Why Your Fitness "Tracker" is Making You Lose Track

May 17, 2014

Why Your Fitness "Tracker" is Making You Lose Track

The longtime expression, “wearing your heart on your sleeve” has a completely different meaning now that the revolutionary, but mostly confusing fitness tracker epidemic has taken the world by storm. It all began with the notion that we can utilize technology as a means to document and record critical bodily measurements, previously accessible only in doctor’s offices and hospitals. It’s now transformed into a multi billion-dollar market that has its consumers veering even farther from their fitness goals. From steps to reps, GYFT delves into why the fitness tracker industry has lost sight of their original vision.

Fitness Tracker or Fashion Statement?

Like my mom used to say, “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets Tory Burch.” That’s definitely not the right saying, but in this instance it’s totally applicable now that the term “wearables” has been taken to an entirely new level with the release of the Tory Burch fitbit. While investing in something as vital as your health is undoubtedly justified, the dozens of daily decisions factoring into your well-being are all highly personal, and the opinions of others should play no role in determining your lifestyle choices.

Buying a Tory Burch fitbit is equivalent to purchasing a life insurance policy written by J.K. Rowling. It’s not anybody else’s business, but you feel the need to show everybody how fiscally responsible and financially secure you are. If you’re taking the initial step to invest in a fitness tracker, you’re doing so to make a commitment to improve your life and well-being, not to upgrade your wardrobe and social status. 


Sacrificing Accuracy for Profit

Even though fitness tracker brands use fancy jargon like tri-axis accelerometer and bioimpedence sensors to highlight their self-proclaimed “most advanced” technology, why is it that in a recent study, optical trackers, bracelet trackers, and devices connected to a chest strap revealed an error rate between 4-10% when measuring resting heart rate, but when measuring the accelerated heart rate during exercise, the optical and bracelet trackers had a whopping error rate ranging from 57% to “unable to read,” while the tracker connected to a chest strap measured vitals right on the money? Big brands are perfectly content spending less on mass-manufacturing the latest technology because it’s much more profitable to foster a cultural phenomenon where fitness trackers are visible to the world just as a necklace or watch would be.

By successfully forcing the consumer to consider external (more expensive) variables such as color, ad ons, and name brand, the focus deviates from accurate technology to “does this magenta Tory Burch bracelet make me look fat?” The argument can be made that trackers strapped around the chest are uncomfortable, but think about your rationale there: If you were comfortable with your body and the way you felt, you wouldn’t need to buy a fitness tracker to begin with. Which type of comfortability are you willing to sacrifice?


Nobody Cares How Many Steps You Took. Neither Should You.

It’s like one of our GYFT writers saying “Microsoft Word is the bomb, it told me I wrote 10,000 words today!” While it’s impressive to shout out massive numbers correlating to tasks you’ve accomplished, those 10,000 words are pointless if Microsoft Word didn’t use their infamous red squiggles to underline typos and incorrect grammar, or if we fail to consider the all day writing spree yielded a piece of garbage content unrelated to the topic. To truly maximize the benefits of the pedometer component of a fitness tracker, speed, elapsed time per walking session, step cadence, and elevation all need to be taken into consideration.

Regardless, their tendency is to overestimate distance at slower speeds and underestimate distance at faster speeds. In a study done by medicinenet, they found that pedometers can be off by as much as 10% with distance and 30% with calories. It’s the error equivalent of a half mile when you walked five, and 150 calories if you burn 500. If you’re going to count anything throughout the day, it should be your calorie intake. It won’t be as gratifying as seeing a number in the tens of thousands come the day’s end (hopefully), but if you think of it like golf--where you win with the lowest score, you’ll be rocking the green jacket of weight loss in no time.

You Can Call a Fish a Dog, But at the End of the Day it Still Won’t Fetch.

You can also call a phone a fitness tracker, but it’s still made for text messaging your BFF, not keeping you focused and honed in on your fitness goals. The newest craze in wearable technology are smartwatches acting as a fitness compliment to your Adroid, IOS, or Windows smartphone. Many of them, like Samsung Gear watches allow you to make voice calls and record memos, while others like the Google Watch, let you browse the internet, check the weather, and look at notifications from your smartphone. I am not sure if there is anything more distracting than feeling a buzz in your pocket, then feeling a buzz on your wrist as you’re attempting to throw up some serious weight on the bench… from a text message you received from AT&T telling you that you’ve exceeded your data plan by an extra $30 this month.

Maybe if you didn’t browse the internet from your watch looking for cat memes on the way to the gym that could have been avoided. Stop trying to run your entire life through one device unless technology is used the way it should be: to reinforce efforts. Sometimes separation of work and play is essential to maintain focus and limit distractions. I promise, your BFF can wait until you finish your last few reps.

Stay GYFT’D my friends.

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