Wellness trackers: hype or help?

The idea of a fitness tracker isn’t exactly new Naver trailer. The first wireless heart rate monitor was made more than 20 years ago (don’t worry, we feel old too!).

Since then, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds. The latest trackers don’t just monitor your heart rate, they literally track your every move: how many steps you have taken, how long you have been sedentary, how many calories you have burned, how many hours sleep you have had, even how many times you awoke in the night. Because they can do all that (and sometimes more), they are now referred to as “wellness” trackers, encouraging healthy living as a whole, rather than focussing specifically on exercise.

The benefits of wellness trackers

1. They are habit forming

We all know that bad habits are really hard to break, but there is a little bit more to that old saying. As it turns out, it is OLD habits that are the difficult ones to break, and those can be either bad or good. By putting on a tracker every day (a habit), checking it throughout the day (another habit) and reviewing how you have done each day, you are essentially creating a health awareness habit. Because a wellness tracker is very visible, it’s quite tricky to forget to do it throughout the day too – without one, you might forget that you haven’t been all that active today. Over time, this habit becomes learned behaviour which then becomes difficult to break.

2. They are motivating

Wellness trackers can be really motivating in two ways. On the one hand, if you look down and notice you have only done 3000 steps of your allotted 10,000 daily allowance, you’re likely to be more motivated to move just that little bit more throughout the day to meet your target. On the other hand, if you look down and see you have just made your daily target, right after doing your celebratory jig, you’ll start thinking “well, if I did it today, I can do it again tomorrow!” They also give you a good idea of where your problem areas are – do you sit too much during the day, for example, or do you toss and turn all night before a big meeting?

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3. Goal reinforcement

Wearing a device give you objective and reliable feedback on how you are progressing towards achieving your goals. One of the biggest hurdles in achieving goals is that we tend to make them too big and unobtainable. By using a wellness tracker, you adopt a more “baby steps” approach: you set smaller goals, achieve them, feel great and set another goal. So what you’re getting is a sense of achievement with your ongoing progress, making it a lot easier to change behaviour on a day to day basis.

The downside of trackers

They are expensive, and some are difficult to use. Some trackers have all the bells and whistles but a lot of people find it difficult to turn them on! The harder they are to use, the less likely you will benefit from them.

The verdict

Ultimately, no fitness tracker, smartphone app or personal trainer is ever going to change your behavior for you. Nope – that one is really all up to you. BUT, what they will all do is give you constant information, reminders and motivation to do just that. It seems everyone can benefit from some kind of wellness device.

It doesn’t have to be the top of the range model with all the buzzers, add-ons and flashing lights, but the kind of feedback that a wellness tracker can give you, is a lot better than anything your couch ever will!

Read more:
Quick-fix fitness fads: The solution or the problem?

Fitness: Always change it up

Fitness for beginners – Adults