Living a healthy life is not an easy task. You not only have to exercise, you also have to watch your diet and keep track of so many other things. Sometimes it’s so much easier to just stay in bed and forgo all of this because finding the motivation to stay in shape is such a burden.
An activity or fitness tracker is a general term for any device that can monitor and record a person’s daily physical activity, although now the term is most commonly used to denote small, wearable fitness gadgets.
All trackers come equipped with an accelerometer, a tiny motion detector that measures movement speed. The tracker can then calculate the number of steps taken and the number of calories burned based on that data. Some trackers also contain altimeters which measure altitude and can take the effort of climbing stairs into consideration.
Modern-day fitness trackers evolved from wearable heart rate monitors used by athletes in 1981 and bicycle computers, devices that measured speed, duration, and distance used in the early 90’s. Trackers nowadays come in many different forms.
Early versions, such as the original FitBit, were clipped to the waist. From here, more user-friendly designs were invented, including the now well-known wristband design. Some trackers have also been designed to just be placed inside pockets. Manufacturers have even tried to make even more sophisticated designs, like trackers inside shoes, earphones, and rings.
Some trackers can do more than just count steps. They can also monitor heart rate, oxygen levels in the blood, body temperature, perspiration and body mass. GPS could also be installed in a tracker, thus allowing the user to monitor not just the number of steps he’s taken, but also the distance that he’s covered. A tracker can also record how much sleep a person gets, and also how good the quality of this sleep is.
Most trackers are best in monitoring activities that require both feet being planted on the ground, like running or walking, but some can also follow other activities such as biking. A few are even waterproof and can be worn while swimming. Trackers can also compare person’s active minutes versus his inactive minutes, to give the user a general idea of his physical activity level.
Activity trackers can also come equipped with alarms that alert a user if he has been idle for too long. These alarms can also be modified so that the tracker can alert caregivers of the elderly, epileptics and people with sleep disorders if a sudden change occurs in the patient.
Considering the aforementioned function, trackers can offer continuous monitoring of patients without the need to be confined in a hospital. Activity trackers can even be used to detect health problems such as arrhythmia and sleep apnea.
Most activity trackers are also synced to smartphones, computers or tablets, and can store data on the Internet. This allows the user to have a long-term fitness record that he can easily send to his doctor or post on social media. Since trackers are synced to devices anyway, some do not have display screens anymore, though there still trackers with this function, of course.
The continuous monitoring function of activity trackers motivates people to set fitness goals and become healthier. They engage in a more physical activity because they can immediately see how their bodies are changing. Some trackers are even designed to gather baseline data and suggest appropriate goals, such as the generally recommended 10,000 step a day quota.
However, just wearing a fitness tracker would obviously not make a person healthy automatically. It cannot make people move, only remind, motivate, and push them into doing so.
The appeal of activity trackers lies in making the process of keeping in shape a game. The idea is for the user to set a certain goal and work for the rest of the day to achieve that. The reward system is inherently intrinsic, but can also cause good external results as time passes.
For some people, posting their fitness records on social media is almost as important as losing weight. They gain motivation online through hearing praises and reading comments that support their physical endeavors.
They can also find friends online that they can treat as rivals for friendly comparison of fitness achievements. All of these phenomena can help in making a person get up and start jogging.
Having a fitness tracker also helps a user in being honest with his bodily statistics, especially if a doctor advises him to monitor his physical activity levels. Unlike a self-recorded diary, it is impossible to modify information gathered by fitness trackers. The user would also not be able “forget” to enter records since the tracker would essentially do that job for him.
More advanced fitness trackers even offer features that alert the user if he has an incoming call, text or e-mail. Though these features are not related to fitness, manufacturers include these to discourage the user from taking off the device, since they realize that there is always a possibility for a user to take his activity tracker off and forget to put it back on. This is all for the sake of not breaking the routines that the user may have already set.
However, at the end of the day, no matter how many amazing functions activity trackers have, they are still not magical devices that would miraculously turn you into a healthier version of yourself.
They are only there as supplementary equipment, as guides in helping you make healthy choices. And the one who would make the choice is still you. SO GET UP AND START JOGGING NOW!