What comes to mind when you think about a Fitbit or an Apple Watch? Most likely you picture the small bracelet that helps people track their level of fitness throughout the day. Most people would say that fitness devices such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch are helpful tools when trying to lose weight and become more physically fit. What if that wasn’t actually the case? Recent research shows that fitness devices do not actually help people lose weight or become more active. With this contradictory research, how can we determine the benefit, or lack thereof, of fitness devices? The answer to this lies in each individual’s purpose and expectations for the fitness device.
Fitness devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches offer amazing benefits. Not only do these devices track one’s steps, but they also offer GPS functions, sleep and heart rate monitoring, smartphone notifications and body-fat composition data, to name a few. These features are impressive, but not necessarily crucial for your fitness goals. Also, the majority of these features can be accessed through free apps on your smartphone, making these devices ultimately unnecessary. Considering these free alternatives, this is a pretty big deal. Fitness devices are not cheap, especially on a college student’s budget. The cheapest fitness device costs around $50 but doesn’t have many impressive features. The better devices with the more highly desired features cost upwards of $200. Even then, the device will likely not have all the features you specifically want. This seems illogical. When spending a relatively large sum of money, you should be able to get the exact components you desire. Although the devices offer many useful features, these features can be found elsewhere and for less money.
Furthermore, many of the fitness devices on the market today are designed primarily to track fitness, but they will not necessarily encourage exercise. If you are buying the device to track your current fitness and health, then a fitness device may be for you. The extra information, such as heart rate and body-fat composition, will better educate you in regards to your health if you understand and know what that information means. If you do not know at what rate your heart should beat while resting or need to track your sleeping patterns, those features are unnecessary.
If you are buying the device to become more active, a fitness device will not necessarily help you. In a recent study, fitness device users lost, on average, half the weight of the non-technology users and were not in better physical shape either. One explanation of this phenomenon is that the technology users may stop being active once they reach their goal for the day, but non-technology users never know when they have reached the “optimal activity level” and therefore continue to be active throughout their day. With these limitations and potentially negative effects, fitness devices may actually hinder your fitness goals by increasing the length of time it takes to achieve your goal. Fitness devices have limitations on the amount they can help users, possess relatively unnecessary information and may negatively affect your ability to reach your fitness goal.
The majority of people purchase fitness devices with the intent to lose weight. This is not the best reason to purchase these devices. The most effective way to lose weight is through a change in diet, an arena in which fitness devices can’t help you. Without a balanced diet, you aren’t likely to achieve your fitness goals. Fitness bracelets keep you accountable for your level of activity, nothing else.
When contemplating the benefits of a fitness device, you should consider your reason for wanting one. Yes, fitness devices have cool features, but those features are not necessarily beneficial in attaining your fitness goals. Plus, you would be paying money for features you can get for free on a smartphone. Fitness devices can actually hinder you in accomplishing your goals, and they are often unnecessary and unproductive.
Mickaylie Bade ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Lake Crystal, Minn. She majors in classics.