If you’re not already one of the 19 million people using an activity tracker, a.k.a. fitness wearable, you should be. Why? Because they work.
“We can improve what we can measure,” said Ted Vickey, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Consultant on Fitness Technology. “By understanding our daily movements, we can create a baseline and create goals and objectives from that baseline.”
Today’s electronic fitness wearables measure everything from steps taken to calories burned to quality of sleep and give you real-time information in the palm of your hand (or on your wrist). But how accurate is this information?
The American Council on Exercise recently enlisted a group of researchers to find that out. The team ultimately discovered that trackers are mostly accurate when it comes to counting steps taken when walking, but not entirely accurate when counting calories burned during an intense exercise session. So are they worth it?
Ted said it’s more important to look at the relative accuracy versus the absolute accuracy. For example, if you weigh yourself at home, at the doctor’s, and at the gym, you might get three different numbers. Which one is right? Go with the one you use the most.
“Rather than comparing across devices, focus on one and use that in your overall wellness plan,” Ted said.
The ACE-sponsored study concluded one thing: activity trackers are motivating. Others in the industry agree.
“The data that mobile diet and fitness trackers provide is one of the primary reasons individuals who use these devices stay motivated to lead healthier lives,” said James Mrowka, president of the free social health and fitness community FitClick. “People feel empowered by information, and these devices provide a wealth of specific data that helps users more easily track their progress and strive to improve.”
A benefit to using trackers that have online or phone app components is you can join thousands across the world in a united effort to be more active, burn more calories and live a healthier life.
“When users can not only connect with friends who are also working toward fitness goals, but compare their performance to that of others, the result is a combination of both camaraderie and competition, and this can be highly motivating,” James said.
Bottom line: should you get one? “These devices are not some magic pill that will make a person healthy and well overnight. One must still put in the work and effort to see results,” Ted said. “What these wearables can do is provide motivation, education and self tracking that allows a person to stay on a path to overall wellness.”
“Studies show that people who use journaling and tracking systems have far greater success with healthy weight management than those who do not.”
– Lisa Goldberg, Director of Product and Program Innovation at Medifast
Top Selling Trackers
Here are three products to consider. Remember, not all trackers are created the same. Find the right tracker to fit your personal health and fitness needs.
Fitbit Charge HR: Using a continuous heart rate monitor, the Fitbit Charge HR offers a better estimation of your daily activity (steps taken), calories burned during your workouts and quality of sleep. This device uses a stride estimate to track distance so it’s not 100 percent accurate, but it is great for measuring energy expenditure during workouts. $149.95, Fitbit.com.
Samsung Gear Fit Smart Watch: This device is a 24/7 activity tracker that tracks the usual information, but also offers a personalized fitness motivator via its heart rate sensor to get you to work harder. Because it is a smart watch, it also notifies you when you get emails and phone calls. The only downside is this tracker is only Android compatible. $149.99, Samsung.com.
JawBone UP2: The UP2 offers an alarm that vibrates when you’ve been idle or when you need to wake up. This sleek band tracks your food, drink, calories and nutrients and offers personal insights from a Smart Coach to help you make healthier choices each day. Round up your friends and family to see how you all measure up on the online leaderboards. $99.99, Jawbone.com.
By LaRue V. Baber