Activity Trackers - Critical or Just Complimentary?

How do you quantify your activity throughout the day?

“Wait a minute, quantify activity? Ummm…”

Before you start to get too worried, don’t – because you already are quantifying. It’s just that we each have a different system for this. Some are keeping track in a gratitude journal, others with certain apps, while some of you use a training log.

One very popular way of doing this today is with the use of personal activity trackers. It is hard to go through a day without seeing someone sporting one on their wrist (I admit I wear one every day). There are dozens of different options to choose from, with each having their own specialty and the new ones trying to be smaller and better than previous.

There are varying opinions whether fitness trackers help (or hinder) the quest for a healthier, well balanced, lifestyle or if the marketing of these products hooked us on the idea of getting healthy with a quick fix gadget.

It all started with the basic pedometer and although the very first ones were cumbersome and not very reliable, the new digital ones have become more streamlined and accurate.

From there technology advanced to the use of accelerometers (included in almost all of today’s smart phones) which are used to detect movement and can be monitored using an app.

Today’s activity trackers use the above technology, plus more, and have the ability to set step and weight loss goals, monitor sleep, track nutrition, and challenge friends.

The ultimate goal of activity trackers is to help individuals create new and/or alter their current health habits.

With this being the case, one of the questions that we need to ask is “Do activity trackers motivate the unmotivated to start an exercise routine or do they influence those already inclined to be more active?”

Studies have shown that yes, activity trackers might be just the motivation some people need to get moving. An Indiana University study found that people who wore pedometers daily walked 16 percent more than they did before wearing it. So it seems to suggest that being able to see activity levels throughout the day can help create awareness and may lead to behavior changes down the road.

The American Council on Exercise says people who log their activities are more successful at losing weight. If you start by tracking only your activities, from there you can create short term goals of increased steps and intensity as the activities become more of a habit.

Using the sleep monitoring function of your activity tracking device (if available), can also help, because it has been shown that people are less likely to overeat or give up an exercise plan if they get enough sleep.

However, be cautious of how accurate fitness trackers are. They have come a long way in a very short period of time, but are still not perfect, and tend to misjudge household activities like vacuuming or folding laundry. So please, use the trackers as a gauge to help, not an absolute.

But just maybe this gauge will be your personal ticket to instilling more "quantification" of activity into your days, weeks, months and life.

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