Do you own a fitness tracker? From a simple pedometer to device that syncs with your phone to a high-tech watch with gps, mileage and heart rate monitor, fitness trackers are incredibly popular. And with good reason. Nearly 40% of American adults were categorized as obese in 2016, according to the CDC.
Fitness trackers claim to improve users’ health by encouraging them to meet certain goals, such as the oft-touted 10,000 steps per day or 30 minutes of daily activity. And there is some truth to this. Many studies have shown that people tend to overestimate their activity levels and calories burned while underestimating their calorie intake. The trackers provide fairly accurate data to help users record various daily health goals. Being able to set and monitor progress toward goals can further motivate users.
However, it seems that more and more people are becoming almost obsessed with the data on their trackers. I know one woman who will pace back and forth in her living room before bed if she hasn’t quite met her daily steps goal. Sometimes we get so focused on the data that we forget to listen to what our body is telling us.
For example, I recently heard about a woman who was religiously entering all of her food into her tracking app. She made sure that she hit her nutrition goals each day. Yet she couldn’t understand why she was crabby and lightheaded in the afternoon. A closer look at her caloric intake over the course of the day – specifically when she was eating – revealed that, although she was consuming the right amount of calories for her individual needs by the end of the day, she was getting most of her calories in the evening. Instead of listening to her physical cues of hunger – a short temper, dizziness, headache – she was solely relying on technology.
Technology can tell us a lot about how our bodies are functioning. It can tell us how many minutes we spent in REM sleep and how many times we awoke during the night, it can tell us how far we walked, it can tell us how many minutes we spent engaging in activities that raised our heart rate. But our bodies can give us that information – and much more.
If you forget about the trackers, you can become in tune with your body. Do you feel refreshed and rested when you woke up this morning? Then you probably had a good night’s sleep. Are your legs sore after a long hike? Then you gave them a great workout and deserve a little recovery time. Do you have the chills even though it’s hot and humid outside? Then you need to start drinking water.
A friend of mine recently ran a half marathon on an extremely hot and humid day. Being a runner, she always wears a GPS watch that provides her with her race stats. But during that race, she chose to turn off her watch. Instead, she listened to her body. She let her body – and not her watch – dictate her pace, she paid close attention to any signs that she might need hydration or fuel. And even without technology, she was able to achieve her goals.
Fitness trackers are a great tool for ensuring we stay on track with our fitness goals. But it’s important to not rely so heavily on technology that we ignore the most accurate fitness tracker of all – our own bodies.