It’s June. New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the past, yet bathing suit season hovers on the horizon like a mirage on hot blacktop. You may be looking in your closet wondering how this happened, yet again, and wishing there was something to keep you motivated through the winter doldrums.
Because one of the biggest challenges to any fitness regimen is staying motivated, wearable fitness devices have become increasingly popular. There are many varieties, but in general, they all track your biometric data and keep you honest about the miles you’re logging and the calories you’re consuming and burning. These little gadgets (and most of them are quite diminutive) are becoming more advanced all the time.
Gone are the days of the portable tape or CD player, that one- trick pony that played back music and nothing more. Today we have mp3 players that sync to your sneakers to track your miles and your pace, and bracelets that treat your activity tracking like a real-life video game, with indicator lights flashing as you progress toward your daily goals.
How useful ARE these gadgets, you ask? Well, not too useful if they are sitting in a kitchen drawer, versus being worn every day. A recent study by a marketing consulting firm found that “more than half of the U.S. consumers who own an activity tracker have stopped using it.” The study showed that a third of owners abandoned the device within six months of purchase!
So now the challenge is to motivate people to continue to use the device in order to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I spoke with a friend of mine who is an avid fitness tracker fan. She explained how it helps her monitor her sleep apnea, water consumption, and of course, her activity. She was enthusiastic, explaining how she syncs it with another online tool to track her caloric intake. That program adjusts her caloric goals based on her activity, which she says makes her feel like she’s ’earning’ more snacks. When I inquired if there were any downsides to her fitness tracker, she answered, “the tangible proof of how lazy you are.” A couple of days with numbers that make her wince are all it takes to get her back on track.
So is a wearable fitness tracker right for you? Could be. The same study found that someone just starting out on a journey to improve their lifestyle will benefit more from a fitness tracker than a person who is already a serious athlete. The trackers help a person achieve consistency and see in stark relief how changes in activity level and food intake will affect fitness outcomes.
Cost is a factor in any decision, of course, and this is no different. Fitness tracker prices typically range from $100 to $200, with some charging additional subscription costs for online tracking like my friend uses.
If a fitness routine is already part of your life, then the tracking and comparison features of a fitness device probably won’t add much to your experience, unless you are looking to take it to a higher level, such as training for your first triathlon. In that case, seeing your total activity each day can keep you on schedule.
Still not sure you want to get hooked in, share your info and let a flashing light guilt you into taking a walk around the neighborhood before bed? The good news is that even unplugged, a little extra exercise will always do your body good! But the motivating factors of accountability may be what it takes to have you sailing through summer looking and feeling better than ever.
You know what? I was on the fence about these devices when I started my research for this piece. Now I think the accountability and resulting motivation to do more is just what I need to get more consistent with my exercise regimen. I am a convert!
Do you use a fitness tracker? Have you in the past? Please share your experiences and opinions in the comments section below!