Do fitness trackers really help?

FOX21 News file photo
FOX21 News file photo

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — They come in waist clips, wristbands, watches, and even apps. As technology advances, it seems activity trackers can measure everything we do, right down to how fast our hearts are beating.

It’s a fad that has swept the nation, measuring your physical fitness throughout the day with every move you make and every step you take. But does it really matter?

“It’s got a log on my phone of everything I’ve done since I bought it and it keeps up with that and helps me track where I’m trying to go to,” Myles Lougee, who owns a Fitbit, said.

“I have MapMyHike,” said avid hiker John Walworth. “It’s a GPS tracker to monitor my activity on the trails.”

But how do you know if the information you’re getting from your device is accurate?

“I did [the Incline] once and it lied to me,” said fitness enthusiast Joyce Graham. “It basically just thinks you’re just exercising. It’s not taking in the elevation or how the steps work on the Incline so I don’t feel it’s accurate.”

“I’ve seen certain pieces of fitness technology that will not only record your steps but record when you stand and sit, so I would say depending upon what you’re looking for there could be room for error based on the user’s needs,” Clayton Lunney, Fitness Manager at Gold’s Gym Briargate, said.

“I’ve used a couple pedometers before, but the Fitbit, I definitely like that a little bit more,” Lougee said. “It tracks more, like the stairs, and I chose this one specifically because it’s got the heart rate.”

So we thought we’d do a little experiment of our own. We took a Fitbit, a clip-on digital pedometer, and the iPhone health app and walked a quarter of a mile while counting every single step.

The results of our test varied. The Fitbit said we took just over 270 steps, while the iPhone app said just over 480, but the pedometer said well over 800.

The results of our test varied. The Fitbit said we took just over 270 steps, while the iPhone app said just over 480, but the pedometer said well over 800.

The actual total of steps taken was 855, so the old-fashioned waistband pedometer was the most accurate.

But the pros say there’s something more important to track than steps.

“I would definitely recommend a heart rate monitor. I like to wear them myself,” said Lunney. “The strap does come around the sternum and you have your external feedback here so it will tell you where your beats per minute are with your heart.”

Getting in 10,000 steps a day might be easy for some and impossible for others, but fitness experts say that doesn’t matter. What matters is what gets your heart rate going.

“So you know if you’re exercising too far and in a zone where you’re losing muscle mass and not burning fat,” Lunney said.

But does having something track your every move really make you move more?

“I think it’s psychological because I think you’re trying to beat something that’s in your pocket,” said Graham.

“I think having this on I definitely do a lot more than I would normally do, and I have a couple of goals set, and so it makes me want to achieve those goals, seeing where I’m at, how far away I’m actually from those goals,” Lougee said.

Fitness experts say the biggest thing is to not lose sight of why you’re tracking these stats in the first place. Don’t  get bombarded with all of the data, because if you’re not using the information, it’s just numbers.

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