Does a Fitness Tracker Make You Healthier?

Well, it depends. 

Are you motivated by setting and meeting goals? Do you look for ways to improve your health? Are you currently free of a health-based chronic disease? 

If you answered yes to these questions, then the chances are good that a fitness tracker is just a fun way for you to keep track of your health. But if you answered no to any (or all), a fitness tracker could be a great motivational tool to improve your overall health. 

Fitness trackers, most notably the FitBit and Apple Watch, are wearable devices that can seamlessly monitor your sleep, weight (in conjunction with a smart scale), nutrition and exercise. As data about your habits is collected, you’ll start to see the real numbers of how much sleep you get and how much you are exercising during the day.

“People typically underestimate how much sleep they get and overestimate how much daily activity they get,” said Kyle Bangen, MS, CSCS, from SAM Elite at Samaritan Athletic Medicine. “The first few weeks is often a wake-up call for new wearers as they start reviewing their data logs.”

Most experts recommend 10,000 steps a day and seven-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half hours of sleep a night for optimum health. Nutrition requirements vary but a doctor or health coach could help you determine yours. 

When the fitness tracker works best is when you can see clearly where you need to improve. Setting small goals and then meeting them keeps you on track and is encouraging. In conjunction with other tools like health coaching and support from a primary care provider, fitness trackers have the potential to greatly improve your health and even help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. 

The interactive nature of a fitness tracker also appears to be a benefit. Clinical trials show greater improvement for participants using a fitness tracker than those who use a pedometer to count their steps. 

 “We see fitness trackers as a tool,” said Bangen. “It’s only a small piece of the puzzle and it’s up to you how you want to use it. But if you’re committed to improving your health, you can absolutely use it to turn your life around.” 

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