First, let me start by saying that all of the fitness trackers have flaws in accuracy. You are not going to find one that is completely accurate unless you go into a scientific research facility. This brings me to my next point.
I encourage you to look at your fitness tracker as a device that is going to give you some feedback and help you move more. Don’t get obsessed with the numbers. Or with numerous devices trying to figure out which one is right. Pick a device and notice your movement trends.
- Steps We’ve been told that 10,000 steps a day is the minimal amount. Keep in mind that what we need is more movement and counting steps is one way to ensure you are moving more. But, intensity does matter, and you want to be sure that you have some vigorous activity during your day. If you tend to have less than 10,000 steps a day, then you can make a concerted effort to add more steps by parking further away from your destination, getting up from your desk to walk around the office each hour, or adding in a challenging workout.
- Calorie Burn The calorie burn that you see on your fitness tracker is an average total based on some factors you entered into your settings (like gender, height, weight, age.) This is just an average and may not be even remotely close to the amount of calories you actually burn. Your body burns calories just to live (Basal Metabolic Rate) as well as when you are active. But, those calories vary greatly. First, don’t use the calories you burned during exercise as an excuse to eat back those calories. Second, use this loosely as a measurement. For instance, weight training is an excellent form of exercise but you will burn significantly less calories for that compared to Spinning for an hour. That does not mean that Spinning is the better choice.
- Heart Rate The heart rate displayed on your tracker can also be faulty. I know mine takes forever to show my heart rate and by the time it does, it’s past the moment that I wanted to know my heart rate. Heart rate is also dependent upon many factors and changes day by day. I wrote a FaceBook post about it. San Diego State University Professor Fabio Comana also wrote some great information mapping out the facts about Heart Rates. You can see his four part series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
- Sleep In order to actually track your sleep, brain waves, eye movement, and your heart rate must be evaluated. Fitness trackers just rely on your movement patterns (and some on your heart rate.) Even so, this is not a true test of your sleep cycles.
Am I telling you not to use a fitness tracker. No. What I am telling you is to use it for general information with the knowledge that it is not completely accurate. Use it as an encouragement to move more, to exercise and to participate in challenges with friends. Don’t obsess over the numbers. And don’t miss the point of having one, which is to get more exercise and movement in your day. I’ll never forget having breakfast with one of my clients and all of a sudden, she raises her arm and starts fist pumping. I asked her what she was doing and she said, it’s time for me to stand up. Instead of getting up and walking for a minute, she cheated the system just to get the bar for the hour. Hello?!?!?!? This is not the point of the tracker!
Which one should I chose?
I have used two different Fitness Trackers and loved both of them. I started out with the Garmin Vivosmart and I now use the Apple Watch. I love Garmin and enjoyed my vivosmart. It was small, comfortable, and I could wear it in the shower. I only had to charge it about once a week. I switched to the Apple Watch because it was a gift but I am also an Apple user. I love that it syncs easily with my phone. I adjusted to having to charge it every night. It is more delicate so I have to be careful when doing certain exercises (like racking/cleaning a kettlebell) and I can’t wear it in the shower. I absolutely love using it with my Jaybird Bluetooth Headphones to listen to music while working out.
Since I have limited experience with just two, you may find the following helpful. Take a look at these reviews from reviews.com.
The majority of Americans need to move more. Let’s get to stepping, sweating and encouraging our friends in a competition. Your health depends upon it!