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The New Wave of Fitness Trackers

November 2014

By now you’ve likely seen people fashioning “wearable fitness technology” or an “activity tracker.” Even if you haven’t heard the popular brand names like Fitbit®, Jawbone®, and Nike+ Fuelband®, you’ve certainly heard people talking about their “steps” for the day.

The astonishing fact is that one in ten Americans over age 18 now owns a fitness tracker.

These devices are amazingly accurate as they track your steps throughout the day. Depending on which model you own, they may also calculate calories burned and track your sleep patterns.

Most are worn on your wrist, though some clip on clothing or go in your pocket. They communicate to your phone via Bluetooth or sync up to your computer once you register online.

WHY GET A FITNESS TRACKER?

If you’re having a particularly sedentary day, an activity tracker makes you aware of it. That information tends to lift you from your rut and get you moving.

The second reason relates to the first; they’re motivating. When you use a fitness tracker, you’re more likely to be more active. Fitbit reports data showing that its customers take 43 percent more steps than before they bought one. While I’m not sure how they knew what customers did before the purchase, I’m not all that surprised by the result. I’ve noticed that my family takes more walks and tends to shake off laziness more than ever before. We’ll even park farther away from our destination, giving us more steps and helping us avoid a parking jam.

What I like most about the devices is that you can buy in at whatever level you like. If all you want to know is the number of steps you take each day, that’s fine. If you want to see where in the day those steps fall in 15-minute increments, that’s also easy.

MAKE SOCIAL CONNECTIONS FOR BETTER RESULTS

Most of these brands also offer a social component to the devices, allowing you to link to friends in order to compare results, send encouragement, challenges or taunts.

By engaging with online friends via the social component, you accomplish even more. Fitbit says its data shows that connecting with a friend results in an average of 27 percent more activity and that for every friend added, you increase your activity by about 750 steps a day.

KEEP MOVING

Many fitness trackers alert you if you’re not moving enough during the day. This feature is based on recent studies showing how critical movement is during times when you’re not actively working out. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that the more leisure time spent sitting resulted in a higher risk of premature death, regardless of how much physical activity a person gets. It found that women who sat for more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who sat less than three hours a day.

To keep you aware, some of the trackers alert you every 45 minutes or hour to get up and move for five minutes.

While everyone develops different goals, 10,000 steps a day has become a standard for daily achievement, based on the benefits that come with it. (see our blog entry “To Get Amazing Benefits From Walking, Just Count to 10,000 Steps A Day.”)

Prices of fitness trackers range from around $50 to $150, depending on the features you want. While we’re not here to endorse any brand over another, PC Magazine offers a comparison of various models with reviews so that you can find what’s right for you ( www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404445,00.asp ).

If you decide to get on board, start tracking your steps and connecting with friends, you’ll find that you’ll quickly up your game and set your goals higher. That results in tangible benefits, which is the real advantage of fitness tracker.


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