Is a Wearable Fitness Tracker for You?

For years now, wearable fitness trackers have been trending in the health-and-wellness world. Some people love how wearing a fitness tracker motivates them to get moving, while others just love the data it tracks—from your daily step count to your fitness progress.

Fitness trackers use sensors to monitor and measure your movements. Most fitness trackers can connect to your cellphone or computer with an app that keeps track of your data and numbers each day. All fitness trackers monitor your step count, but other capabilities, such as monitoring hours of sleep, heart rate, skin temperature, perspiration levels, and calories burned, vary from one tracker to the next.

Depending on the tracker you buy, you can take the information it monitors and bring it with you to the doctor. The doctor can use it to read many things, such as your calorie intake and if it aligns with your nutrition and diet recommendations, your activity level, the intensity of your exercise session, your sleep schedule, and your heart rate pattern over time. This can be very helpful for doctors to see, because they have to make decisions for your health based on what you tell them. These numbers come in handy for patients at risk of obesity or heart disease, or for people with high cholesterol or diabetes.

You might have considered getting a wearable fitness tracker, but maybe you weren’t sure if it would be for you or you were overwhelmed by the types and versions available. Here are things to help you make up your mind on whether a wearable fitness tracker is worth the investment, from Consumer Reports, a nonprofit that uses research, consumer reviews, journalism, and policy expertise to give advice to consumers.

  1. Consider the reason you want a fitness tracker. What are your fitness goals? Are you training for a marathon or just trying to get back into shape? The objective you are trying to reach will play a large role in choosing if you want to get a fitness tracker and then how to choose among the different trackers out there.
  2. How often do you exercise? This can play a factor in determining which tracker to get. They vary in battery-life capacity, and if you are running a marathon you might need it to hold juice longer than someone who can take a break to charge.
  3. Where would you prefer to wear it? Most trackers are made to be worn on the wrist, but some can be clipped on clothing or worn on the upper arm.
  4. How high-tech do you need it to be to reach your fitness objectives? This can be a contributing factor in your decision, because oftentimes this varies with the price of the tracker. Some have touchscreens that feature numbers and words on the display, while others strictly send your data to the device they are connected to through the app. If you are don’t feel you need a screen, you might want a simpler version.
  5. What kind of mobile device do you have? Before deciding on which tracker to get, make sure you are looking at options that are compatible with your device.
  6. What are you looking to measure? Trackers are great for many reasons, but they aren’t always 100 percent accurate with numbers. If you are more serious and looking to get hard numbers, you might want a function-specific device, such as a heart monitor that straps on the chest.
  7. How often do you encounter water when you work out? Some fitness trackers are more splash-proof than others, so if you are going to participate in a triathlon in which you swim, you’ll need to invest in a waterproof one.

Talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness regimen or routine, and remember the path to your goals isn’t always a sprint. A fitness tracker might make things easier for you, but it’s up to you! Either way, you are already one step closer to your goals by taking steps to reach them!