It’s the data, not the fitness tracker that motivates you
Before you plunk down a lot of money on a wearable fitness device that has all the bells and whistles, keep in mind, it may not be the device itself that motivates you to exercise more.
That's according to a study by Atlantic Health System in Morristown. Dr. Damion Martins, medical director of sports medicine and sports physical therapy at Atlantic Sports Health as well as team physician for the New York Jets, led the 14-week study.
He said the wearable technology in these fitness apps that track activity is what people are really fascinated with, not the devices it themselves. Studies have shown that in general, these fitness trackers can underestimate the heart rate and overestimate the number of calories burned.
But Martins said he believes it doesn't even matter, because if people are exercising more because they're just wearing these devices, then the goal is still accomplished.
The new Health and Human Services guidelines for exercising for 2019 are 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Martins said less than 30 percent of physicians are meeting these guidelines themselves.
The study consisted of 60 relatively healthy participants between the ages of 25 and 55 who held office or desk jobs. Group A was given was given a fitness tracker device that would give its members access to heart rate, steps and calories burned. Group B did not have access initially, but gained access to data later in the study. Group C never had access to the data. They wore the fitness tracker but never had access to the data.
The study found that Group A, which always had access to the data did the best, averaging the most active hours per day. The group that did not have access to the data showed the number of steps in their exercise went down. The group that did not have access to the data initially, but was given access in the second half of the study, showed their exercise increased.
Martins said there tends to be this motivational aspect to actually see how well you're doing, the number of steps your taking, the number of calories you're burning and so on.
He added that information is a powerful motivator.
"Wearable trackers can be instrumental to one's journey to fitness, but it's truly the information that they convey about a person's progress that helps keep them on track in a rewarding direction," Martins said.
It doesn't matter what kind of wearable tracking device you get. As long as you have access to heart rate and calories burned, and you look at it every day, then you're motivated to do more, Martins said.