Do smart trackers and health apps help people become healthier?


Fact Box

  • One-third of people who purchased fitness trackers will stop using them within six months.
  • Studies have found that fitness trackers overestimate steps taken while walking by over 50%.
  • In 2011 the sexual activity of over 200 Fitbit users was accessible to the general public. Users’ names, length of time, and intensity of activity were available by Google search.
  • Sales of smartwatches from 2013 to 2018 increased from 600 thousand units to over 15 million.
  • Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week; tracking your steps and exercise can help you meet these goals.

Melissa (No)

Fitness trackers are marketed as wearable devices that track heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, and the length and quality of sleep. This information is intended to inspire users to get moving and enable them to track their progress. The reality is they aren’t motivating enough to make lasting change, they are highly inaccurate, and they make your private health information public.

In a recent study, participants were given fitness trackers to assist them in meeting their health goals. There were no changes in the participants in the areas of weight or blood pressure at the end of the study. The only positive finding was users reported an additional 16 minutes of activity a week, which is not enough to promote any positive change in health or wellbeing. Another study separated participants into two groups. One was given a fitness tracker the other was not. The results showed that the group without fitness trackers lost more weight than those using the devices. Another issue with fitness trackers is the information simply isn’t accurate. There are class-action lawsuits against popular fitness tracker brands claiming the heart rate tracking software is wildly inaccurate and dangerous. In a recent study, research shows that the step counting feature of fitness trackers was accurate approximately 50% of the time. Lastly, users may want to know every detail of their health information, but at what cost? Most data gathered from fitness trackers is accessible by the general public. 


Hannah (Yes)

We all know that getting in enough physical activity into our daily routines is beneficial for health—both physically, mentally, and emotionally. When it comes to the hustle and bustle of everyday schedules though, how are we supposed to know just how well we’re doing in regards to our overall wellness?

Enter smart trackers; whether through smartwatches or other similar fitness trackers, these devices track your movement through steps and exercise, and can give someone visible goals to hit each day. Whether you’re trying to hit your designated step goal each day through parking further away at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, you’re given clear evidence as to how much you’re actually moving in a day...and therefore, also making better health decisions that can improve mood and cardiovascular health, just to name a few. 

Along with giving you up-to-date information on your steps, a smart tracker can also monitor your sleep habits, display your heart rate, and give gentle reminders to go exercise each day. With these features comes an avenue to improve your health, and can help you learn to identify what might be disrupting your sleep at night or times during the day that your heart rate might increase unnecessarily. And, since getting in a regular workout routine can be a challenge, setting reminders can help you build better gym-going habits…all of which lead to a happier and healthier you. With the rise of technology comes the ability to get moving more often, and to make healthy decisions.

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