Learn more about fitness trackers

Fitness trackers are wearable technology that help you keep tabs on everyday health metrics — how far you walk or run, the number of calories you burn, and even the details of your sleep cycle.

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.

RELATED: You’ve Got a Fitness Tracker — Now What?

“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).

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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.

About Primary Care

A bond between doctor and patient can be extremely valuable, and that’s what you get with UPMC Primary Care. When you work with a primary care physician (PCP), you develop a lasting relationship. Your doctor will get to know you and your history and can plan your treatments accordingly. Our PCPs offer a variety of services, including preventive care and treatment for both urgent and chronic conditions. We also operate primary care walk-in centers where you can get treatment without an appointment.