Ok, It’s Spring-2016 So How’s that Fitness Tracker working for YOU???

Posted by Beth Hartman

Chances are you are one of the thousands of people that received an Apple Watch, Garmin Line of Activity Trackers or the most popular member of the team the Fitbit Line.
Since most companies are keeping their stats a secret, it is NO secret however that Apps for the Fitbit product line shot up 20 points above their competitors this post-holiday season.

Most people are caught up in the fitness news blitz about the 10,000 steps a day program that most trainers and really the manufacturers of tracking devices from simple pedometers to multi-function activity monitors that can range in prices from $20.00 to passing the $300.00 levels.

People today are feeling the pressure from their peers regarding their physical state. Especially in the workplace where most of the jobs have become sedentary and a lot less active than they were 25 years ago. This and the bombardment of news and health articles about America getting heaver and less healthier over the years has made any tracking device a winner in bringing in the revenue for health related companies.

If you have had a fitness tracker like the Fitbit, Fitbit One, Surge, Charge and the latest competition the Fitbit Blaze then you can classify yourself as someone that wants to stay competitive with your friends and associates regarding your lifestyle, or, just wanting to converse at the same level of the same around the water cooler.

You may find yourself at night, on occasion, standing next to your bed, jogging in place to get your fitness trackers to hit 10,000 steps before calling it a night.  

Obsessed? Maybe. But if you’ve got one of these colorful tracking devices strapped to your wrist, and admit it — you’ve done some crazy stuff to run those numbers up.

Fitness or activity trackers with brand names like Jawbone, Fitbit, Garmin, Nike-Fuel and Misfit are small devices you wear, usually on your wrist, that tell you things like how much exercise you are getting and how many calories you burn. Keeping track of your progress can help you to reach the goals you've set for yourself in getting healthier.  It's also a great way to share what you've accomplished with your weight-loss peers.

The market for these tracking devices has been growing rapidly. The American College of Sports Medicine announced in Nov. 2015 during its annual fitness trend forecast that “wearable technology would be the top trend in fitness in 2016."

So what can and can’t this fitness trend do for you?
Do you like devices?
“The majority of people using digital devices like fitness trackers are the same people who grew up playing video games, and using computers and cell phones since they were young," Jeff Howard, director of creative and promotion at Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center, said. “These are people who like to see tangible evidence of the effort they are putting into staying healthy."

Howard says most of the clients he works with use a fitness tracker to log their food for a running total of the calories they eat each day. They’re also looking at the total number of calories they burn during each workout and over the course of a day.  One of the best things about people that use these devices for the right reasons is that it helps them to stay motivated to stay active and eat healthier in order to maintain their higher activity levels.
Fitness trackers are a good way to measure your input (calories in) and output (calories burned) if you expect to lose weight.

Do they actually work?
While there is some debate about the accuracy of these wearable monitors, for the most part, if you want to wear one and pay attention to your daily results, you’ll reap some rewards.
Dr. Jung-Min Lee, assistant professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Nebraska, studied eight different wearable activity monitors and found, as you might expect, they were not always as accurate as a manual step count.

Some brands overestimated calories spent in aerobic exercise and underestimated it in sedentary and resistance exercise. In the sleep tracking mode, some devices confused relaxation for sleep or failed to detect a disturbed night of drifting in and out of consciousness.

Motivation is key
“It shouldn’t matter if a device is off a little on the step count or calories burned,” Howard said. “The best reason for wearing an activity tracker is to motivate you to move more."

The self-monitoring aspect of fitness trackers can nudge you to get moving, keep you motivated and encourage you to create healthier habits.

The instant feedback and social aspect of activity trackers actually make them fun to use. They can help you set goals, provide frequent feedback on your progress and if you choose to reach out to friends and family using the devices, can provide some social support and low-key competition.

Let’s take a look at some of the newer functions available:
Some trackers have display monitors, which can show the time, your heart rate, the calories you’ve burned, your total steps, the number of stairs you have climbed, hours you’ve slept, how many times you woke during the night and more. Others have no monitor and require you to sync your device to your computer or phone to see a readout of your daily results.  This is the case usually with stand alone pedometers.

Very inexpensive trackers — $50 or less — may not be as accurate, have limited battery life and won’t have as many bells and whistles as trackers with monitors which track your, heart rate, have a GPS, displays colorful charts and keeps an accurate point system. If you are easily bored, the fancier tracker may be more appealing than a simple step counter.

PC Magazine did a side-by-side comparison, listing the pros and cons of 10 trackers. One tip: if you want to try a tracker out before buying, they suggest Lumoid, a service that lets you try five trackers for two weeks for $25. If you end up buying one, the $25 fee is waived, according to their website.

Fitness trackers are more than hype
Howard points to the fact that many insurance companies encourage the use of simple fitness tracking devices for their employees and customers. Thu providing them a savings if the companies are looking to foot the bill for most of their employees health care insurance.

“If large corporations are incorporating these into their programs, there must be a reason,” Howard said.

OrangeTheory Fitness, one of the fastest growing workout facilities in the country, uses heart rate monitors to provide members with instant feedback based on individual effort during class. 
Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center, will soon be offering a program called “My Zone." Members will have the option to purchase a monitor, which will record heart rate, calories burned and percentage of effort.

If you are still up in the air about whether a fitness tracker will help you achieve your health and fitness goals, consider this: if you do purchase one, there’s nothing lost other than the money you spent on the device. As long as it gets you moving, thinking about what you are consuming and helping you to get a better night's sleep, wearing one will be a success.

Why Most People buy an activity tracker:
One study subject stated the following:
I’ll admit, my reason for initially using a fitness tracker was only to prove to my husband that his snoring was waking me up at night and ruining my sleep. Each morning I would look at the tracker’s proof and sure enough, I wake up throughout the night. But a bigger problem was something I was doing to myself. I was simply staying up too late and getting too few hours of sleep in general.

The result: although my husband’s nocturnal symphony has not quieted, I am now working on getting to sleep earlier to make up for my periods of restless sleep. Figuring out ways to improve sleep could be a game changer that may have a real effect on your life.

What I didn’t anticipate was how the tracker has motivated me to incorporate more movement into my workday. Health experts recommend a minimum of 10,000 steps per day and I was easily able to get that number as long as I had a cardio workout planned. But because most of my workouts come at the end of my workday, the number of steps I was taking while at the office were truly shocking.

As a result, I am parking at the rear of the lot so I walk a few more steps to get to the front door. I am back to hoofing it up the four flights of stairs to my office floor, (I had slacked off and was enjoying the elevator) and I am taking more breaks to walk around the office for five minutes.

I wouldn’t say every person should be wearing a fitness tracker, but if you have any curiosity or desire to get more active on a day-to-day basis, I would say you’re a perfect candidate to give it a shot.

The majority of the information for this blog post was supplied by Kirby Adams of the Courier-Journal

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