Are fitness trackers worthwhile?

Over the last couple of years the fitness tracker market has proliferated. We can now track our steps, sleep and myriad other metrics to make positive changes to our lives – at least that’s the idea. But do they really work?

fitness-trackersA recent round up of fitness trackers highlighted the massive proliferation in the tracker category. As well as companies like Fitbit and Jawbone, many established exercise brands such as Garmin and Polar as well as newcomers from the tech world such as Apple and Microsoft are all trying to get in on the act.

But are they worthwhile?

After more than a year using one (a Jawbone UP) I’ve been giving it some serious thought and I see two main categories of potential users: people who exercise regularly and want to know more about their performance and people aren’t as active but are looking for something to motivate them to increase their activity.

Trackers for Active People

up-24-hires-002If you’re already active and have a regular exercise program then a fitness tracker won’t add a lot of value to your life. The tracker makers know that people who are already engaged in exercise often want more data and to track their activity more closely.

My experience is that if you track your exercise activity with a good spirits watch and watch your food intake closely (MyFitnessPal is my favourite tool for tracking calories) then a tracker, like the Jawbone UP24 I use, doesn’t add a massive amount of value.

The one thing I do like is the ability to track the quality of my sleep although I could do that with a simple diary.

Trackers for Inactive People

Trackers like the Fitbit and Jawbone UP are great for less active people. The supporting apps let you set alerts so that you don’t spend too much time sitting inactively. And, by setting activity targets, you can be encouraged to be more active.

Most of the trackers let you record exercise sessions and meals within one app, so they’re an easy way to get into tracking exercise and meals.

Are fitness trackers worthwhile?

After over a year of using a tracker, I’ve come to the conclusion that trackers aren’t going to make a huge difference for regular trainers.

However, for people who need regular encouragement to be active and are making a start on tracking their activity and diet, then a tracker with a user-friendly app can be a useful motivator.

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