As more and more of us adopt fitness rituals into our own lives, the variety of fitness technology is only growing. Morning runs, boxing classes and even daily heart beats can all be tracked and recorded with little devices called wearable tech. New fitness technology inventions seem enticing and extremely helpful, but are there negative sides, too? Here we’ll break down the good and the bad of these tiny tech tools.
Let’s start with the pros of wearable fitness tech:
1. Wearable Fitness Technology encourages daily workouts
Working out on a daily basis can be a tough feat to manage. But wearable fitness technology reminds us that any activity we do can be a workout. Whether you’re walking your dog, walking to class (or running, on those late-wake-up mornings) or climbing the stairs of your 5 floor walk-up, your apple watch, Fitbit, or other fitness device will know! Each step you take will count toward your daily goal- which might be in the form of total daily steps (we all know that 10,000 suggestion!), calories burned, or minutes of activity per day.
2. Healthy dose of competition
Ever notice a teacher, co-worker, parent or friend looking down at their wrist every so often to check the number on the screen… but instead of the number being the time, it’s their step count? If so, they’re probably taking part in a very intense game of “who can take the most steps per day”. A walk or run challenge is a super fun form of competition between office workers, teachers, and even student groups. Creating a competition surrounding fitness and activity is a great way to allow our competitive nature to thrive, in a healthy way! A competition encouraging activity is a great way to get those who don’t typically focus on exercise excited about it, or those getting bored of their fitness routine to switch it up and jump in full force (for the sake of bragging rights, or something).
3. Keeps us on track (literally)
For those of you that are serious runners, swimmers, cyclists, or another type of athlete… wearable fitness technology can be a vital part of the training regimen. Wearable fitness technology, like an apple watch, fit bit, or running watch, might help you make the difference you’re looking for in time and distance. Fitness devices have an already-installed GPS system, perfect for tracking your exact route. With the also already-installed running app (or a different one of your choosing and downloading) you’ll be able to see your run statistics (distance, time, pace and average heart rate) on the screen. If it was a run you loved, you can later check the linked app on your phone to recall the route. And knowing these stats and remembering your runs can be a great way to keep you motivated for the next one and track your progress while training (or just for fun!).
4. Forgetting to breathe? Your watch will remind you
Because wearable fitness technology devices track so much of your movement by the pulse in your wrist, the device can also track other aspects of your health. For example, when you are breathing (or not breathing enough). For someone who’s anxious, the daily reminder to “take a breath” can be super helpful. This reminder allows the wearer to stop what they’re doing, take just one minute, and track their inhales and exhales with a soothing tapping from the watch itself. Beyond a method of relaxation, the Apple watch can also be set to take note of regular heart rhythms. With this information, the watch can then detect irregular heart rhythms too. This is extremely important for those watching out for indicators or risk factors of strokes. In other words, these tiny little devices can literally save lives.
5. You’ll never do another workout without music
Are you the “I must hear music while I’m working out or I’ll go crazy” type? Or maybe you’ve found a new podcast that you just can’t stop listening to? One of the best features of many wearable fitness technology watches is the capability to link to Spotify and Apple music. The Apple watch, many Fitbit models and even some Garmin running watches can link music accounts to your wireless bluetooth headphones. That way you won’t have to carry your cell phone around during your exercise session.
Overall, wearable fitness technology comes with a countless list of perks. From encouraging individuals to get active to supplying them with what they need to do so, wearing a fitness tech device is a great way to get (and stay) on track with your workout routine.
However, there are also some negatives to these can-do-it-all devices. Here are some cons to wearable tech:
Most plainly stated, wearable technology devices can be expensive. The most simple devices might only cost between $20.00 to $40.00, but when more and more features are added to the technology, many devices reach upwards of $500.00. Some professional running watches even reach over $1,000! So when purchasing a fitness device, first think about your needs. Do you need to track long runs with spot-on pace markers? Do you need to be reminded to stand every hour? Do you need it to connect to your cell phone? There are so many different ways to cut down or add up the cost of the device depending on its purpose. So do your research before buying!
2. Inaccuracy and confusion
While many fitness devices can be counted on most of the time, there is always the possibility that the technology won’t get it right. This can be simply annoying, confusing, or even potentially dangerous. The mis-marked info can be annoying when, for example, you’re trying to track a run and the mileage isn’t as long or as short as it should be. The inconsistencies between different running maps and apps can make for some frustrating training schedules and route-planning. The variety of information coming from the fitness devices can also be very confusing. If you’ve been trying to lose weight, you might be tracking your calories- burnt versus consumed. The ‘burnt’ category, often tracked by wearable fitness tech, is not always accurate. This is because with each change a body makes, the amount of calories it burns changes too. So as you progress in your fitness journey, if your physical stats change, or if something else about your body has changed, the amount of calories your watch tells you were burnt, might not be the case. If you’ve been tirelessly counting calories according to your watch and still can’t seem to shed the weight, it’s probably because your tech device isn’t completely correct. Less frequently, but more seriously, the inaccuracies in information can also be dangerous if you are relying on it for heart rate checks, like mentioned before. Since this is only a fitness device, it is important that watching heart rate and other health issues is not completely left to the device. Otherwise, it might not be capable of giving the information you need 100% of the time.
3. Constant connection and obsessive information
The most pertinent con of wearable fitness technology (in my humble opinion) is the obsessive nature created around the constant influx of connection and information the devices enable. Many if not all wearable fitness technology devices have the capability to connect to cell phones. This means text messages, emails, and notifications of all sorts are sent to the fitness device. While it can be very helpful to know the news happenings or what people are talking about at work, fitness should be a time taken for yourself. So when constant distractions are flooding in from all directions interrupting your run, yoga class or nightly walk, it can compromise the hour (or even just 20 minutes) you’ve given yourself to focus on your deserved health and fitness. In fact, many yoga studios require all forms of wearable technology to be left outside the studio during class because they know how distracting it can be.
Not only are communication technologies embedded within the devices- allowing your watch to rudely tell you to stop swimming and answer that work email- but the vast variety of statistics and information can also inhibit wellbeing. In many cases, the overwhelming knowledge of calories burned, minutes exercised, and the met (or unmet) daily goals can cause users to become obsessed with these stats… dangerously. For many of us, listening to our body is the best way to get healthy. But when it becomes ‘about the numbers’, health and fitness can lead to a slippery slope. From disordered eating to overexertion, there are countless statements out there about how wearable fitness tech enabled unhealthy behaviors, the exact opposite of what they are intended to do.
Wearable fitness technology can be a great way to get started. The tiny devices can help encourage us to get moving, take a minute to breathe, or even encourage us to ask a doctor about some weird irregularities. In many ways, wearable fitness technology can be life changing in the best ways. But with all the information coming from the device, it is important to know what its purpose is… to encourage and remind, never to dictate how, why or when you decide to embark on your own fitness journey.