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Is your fitness tracker helping or harming your health?

Listen to the podcast episode here

Fitness trackers have been ever present in our society since the 2000s and have steadily increased in prevalence and use every year. (The first pedometer was created in 1777!)

I remember buying my first tracker (A Garmin Jawbone) in 2014. I became obsessed. I LOVED it. I would make sure it was always charged, honestly, hated when it was on the charger and not monitoring my movements and efforts. I vividly remember the day I lost it. Pure devastation. How would I know if I was exercising enough? Sleeping enough? Am I doing anything at all? A year or two later I purchased another (A Garmin vivoactive rose gold watch/tracker)-instant love immediately. I was so excited to have this information in my life again.

THEN-it died. At this point I'm in PT school and very broke, buying another tracker was not a priority. After I graduated PT school and got my first paycheck I was ITCHING to buy another one. So here I am-reunited with another Garmin that I make sure is charged everyday, and I have a VERY distinct tanline on my wrist from wearing it non-stop.

As I'm typing this I realize how much this is an obsession for me. So surely other people out there feel similar as I do. I feel there are psychological effects of this watch and app on my phone I check every day multiple times a day.

So let's look to research-is your fitness tracker helping or harming your health? (mental and physical)

A VERY recent study in January of 2023 evaluated how receiving feedback about their activity whether through a fitness tracker or by another person influenced behavior and health separate from physical activity.

The results found that when participants received their daily step information and perceived it as adequate for their daily goal-they subsequently ate healthier and reported improved mental health.

Participants who received decreased/inadequate step counts resulted in impaired diet choices, decreased self-esteem and impaired mental health, AND increased blood pressure and higher resting heart rate.

In summary-these trackers VERY much influence our behavior and mindset depending upon our perceptions of if we're achieving what we need to achieve.

An article in Reader's Digest in 2022 interviewed Dr Saara Haapanen, PhD about the effects of fitness trackers and she stated that: ""The constant dings and buzzes of a tracker trigger anxiety and OCD-like behavior"

All in all-I love my watch, I love the app, I LOVE monitoring my heart rate. I also know at this time in my life I am able to separate the information it tracks from my perception of success and health. I could care less if I get 2,000 steps in one day instead of 10,000. My compass and perception of my health is how I feel at the end of the day, end of the week, etc. (The goals and recommendations on a fitness tracker app are NOT one sized fits all, it's a very overarching generalized recommendation)

IF you struggle with disappointment, anxiety of not reaching the goals, filling rings, burning enough calories throughout a day, etc. I encourage you to take the watch off, silence notifications, and try and make wellness decisions that make you FEEL good!

Looking for a program that allows you to feel energized over exhausted and prioritizes your mental health within exercise? Sign up for our new Studio Stream program here!

In the Starkville or Louisville area and want to change the way you feel about exercise? Work out with us in person for a full week for free here!

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