In end of May, a class action lawsuit against FitBit made headlines because a study found that the company’s popular heart rate trackers were ‘highly inaccurate.’ Whether it be a FitBit, Garmin, Jawbone or Misfit, individuals are sporting the ever popular fitness trackers. Step tracking has created a somewhat cult following with individuals obsessing over their step counts. So I ask the following question: what really matters when you are fitness tracking?
The main limit of trackers is they do not solve your health issues; they merely help people better understand their fitness level. Fitness trackers are great because they clarify and organize information so you can better understand your stats.
Step Counting Is Stupid
Everyone knows someone who is OBSESSED with reaching their 10,000 steps a day goal. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but steps don’t really matter . When it comes to step-counting, what matters is figuring out your baseline and increase or maintain your activity over time. My Garmin Vivofit2, for example, automatically sets my daily step goal depending on if I am, on average, reaching my goals. So please tell your step-obsessed friend to calm down and challenge him/her to go beyond steps.
Steps vs. Activity
If you are just trying to get off your coach more or are kickstarting a new healthy lifestyle, starting with step-counting is fine. But if you actually want to get a more accurate picture of your fitness, you need to start tracking your activity. Activity comprises exercise and physical activity that you do for an amount of time, not just a walk to the office bathroom. So for example, it might be a morning run, swim workout, Cubii, a pickup game of basketball or bike ride. The most useful activity trackers differentiate between activities and step counting.
Devices that automatically recognize when you start and end an activity- Fitbit Alta, Misfit Ray
Devices that let you manually record an activity- Garmin Vivoactive
Heart Rate Monitoring
From the yearly days of PE and health class, you’ve been told the importance of knowing your resting and maximum heart rates. But is it vital to monitor your heart rate during exercise? The answer is that it really depends on who you are and why you are exercising. Simply put, the majority of people don’t need to monitor their heart rate. If you’re exercising for overall health, the most important thing is to not be a couch potato. Now if you have a heart problem, heart rate monitoring is important to avoid pushing yourself too far. If you are a serious athlete, heart rate is important information to optimize your fitness training.
Tracking The Zzzzs
As long as you know you get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, you are good. You do not need the fancy sleep tracking gadgets if you are only concerned about your daily hours of sleep. Now if you have a difficult time getting a good night’s sleep, then yes pay attention to your sleep stats.
While it may seem like I am ripping on fitness trackers, I actually really do like them. Whether you are just starting your fitness goals or are an avid athlete, trackers are great motivational tools. The information provided in your app keeps you engaged and encourages you to continue with your fitness goals. I am training for a half marathon and swear by my Vivofit2 because it helps me monitor my distance and time right on my wrist and once synced, I can easily track my pace. Overall lesson: use your fitness trackers as a tool to increase or maintain your fitness activity.