Activity trackers: Game-changer or just a gimmick?

Wearable technology such as fitness trackers, Fitbits and smart watches have seen dramatic growth in popularity over the last year with them fast becoming the must-have accessory to help self-monitor your daily fitness progress. With functionalities including tracking the amount of calories burnt, measuring your heart rate and the amount of steps you take each day they provide an interesting insight into your physical activity, especially for those who are all about crunching numbers!

But how effective are they at actually increasing your fitness levels and helping you lead a healthier lifestyle? Surely these are key motivators behind buying one in the first place? 

The best fitness tracker is a personal trainer. Come to Limitless Life and get fit in Berkhamsted.

The best fitness tracker is a personal trainer. Come to Limitless Life and get fit in Berkhamsted.

According to Fitbit, their fitness bands are designed to help you become more active, eat a more well-rounded diet, sleep better and ultimately, turn you into a healthier human being. But as a personal trainer, I’m sceptical it can achieve this as a long-term solution.

Unless the device is physically giving you electric shocks if you don't get active I can't see the point, other than it may motivate you to take the stairs for the first two weeks of having the device!

Don’t get me wrong there are some cool functions to explore - monitoring running/cycling distance and time will allow you to work harder and faster each time out. Plus trying to burn 100 calories as fast as possible is a good way train intensity.  Some heart rate monitors also test’ your fitness levels at regular intervals which helps track progress. 

Interestingly some businesses are beginning adopt activity trackers to incentivise their employees to keep fit and healthy.  In 2013, about 2,000 companies offered their employees fitness trackers, according to technology research company Gartner. In 2014, this rose to around 10,000. By 2016, the firm predicts that most large companies - those with more than 500 employees - in both the US and Western Europe will offer fitness trackers as part of their health programmes.

In my experience as a personal trainer, most people I know gave two weeks of using wearable trackers and then got bored, ending up alongside other unused home exercise equipment. I think ultimately smart gadgets can give you interesting information and are a useful tool, but they can only play a small part in your fitness. You need to be accountable, have strong realistic goals and an effective exercise and nutrition programme to get the best out of yourself.

Having the knowledge and time to plan a realistic fitness regime, combined with the internal motivation to execute it, makes achieving your fitness goals a whole lot more achievable, which is what I help do for people. As I personal trainer I love anything that gives me more information so fitness trackers are great, but they are just a tiny piece in the puzzle. My job is to put the pieces together.

Jeremy- Limitless Life Personal Trainer