These devices may be popular, but do they actually help improve your health?
Fitness trackers can be beneficial — when used effectively. They can be helpful to people who want to track progress toward a goal such as running a race or losing weight. For others, they may be just a fashionable accessory.
“Walking 10,000 steps a day is a great start, but what most of us really need to lose some weight or improve conditioning,” says James Dewar, MD, of Bloomfield-Garfield Family Health Center-UPMC.
Find a UPMC primary care physician by visiting the UPMC Primary Care website or by calling 1-855-676-UPMCPCP (8762-727).
Fitness trackers can produce the so-called “health halo.” Just owning and wearing the device can give people the false sense that they are healthier.
For example, if you walk 10,000 steps in a day and then reward yourself with a piece of cake, you’ve actually consumed more calories than you intended to eat.
One research study showed that people who wore a fitness tracker ended up gaining weight.
So, what can you do to stay healthy with a fitness tracker?
- Set daily goals appropriate to your lifestyle, rather than using the preset ones.
- Increase the amount of activity you get instead of counting your steps.
- If you have a fitness tracker, wear it at all times to help provide an accurate reading of your progress.
- Create your profile and make sure that you are calibrating your device to your body.
- Connect your fitness tracker to various apps that work together for your health.
- Use the tracker’s social features to connect with people who have similar goals.
“Connecting with others can make it easier to keep up your lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Dewar.