Does fitness trackers really work?

As the name implies, fitness trackers have proven successful in helping users keep up with their exercise goals and routines. Modern fitness trackers are now generally worn on the wrist and measure heart rate using something called photoplethysmography (PPG). In addition, according to Cadmus-Bertram, some exercises are more beneficial to use a fitness tracker than others. It's possible that the real secret to impressive weight loss is to be more energetic and active throughout the day and your fitness tracker has no way to effectively track this.

The fact is that most of the existing studies on physical activity trackers, including the two that I cited above, rely on devices that are several years old. For most people, the counts are pretty good, but check your step count on two different fitness trackers or compare it to your smartphone's estimate and you'll see the differences. If your goal is to lose weight and you want to count calories burned as part of a diet and exercise effort, fitness trackers can help you do that. Almost all fitness trackers count steps and distance traveled, and it is becoming more and more common to measure heart rate.

If you carry your phone with you all the time anyway, having your fitness app integrated means you can't forget it. The article states that it is crucial to pay attention to how your body feels, as it will always be the biggest indicator of how you are doing overall, and ignoring it in favor of following what your fitness tracker says can be detrimental to your health. Because of such inaccuracies, physical activity trackers are much more effectively used as a general reference point for where you are rather than a tool for processing numbers, Cadmus-Bertram said. If you think a fitness tracker sounds useful, but you're not sure you'll get your money out of it, there's a way to try it before you take the plunge.

According to Patel, as tracker technology continues to improve and devices become easier to use, operate and gain information, there will be more opportunities for more people to interact with your tracker. The meta-analysis makes it clear that devices that only use accelerometry are also much less accurate in estimating energy expenditure than trackers with heart rate sensors. When body movement was the only parameter measured, they were less accurate than when the tracker also included a heart rate monitor or heat sensor. After two years, the group of fitness trackers lost just 7.7 pounds, while self-monitoring participants almost doubled that amount, losing 13 pounds.

They would have the same numbers as anyone else on a fitness tracker, but they would look very different.

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