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Should you get a fitness tracker?

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Some people aim to complement their workouts with a fitness monitor

Some people aim to complement their workouts with a fitness monitor

 

It seems like everyone’s doing it – counting their steps, that is. For optimal health, it is said that you should aim for 10,000 steps per day, achieved through walking, running or a combination of both. Many people can do this with relative ease, by commuting to work, doing errands in a major city or just because their jobs keep them on their feet. Some find it harder, thanks to a more sedentary lifestyle, or because they are tied to driving everywhere.

Fitness enthusiasts may find a tracker helpful to better understand their daily activity levels and to see where they can squeeze in workouts, in addition to tracking their caloric intake. But does anyone really need another band to wear, especially one which will crowd on precious wrist real estate currently commandeered by that BABY-G watch?

You’ll become more aware of your movement
If your goal is to move as much as possible, a fitness tracker can hold you accountable. Your daily steps and workouts will be right there in front of you, so you can tell whether or not to move more, or take a break. At the end of the day, it can feel extremely satisfying for some people to know how far they walked or how many calories they burned cycling around town. Of course, in reality, it is best to listen to your body: Some days, that workout just won’t be feasible. But in the long run, knowing how much you move can help you achieve your goals of staying active and healthy.

You can enjoy that extra piece of cake – or can you?
Many models on the market also let you know the number of calories you burn during exercise. For example, you might receive the update that your spinning class blasted away 900 calories, or you managed to shave off 450 for that long run. However, these figures may not be entirely accurate, according to an article published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine which evaluated a range of popular fitness trackers to see if they were properly noting energy expenditure. Researchers had a selection of men and of women try out the devices to see how the recorded heart rate and caloric burn held up to an EKG and an expired gas analysis in the lab. The team found that there was an error rate of 5 percent between the standardized test results and the data collected by the devices. The key takeaway here? Enjoy everything in moderation and rely on how you feel and your appetite rather than what a wearable fitness device tells you.

You’ll still take steps, even if you don’t record them
The wellness blog Mark’s Daily Apple noted that in the days before activity trackers, people still walked and moved and it still mattered, even though this wasn’t necessarily something that they shared with friends on social media or checked every night before they went to bed. The same holds true even in the post-tracking era: You can walk and enjoy it. You can take that stroll on your lunch break while you call your parents, even sans fitness device. You can make the effort to be more healthy and spend time in the fresh air because it makes you happy, not necessarily so you can count up your steps. In other words, you can trust yourself to exercise and to move and you don’t have to qualify it.

It truly is up to you whether or not you’d like to invest in a fitness tracker, but the reality is, it’s something fun to learn more about your health and not really essential. It’s always good to make the goal of moving more, so if knowing how many steps you take each day helps you get there, then this might be the purchase for you. Otherwise, it’s best just to enjoy exercise in moderation, be mindful about how you are feeling, and do what makes you feel great. Just remember your BABY-G watch so you know how long you’re spending on your workouts!

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