When it comes to getting fitter and healthier, knowledge is power. And a new breed of wrist-worn gadgets can tell you more about yourself than even you ever knew. Consider these handy hybrids part pedometer, part heart-rate monitor, part sleep accelerometer and part calorie tracker. They can reveal the number of steps you take, the duration and intensity level of your activity, your heart rate, what times of day (and seasons) you’re most prone to being a couch potato, the number of calories you burn and the length and quality of your sleep.
It’s All in Good Measure
Why this sudden need for omniscience? There’s good research proving that simply keeping track of what we do can significantly improve our health.(1) Self-tracking can actually make us follow a healthier diet, sleep better and exercise more– simply by letting us know the areas we need to improve and if we are actually improving them. Fitness trackers provide this feedback in real time.
You Don’t Have to Do It Yourself
Studies show that people who keep logs are the most successful at reaching their health, fitness and weight loss goals (2). And the more frequent and detailed the entries, the greater the success. But there is plenty of room for human error—a faulty memory here, wishful thinking replacing reality, there, not having the time jot it all down or the degree in physics and biochemistry to make the complicated calculations. Fitness Trackers take care of all of that. The devices capture all the necessary details and then sync up to servers in the cloud to deliver a clear picture of your health at the touch of a finger.
But monitoring alone may not be enough. Other studies have shown that volunteers who wore pedometers took 1500 more steps per day for about a week. But then they fell back to their more sedentary ways the following week.(3) The study concluded that people can maintain the initial level of enthusiasm that monitoring brings by setting and regularly updating health and fitness “goals” to foster a healthy sense of competition. And today’s fitness trackers do just that.
They’re Habit Forming
After monitoring your sleep and activity patterns and how they affect your overall health, these wrist-worn personal trainers suggest easy-to-make changes and set manageable goals to let you squeeze healthier habits into your daily routine. These might include taking a brisk afternoon walk instead of a coffee break or hitting the sheets an hour earlier. As you reach these goals, you can level up and add in other healthy habits. If you don’t quite make them, some of these monitors automatically down-shift your goals the following week so they are more attainable.
We all have good weeks, not-so-good ones and sometimes even great ones. It’s no surprise that activity and sleep patterns vary across the course of weeks (weekdays vs. weekends), months (seasons) and the year (when school is in session vs. holiday breaks). The goal of many of these health monitors is to find the habits that are maintainable most of the time so you can achieve long-term results. Social support also plays a big role. Most fitness trackers let you share your progress with public groups or create private groups to set collaborative or competitive goals, which is another great way to get support and encouragement from friends and family.
According to studies publishes in:
(1) The New England Journal of Medicine, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport and the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
(2) The American Journal of Preventative Medicine
(3) The Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise