Fitness trackers guide part 1: don’t prioritise goals over common sense

fitness tracker

The fitness trackers craze shows no sign of letting up – wearable health and fitness technology is more widespread than ever, and is becoming more affordable.

Fitness Trackers usually take the form of wearable wristbands which monitor the user’s activity and exercise, as well as heartbeat, sleep patterns, etc. They usually pair up with a PC or smartphone to help the user analyse their daily or weekly performance and activity levels.

The reason for their popularity is obvious: it’s an easy way to quantify how much exercise a person does. It does the counting so you don’t have to, and often the numbers are really high, so it’s easy to hit impressive, flattering figures – such as the number of steps you take in a day.

They also offer an easy way to set and beat personal fitness goals, either against yourself or other people. Many people find competition to be the key motivator for fitness, so trackers appeal to that mindset.

There have been health scares around fitness trackers; some which appear to be unfounded, and others which may provide a stronger cause for concern.

Firstly, concerns were raised about the impact of wearing a transmitting electronic device for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So far, there has been nothing to prove that a Bluetooth or wi-fi device has any impact on the body, regardless of length of exposure.

The other key concern, outlined in this article, is that if someone has a personality that is predisposed towards conditions such as body dysmorphia, anorexia or bulimia, then fitness trackers could potentially exacerbate the condition, by acting as an enabler towards obsessive or extreme behaviour. Again, this has not been proven scientifically, but it’s something to be aware of.

From Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic’s point of view, our main concern is that there will be a temptation to ignore the messages your body is sending you about fatigue or injury, as the user strives to beat certain goals.

An electronic device does not know your body better than you. It cannot replace a personal trainer or a physiotherapist. A personal trainer or coach, for example, can look you in the eye and tell when you’ve had enough – they can tell when you’re tiring and adjust your training accordingly. Meanwhile a physiotherapist will be able to study your symptoms and movement and diagnose and treat an injury.

As sophisticated as a fitness tracker may appear to be, never forget that it is just relying on electronic impulses, and deciphering those on a fairly basic level, in order to provide you with motivation, whether that means cajoling you when you’ve been inactive or motivating you to beat your goals.

We have compiled a list of nine things to bear in mind when using a fitness tracker to make sure you get the best out of it, avoid injury and look after yourself properly! Check it out here.