Isn’t a FitBit just a glorified pedometer? The short answer is no.
The evolution of what was once the pedometer has created an integrative system that provides data that helps motivate people to stay active and keep healthier. Unfortunately the increasing occurrence of sedentary lifestyles – sitting while driving, working, and relaxing – leads to numerous dangers to your physical health. With inactivity comes an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Fitness trackers provide more than just a step count, offering information such as heart rate readings, calories burned, activity intensity, and even helps with tracking meals. These small gadgets are the next wave of technology that encourages us to get our bodies moving.
The golden goal of 10 000 steps per day is a target set in the 1960s by a Japanese inventor who marketed the pedometer as “manpo-kei”, which translates to “10 000 steps meter”. Studies have proposed that anywhere from 7 000 - 10 000 daily steps is the range to start receiving health benefits; however, all sources are in agreement that at least 30 minutes of regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise (an increase of about 3 000 steps) is the key to attaining the health benefits from exercise.
Where do FitBits fit in?
The knowledge of the health benefits of regular exercise is not a new finding, as the research on this topic started in the 1950s. With the growth in popularity of mobile applications, fitness trackers like FitBits have changed the wellness landscape.
1. Creating a Community
Fitness trackers like FitBit promote the community aspect of their programs, albeit the community is still in its infancy. There is a sense of accountability between you and your friends on a shared quest to become healthier. When seeking to achieve goals, accountability to other people, especially personal connections typically yields positive outcomes.
The benefit in the social aspect of fitness trackers is more noticeable in people who are naturally competitive. My competitive side takes over when I compare my activity level to those of my friends, encouraging me to take the stairs, walk to the store to get groceries, or even take a walk simply for the steps. Challenges like the “Daily Showdown” that displays your step total for 24 hours, pitches you against your FitBit friends. The result often challenges your entire social circle to become more active.
2. Sustained Motivation by Achieving Goals
Constant tracking helps you see day-to-day improvement and provides a way to track the gradual buildup to a larger goal. The ability to
monitor your progress converts short-term goals into motivational pit stops on your way to a long-term goal. Making goals more manageable provides encouragement as fitness trackers let you feel like you are making progress. It is a reward when you see that bar graph slowly trending upwards.
3. Convenient Diet Tracking
Exercise isn’t the only determinant for your health, as your diet has a huge impact on weight management and nutrient intake. In a typical university nutrition course, students are asked to keep track of their weekly food intake to determine the nutrition that they are receiving. Using an online program and an Excel file to track the nutrient profiles, the project requires over 5 hours of work and in many cases unreliable results. Recording and storing the data on a mobile app not only eases this process by allowing immediate recording of your food, but also allows easy access to review your food intake. Guilt about eating a chocolate bar at lunch can be seen on your phone throughout the day, and if these transgressions bother you, it influences change.
4. Providing Useful Information
Pedometers are simple, straightforward counting devices that provide basic data. Data is meaningless until you can create value from it; therefore, data that does not capture your interest is useless. Fitness trackers provide an array of data that is useful for individuals with different goals. Depending on your goals, information such as periods of inactivity, sleep tracking, calories burnt, and types of exercise can help to increase your overall health. Pedometers are a single dimension in a discipline with so many different factors. Fitness trackers won’t magically make you healthier; however, it will provide you with the information you need to move on a healthier path. Ultimately, it is up to you to change your habits and decisions.
Fitbit is used in this article as an example of a fitness tracker. There is no affiliation between this blog and FitBit. There are other fitness trackers that offer similar functions such as Pebble, Jawbone, Garmin, and Gearfit.