Can fitness trackers improve your fitness?

The days of a plain old pedometer are gone. Today, digital devices worn around your wrist like a watch are the new fad in the fitness world. With capabilities to count calories, monitor heart rate, pace your workout, and more, the best thing about these gadgets is their ability to motivate exercise.
If you don’t already have a fitness tracker, should you get one? With the increasing market of devices, which one should you choose?

Track What?

Studies show you’re more likely to stick to your diet, commit to exercise, and make other healthy lifestyle choices when you track your progress. In the old days, this involved pen and paper, lengthy entries, and complicated calculations. Technology has simplified this process with the invention of fitness trackers, small pieces of technology that do what their name implies—track your fitness. Connect yours to an app or computer, and you get instant, detailed information about all sorts of stuff going on with your health.

The size of a wrist watch, these small gadgets have the ability to tell you more information than you thought possible: the number of steps you take, how many calories you burn, how well you sleep, your heart rate, the length and intensity level of your exercise, reminders to exercise, when you fall short of your goals, and what you need to do to reach your goals.

Yes or No?

Can a device worn like a watch really help you reach your fitness goals? No gadget can make you slim and fit, but research does show these devices can provide motivation. Unfortunately, for many people this motivation is short-lived. It’s like a new treadmill—the initial excitement wears off after a few days, weeks, or months, and it eventually becomes an expensive clothing rack.

To have success with fitness trackers it’s important to regularly set short-term attainable goals you can work towards and track with your device. It’s also helpful to connect your tracker to public or private social groups. This connection provides the accountability, friendly competition, and support to help you reach your goals.

Before getting started, you should know upfront that most fitness trackers provide inaccurate calorie counts. They can give you a general idea of the number of calories you burn, but don’t give yourself the excuse to eat that ice cream sundae based on your tracker’s numbers.

Which to Choose?

With so many trackers available, how do you make a final decision? Here are a few of the most popular with a brief description of what each offers.

The Jawbone Up 24 is super lightweight, easy to wear, and costs less than $100. It has no screen, but connects to a smartphone app, through which the tracker displays all your data in graphs and charts. This device can give you reminders, challenges, and fitness goals.

With a battery life of an entire year, the easy-to-use Garmin Vivofit can be purchased for under $100. Track your fitness, record your quality of sleep, and get fit. The Vivofit app sets goals for you as you make progress so you don’t get stuck in a workout rut.

A top-ranked fitness tracker, the Fitbit Flex scores high on accuracy and comfort. Running around $100, it’s easy to use and has fun colors to choose from. There’s no screen, but it connects to a smartphone app as it monitors your activity and motivates you to stay healthy.

The Withings Pulse 02 is another popular device that does more than track your steps and count calories. It also monitors your weight, blood oxygen, heart rate, and sleep. With a price tag around $120, the Withings Pulse has a touchscreen and a user-friendly app.