Is it worth buying a fitness tracker? Exploring advantages and disadvantages

Fitness trackers have become the new craze in the fitness industry. But while you’re thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, you need to consider whether a fitness tracker is even worth buying.

Explore these pros and cons of buying a fitness tracker as you decide if it’s worth getting one.


Advantages of buying a fitness tracker

There are several advantages to buying a fitness tracker to track your exercise habits.

1. Easily track your exercise activities

The first benefit of a fitness tracker is that it helps you track your exercise activities easily. Manufacturers equip fitness trackers with various sensors that measure certain activities without your intervention, making the whole process hassle-free.

For example, a three-axis accelerometer is a common fitness sensor that tracks forward and backward movement. It also measures your change in velocity and gravity and determines the orientation of your body.

Other common sensors include temperature, gyroscope, altimeter, and optical sensors. Together, they track your body’s every movement and help you track your daily steps, sleep, body temperature, heart rate, and more. Understanding your device’s built-in capabilities is the first step in ensuring you get the most out of your fitness tracker.

2. Practically monitor progress towards goals

If you’re trying to reach your fitness goals and can’t find a way to measure your progress, a fitness tracker can help. Most sync with mobile apps that let you track your exercise activities and determine how effective they are at reaching your goals.

Everyone has a fitness goal, whether it’s burning calories, building endurance, or getting stronger. A fitness tracker can be your best companion in making sure you are progressively working towards them. Even if your goal is simply to sleep more or walk a certain number of steps a day, tracking your progress can be an extremely motivating factor.

3. Fitness trackers can help you train effectively

A fitness tracker can also help you train more efficiently. If you haven’t hit your goals in a while, access to detailed health and exercise data can help you identify what’s working and what’s not.

You can also learn what has a higher impact, so you focus on those activities and minimize those with lower results. It’s a way of following the 80/20 rule, which states that 80 percent of success comes from only 20 percent of a person’s effort toward a goal.

4. Take a look at overall health

With a fitness tracker, you no longer need to visit the doctor to measure your sleep hours, heart rate, blood oxygen levels and more. Fitness trackers provide you with various health data on your wrist with minimal effort on your part. The only burden you have is to wear your fitness tracker, and it’s easy to make it a habit.

The fitness tracker does all the heavy lifting in the background so you can focus on your workouts. Typically, the higher-end the fitness tracker, the more health data it provides and the more reliable the readings.

Disadvantages of buying a fitness tracker

Although fitness trackers have their advantages, some also have a lot of disadvantages.

1. Costs

In general, fitness trackers are cheaper than more complex smartwatches. But since entry price is still an important factor. If you are new to the world of fitness gadgets, you should know that there is a difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. The former usually have more features and are more aesthetic.

Another helpful tip to remember: Many fitness tracking apps are available on Google Play and the iOS App Store for free. So it’s best to think about what you want to get out of a fitness tracker before committing to an expensive piece of hardware.

If some of the features you need can be provided by a smartphone app, you can save some money by using an app instead. Depending on what you’re into, it might make more sense to get a social training app to work out with friends instead of buying a fitness tracker. Finally, if you don’t think the cost of a fitness tracker is worth it for your needs, you probably don’t need a smartwatch either — it’s usually even more expensive.

2. Fitness Trackers collect and store your health data

One of the key questions to ask before buying a Fitbit or any other fitness tracker is whether you’re okay with the device collecting your data. You also need to know where your fitness and health data is going.

For example, if you don’t agree with Google’s data collection practices, you might want to avoid buying a Fitbit device, since the California tech giant owns Fitbit.

3. Fitness trackers can give inaccurate results

Don’t trust your fitness tracker to be as accurate as the tools used by hospitals and professional trainers. Fitness tracker sensor readings may be inaccurate. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Leela R. Magavi, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Mindpath Health, notes that fitness trackers are not regulated as devices for making “accurate clinical diagnoses.”

The level of accuracy can vary, with fitness trackers underestimating or overestimating, depending on the type of exercise you do and the metrics you’re measuring.

For example, a 2019 report published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that fitness trackers can be inaccurate by more than 10% when measuring your total energy expenditure. Inaccuracy is one reason why you might want to avoid competing in step challenges on your fitness tracker.

4. Fitness trackers can lead to obsession with numbers

Tracking various metrics about your body’s health is easy with fitness trackers, but it’s important not to become obsessed with the numbers. You may become so fixated on losing a certain amount of calories per day, hitting a certain heart rate during exercise, or walking a certain number of steps that you forget about your most important goal: improving your overall health.

In particular, tracking can become a negative obsession if you start measuring your self-worth with statistics. Such concern can potentially lead to unhealthy habits. In the short term, you can also injure yourself by ignoring your body’s warning signs.

Should you buy a fitness tracker?

With all the pros and cons considered, should you buy a fitness tracker or avoid this category of device? The answer depends on your wishes, needs and circumstances.

Fitness trackers can be a great source of motivation and help you achieve your long-term fitness goals. However, they can also prove to be stress-inducing devices that overwhelm you with numbers. If price isn’t an issue and the pros outweigh the cons, a fitness tracker could be a good investment for your wellness goals.

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