Do You Need A Fitness Tracker?

Jan 27, 2022 | Activity, Consistency

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In a word: No

You don’t NEED any type of fitness tracker or gadget to get and then maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Having been a coach for seven years, I’ve experimented on and off with various heart rate monitors and trackers – wearables (like a Polar heart rate monitor), apps (Strava GPS tracking) and self-reporting (via MyFitnessPal).

And ultimately I’ve come to the conclusion that no, you absolutely don’t need to use any type of health/fitness tech to successfully get in shape, lose some weight or improve your health.

I successfully lost over 20 pounds and have kept it off during my 7+ year health journey and most of that time it was done without any wearable or constant monitoring. However, I did consistently use the Strava app to track my running, rucking and walking data; and I did go through periods of varying intensity with tracking food in MyFitnessPal.

None of it was with the intention of using it as a tool to plan my progress; it was merely intended as a tool to increase awareness. 

For example, I didn’t put a meal plan into MyFitnessPal and try to follow it religiously. Rather I would retroactively enter foods eaten throughout the course of the day to improve awareness of what all I was eating.

Also of note, I’ve never gone back through any of my previous data to notice any trends. By trends I mean if my cycle has any effect on the total calories I consume; or if the changing of the seasons has any impact on my running pace or durations. While I tend to nerd out over health stuff, I’m also intentional about not getting bogged down in the data and instead rely on consistently doing the things that I know are good for me.

But There’s a ‘But’

Now all of that being said, there’s a ‘but’ coming to my original ‘no’ answer.

As mentioned above, you don’t NEED any type of fitness tracker – some of my clients and myself are proof of that.

However I do have a goal for 2022 to average 10,000 daily steps, and for that I was gifted a FitBit Inspire 2 wearable tracker for Christmas as a way to track my progress toward my step goal.

Previously I had been using the steps on my phone’s native health app, but there are obvious disadvantages to that (like when I’m not carrying my phone around with me).

Granted I’m only a few weeks into using my FitBit, but I can say with confidence it’s something I’ll likely continue for the long-term for one major reason: gamification.

Gamification is taking something and turning it into a game of sorts.

I can already tell with the various ways FitBit gamifies health that I’ll continue using its various features in a variety of ways.

First and foremost I’ll use it for my 2022 step goal. Not only does it track my daily steps, but I can see for the week and (I’m assuming) I’ll be able to get my data for the year.

I’m still translating this onto a habit tracker in my paper planner, checking off each day that I get 10,000 steps. I figure as long as I check off most days, my average will be above 10,000 steps.

It has an additional feature where I can set the number of daily minutes I want to have in certain heart rate zones (essentially workout minutes) and gamify getting to that number each day and week. I can see that being a challenge for myself during various times of the year – to set a stretch goal for the number of zone minutes for a period, say 30 days.

Yet another feature that I know I’ll play with more in the future is the reminders to move. You have the ability to set a reminder to get up and move each hour for a set schedule during the day. Working from home this is a fantastic way to ensure I’m not at my desk for hours on end without even realizing it. Instead, the gentle vibration on my wrist reminds me to get up and move every once in a while if I haven’t already.

Why Gamification Works

The beauty of gamification that FitBits and other wearables is that IT WORKS!!!

We like games, our brains are wired to like games, most of us are competitive by nature (at least in some way).

And let’s be real, the healthy stuff that we know is good for us is often mundane and boring and, despite knowing the long-term benefits, we don’t WANT to do it in the moment. We’d rather do something fun.

So by gamifying the process of getting healthy, it gives us just enough incentive in the short term to actually WANT to do it.

Will it ever be as good as Candy Crush or bingeing on Real Housewives or scrolling social? Probably not – our brains are what they are. But the more we can game the system and incentivize ourselves to get moving, the better.

So for maximum chances of success, I think a wearable fitness tracker will only help. And if you’re at the point where you’ve tried everything there is to try without one, maybe it’s time to try one and see if gamification works for you.

One last note, I love the FitBit Inspire 2 because it’s a minimalist of trackers – it’s not a super expensive smartwatch with all the bells and whistles. I don’t want to get calls, texts, emails and a myriad of other notifications on it. I simply wanted a fitness tracker, and with the FitBit Inspire 2, that’s exactly what I got.

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