some things that increase or decrease my sleep quality. For example, taking magnesium before bed seems to boost my sleep quality.
Tracking your sleep quality can help you notice patterns like these, which can help you get the most out of every hour of sleep.
To show you what I mean, I’ve noticed that I’ve had a lot more deep sleep recently - in fact, last night I had deep sleep pretty close to the time I woke up, which is different because I usually have deep sleep earlier in the night. My deep sleep started later than it normally did, too. I’m still trying to figure out what’s up with this change in my sleep, but I think it’s really cool to be able to make observations like this and to try to connect them with things that have been going on recently in your life.
Decreases sedentary time
There’s no doubt that having a record of how many steps I’ve taken on my wrist at all times helps me get up and move more often. You can turn on notifications that remind you to move, which also has helped me stay motivated in the past - I turned this feature off though, partly because I don’t really feel like I need it since I hold myself pretty accountable.
Holds you accountable
If you find yourself telling yourself you’re going to move more but never follow through, trackers can be a great way to hold you accountable. You always have a reminder on your wrist, and you can set it to vibrate and let you know it’s time to get moving.
Although I think that fitness trackers are great overall, I have also experienced some drawbacks that make me hesitate to say that they’re right for everyone - in fact, I don’t think they’re right for everyone.
If your tracker is making you stressed, it might be doing more harm than good. Remember that if you try it and find that you’re getting stress and feeling overly pressured to get the right amount of steps, burn the right amount of calories, go up however many flights of stairs per day, don’t be afraid to take a break and set it aside for a while.
I have found myself falling into the stress trap, and I’ve had to stop and make myself give it a rest. With my anxiety, more stress is almost never worth it.
I used to get really stressed out when I wore my Fitbit to bed and I didn’t get a good night’s sleep - it would stress me out just thinking about seeing the terrible night’s sleep on the app the next day, which in turn would make me sleep worse.
In that case, it was clearly counterproductive.
Keep in mind that your tracker might make your sleep look worse than you thought it would look because it counts brief moments of being awake in the middle of the night that you didn’t even know happened.
Long story short, it it’s stressing you out, it’s worth considering not even using it.
If some is good, then more must be better. Right?
But that could be the mindset that fitness trackers put you into. Maybe your goal is 10,000 steps, but then you increase it to 15,000 or 20,000… that may be unsustainable and overdoing it for some people. Remember that sometimes less is more.
Can stop you from listening to your body
I’ve definitely fallen into this trap, too. Knowing how many calories you burned can make you feel like that’s the amount of calories you have to eat, and no, I am not a medical professional by any means, but I’ve come to believe that every calorie isn’t equal. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine, but if you’re in a good spot with food, then don’t let calorie tracking mess it up for you.
Also, over exercising is a thing.
Don’t let your tracker tell you “the more the better,” and then let yourself get trapped in this mindset, causing you to exercise too much. There’s a thing called recovery that we all need. Let your body have enough of it.
Can make you feel like a failure
If your tracker is making you feel guilty every time it buzzes and you don’t start moving, every time you don’t get a perfect night’s sleep, every time you don’t get to 10,000, consider whether it’s really helping you, or if it’s actually hurting you.
Can make you overly concerned about numbers
10,000 steps is a number, but it’s not a MAGIC number. If you get 9,500 steps one day, you’re not gonna die. In fact, that’s a pretty good amount of steps in my opinion.
You don’t need to take 10,000 steps, get eight hours of sleep, and burn 2000 calories every single day. I’m not saying that it’s bad to have goals, but I think that stressing over a number your tracker gave you is counterproductive.
There are benefits and downsides to using a fitness tracker, and there are some things to take into consideration when deciding if you want to start using one.
Ask yourself: Do I easily get obsessed with things? Can I see it making me feel excessively guilty? Could this trigger a bad relationship with food or exercise? Am I in a good spot with my relationship with food and exercise and sleep that I don’t want to mess with?
Trackers can be useful tools, but keep your own personal considerations in mind to see if it’s right for you.