Should You Buy an Activity Tracker?
A fitness tracker also known as an activity tracker is a wearable technology . It is a device that you wear on your wrist or elsewhere to measure the amount of physical activity that you do each day. Studies show that people who wear fitness tracker move more. With a tracker constantly showing you (and, on some devices, your friends on Facebook) how well you’re doing, it’s easy to become mindful of how healthful every part of your lifestyle really is. You’ll find yourself conscientiously thinking about walking or taking the stairs to get anywhere, just to make the numbers on your tracker go up. So should you buy an activity tracker to track your every move? If you are serious about becoming healthy, you should.
Every Move You Make I Will be Tracking You
The simple explanation is if you want to track every move you make you will not be able to mentally and manually keep track of your movements. It is just not feasible. If you ever had to fill out one of those questionnaires at the doctor’s office asking you about your activity level it would be impossible for you to remember all the activities you do through out the day. Furthermore, those questionnaires ask about they regular physical activity such as a walking, running, swimming etc. It does not ask about cleaning the house, folding laundry or mowing the lawn. Therefore you will be under reporting your movements.
If you purchase an activity tracker, as long as you are wearing it, every move you make will be registered on the device. This will give a better estimate of your daily activity.
While you can depend on an app on your smartphone to do much the same thing as a physical tracker device, you aren’t likely to be carrying your smartphone in your pocket all the time. Also if you are talking on your phone it will not accurately measure your movements.
How Do Fitness Tracker Work
Activity tracker monitors your movement pattern by way of a built in gyroscope and accelerator. It measures speed, frequency, duration and intensity of your movements. The devices have a built in algorithm that calculates the information and gives you a reading on the display screen.
Unlike pedometers, fitness trackers are designed to give you much more than a simple readout of the number of steps that you take each day. They express this information in ways you can understand better — they tell you how many miles you walk each day, how many calories you succeed in burning, how much rest you get and so on.
Some also have a heart rate monitor built in. This is beneficial to you because one way to monitor the intensity of the workout is by tracking your heart rate. You can program the device to alert you when your heart increases to a certain level or drop below a certain level. Hence you can program it to alert you when your heart rate is out of a certain range. This data is stored and can be reviewed. You will be able to know which activity was the most intense and which one was not.
Yet, before you jump in and buy one, it’s important to understand the limits of these devices. Your goals and budget will determine the device you purchase. If you only water to monitor your steps and calories then you probably will not need the high end ones.
Fitness Trackers Can Be Wrong
The verdict is still out whether these devices are reliable especially when determining how much calories are burned. However, most studies showed that they are reliable when calculating steps and walking .The ones that are worn on the hip calculate steps more accurate than the ones on the wrist. When you take a step, walk or run you are moving your hip joint. Therefore it make sense that the hip devices are more accurate for steps. The draw back to the hip devices is that they cannot measure your heart rate. Therefore the wrist devices are better if you want to know your heart rate.
Fitness Trackers Can Only Sense Certain Types of Activity
Fitness trackers are better at tracking some activities than other. For instance they are pretty good at monitor walking . Unfortunately, you don’t accelerate when you lift weights or when you perform yoga. In both cases, fitness trackers usually record you as sitting or lying down. In these cases they calculate your heart to determine calories burned. But this is only if you have the one that can track heart rate. Furthermore the more sophisticated devices allows you to select your activity before you start but the basic ones do not give you that option.
Lastly, you can get credit for being active when you are eating or taking a shower. If you use your hands to vigorously gobble down food, the tracker on your wrist can record you being very active when you are just eating.
Are You Sleeping
The entry level fitness trackers have simple sleep tracking modules. They track how long you’ve been inactive. The more advance once monitors your sleep by tracking your heart rate. Here is how they work. At rest or if you are asleep your heart gets to number and stays there. It does not go up unless you move. Lets say you when you are asleep your heart is in the 70s, if your heart is healthy it will remain in the 70s while you are asleep. Once you start to wake up and even before you start to move it will start going up slowly to 80s. If at any time you turn or do any activity while you are “asleep” then your heart rate increases. The sensor will record this as you being awake. Once you fall back asleep your heart rate slowly go back to 70s. You will have to wear the device your wrist to have you heart rate monitored while you sleep.
Fitness trackers continue to evolve and have improved since they first came out a few years ago. Now we can track our activity via watches. Smart watches are a recent product category that have been doing fitness tracking better than dedicated fitness trackers. They include GPS monitors and heartrate monitors. The latest Apple Watch also performs electrocardiograms on wearers, and is cleared by the FDA for medical grade ECGs.
Some high-end fitness trackers now borrow features from smart watches, and include heartrate monitors and GPS monitors to offer more accurate activity tracking than models that depend on simple accelerometers.
Fitness trackers are not perfect. But they can help you keep track of your activity and I think they are worth the investment especially if you just starting you journey towards good health and well being. The American Heart Association recommends 30 mins of physical activity 5 days a week. How close are you to reaching this goal? How are you currently tracking your activity?