Just because it’s measured does not mean it’s accurate.
Technology over the last number of years has made it’s way to personal fitness in the sense that it has reached a larger audience. Heart rate monitors have been around for years but mainly used by hardcore athletes, typically runners. I remember when pedometers to measure the number of steps taken daily started to become more popular. People would track the number of steps they took that day, sometimes trying to outdo others or themselves every day.
Now, fitness bands are the new pedometers and heart rate monitors and are also starting to become ubiquitous. Just look at all the things you can do with fitness bands:
- Tracking heart rate
- Calories burned
- Running pace
- Works when biking
- Reports cardio fitness level
- All day activity tracking
- Sleep tracking
- Detailed fitness reports
Holy crap! That’s a lot. I’m not going to explain each feature because that is not the purpose of this article. I want to talk about the negative side of fitness trackers. Just like most things, it’s great to understand the positives but we need to understand the negatives too.
To me, the goal of a fitness tracker is multi faceted. Track the above things I listed but also I think the big seller to people is it’s used as a motivator to keep working out. Also, it’s a great way to know you are working out smartly. Work smart, not just hard.
The negative is people are taking this feedback and it’s impacting their eating habits. I hear it frequently. After a hard workout people will say ‘Now I can have those beers tonight!’, or ‘Now I can have dessert!’. Eating without guilt. The workout feedback coming from the fitness tracker such as you burned n amount of calories is being used to justify foods being eating that normally wouldn’t have, or being used to justify rewarding yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hard ass in the sense that you need to be strict with what you eat 100% of the time. I don’t believe in that methodology because it’s not sustainable. You have to enjoy life, and a big part of life is eating. I believe in balance. Eating healthy and also enjoying the things you like that aren’t so healthy.
But it seems people are not doing that. They are rewarding themselves more often because every day they see the feedback of how many calories burned, forgetting that that’s what the body does, it burns calories to function. But we never saw that before. If I have a busier than normal day I end up burning more calories. Without wearing a fitness tracker that’s just a busy day and I’ll probably eat what I normally would and keep it healthy. But with that feedback showing I burned a larger than normal amount of calories maybe end up eating more than normal, or eat something I normally wouldn’t. Something that will end up in an increase in my weight.
This in a sense is why studies are showing the people with fitness trackers are not losing more weight than those who don’t use them. It’s too much feedback, too much positive feedback. The largest impact to our body weight is what we eat. What we eat compared to exercising has a larger impact on our body composition.
Fitness trackers are a fantastic tool to use to keep motivated, monitor heart rate, monitor sleeping patterns and quality, and overall have a better understanding of our fitness. I would recommend to anyone to get themselves one. Or at least a heart rate monitor.
If you have a fitness monitor and have been exercising for a while, and exercising correctly (that’s important, and, what does he mean by correctly?) and you find you are not losing weight, it’s probably because of what you are eating. Tools are great, but used incorrectly they have a negative impact.
Perception is reality.
Yours in health,