The Activity Tracker Movement

May 15, 2015

Humans have been incentivized to move more with the multitude of connected wearables that track and monitor our every move—some even go so far as to offer words of encouragement. It may seem like overkill, but never before have we been more sedentary. With the luxury of services and amenities aplenty available via smartphone and many of us spending the bulk of our days tethered to a computer, it is perhaps necessary to get a little motivation to get up and move once in a while.

New York Times Reporter Tracks 11 Activity Trackers

Albert Sun of The New York Times decided to test the efficacy of these myriad activity trackers. He spent half a year testing 11 models, wearing different combinations of such day and night, sometimes up to four at a time. This is what he learned, about the trackers and himself.

Albert regarded himself as an active person, biking to work most days and hitting the gym three times a week. What he learned from the trackers was a different story. Aside from his daily bursts of activity biking and working out, he was largely sedentary. And that is largely the goal of these new activity trackers, or at least it should be. Exercising is great, but activity trackers can encourage us to be more active throughout the day. There is a growing amount of research that shows that concentrated bursts of exercise cannot make up for the prolonged periods of inactivity we experience on a day-to-day basis.

The Accelerometer Evolution

Activity trackers help to offer a complete picture of overall health and activity—with many models even including sleep monitoring. This data is compiled to show each user their most and least healthy habits and some will offer motivation to help you get closer to the healthy side.

The rise in popularity of activity trackers is largely due to the ubiquity of accelerometers—the primary technology used in fitness trackers. These devices have gotten so small and affordable that it is now feasible to put them in a wide range of devices. Fitness trackers are available from a bunch of different manufacturers, including Nike, FitBit, Jawbone, and run from about $60 to $200. New entrants into the field, like the Apple Watch, are including fitness tracking capabilities to lure consumers to a more all-encompassing wearable device.

Pros and Cons of Activity Trackers

While the technology has evolved and is increasing to do so, fitness trackers still can’t accurately measure all of your activity. As most are worn on the wrist, it is harder for them to track when just your legs are moving, like on a bike ride. And high-resistance, low-movement activities like weight training aren’t given as much credit as something more frenetic, but less exertive.

Despite these drawbacks, the trackers still do provide a good overall idea of your activity-and inactivity. Additionally, the simple act of wearing one can stimulate activity, as you are aware that you are being monitored—even if by yourself—and act accordingly to boost your results. So what did six months with 11 separate trackers do for Albert Sun? Now, he almost never looks at the data that is collected, stating: “These days, I’ve become keenly aware of how active I am and how active I need to be in order to feel healthy and energized. I don’t need a monitor anymore. I’m tracking me.”

You can find the original article here.

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