Do Wearable Trackers and Smartphone Apps Help Users Get and Stay Fit?
Moms tend to do it all, or at least they try to. If your to-do list includes getting or staying fit and healthy, those goals may compete with other priorities. Fitness trackers and other health technology such as calorie-tracking apps may give moms the jump start and momentum they need to get in shape.
Fitness tech options
Fitness trackers and smartphone apps track fitness activity such as walking, running, swimming and biking; monitor sleep and heart rate; and provide calorie counts. Trackers, also known as wearable technology, take the shape of svelte wristbands, watches, and clip-on or strap-on gadgets. Smartphone apps like RunKeeper record activity via GPS. MyFitnessPal and other nutrition-related apps allow users to enter the foods they’ve consumed and get detailed reports on calories and nutrition. Both wearable tech and apps can assist in a variety of fitness goals, including weight loss, marathon training and general wellness.
Melissa Royal, a mother of four from Upper Chichester, PA, got her first wearable tracker, a Fitbit, three years ago. The device, which was a gift from her daughter, helped Royal lose weight. A year later, she upgraded and now looks forward to another upgrade. “I think it helps,” says Royal, who syncs her activity with the MyFitnessPal to track calories, too. “It keeps me motivated.”
Stay accountable to your fitness goals
“Fitness trackers are great for motivation and accountability,” says Steve LeViere, owner of LeViere’s Fitness and a personal trainer at Kirkwood Fitness & Racquetball Club in Wilmington, DE. “A tracker lets you know how much or how little activity you are doing. There’s no cheating yourself.”
Bobby Horn, physical therapist and manager of sports therapy at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia concurs, “The technology certainly provides a motivational factor to clients in their fitness goals. It gives you objective information, and these numbers allow you to track your progress.”
The wearable technology, along with a variety of fitness apps on smartphones, allow people to record their activity daily so they can see variables such as calories burned, miles and steps taken, cycle speed and other workout movement. That fitness trackers tune in to a person’s heart rate makes the devices more accurate, says LeViere.
Steve Kumke, owner of and fitness instructor at Optimal Health Club in Burlington, NJ, adds, “In the past, there was more guesswork in tracking fitness goals. For the most part, fitness trackers take the guesswork out of the equation.”
Build mindfulness about what you're eating
Libby Mills, registered dietician and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says fitness trackers and calorie-tracking apps force people to stop and think. “Tallying calories promotes mindfulness in diet and eating, and it also teaches. People are learning more about the nutritional value of food.” Calorie-tracking apps provide a huge amount of information such as carbohydrate, fat, sodium and sugar intake for a person’s daily diet.
“I recommend using calorie-tracking apps as a planner as opposed to logging in information after a meal. Sometimes people feel guilty if they’ve exceeded their calorie limit for the day,” Mills adds.
Stay on course with your fitness goals
With so many benefits to fitness trackers and other health technology, can there be any drawbacks? Sure, says Horn.
“If you become so focused on your numbers, you might lose sight of your goals,” he notes. “But if you keep moving, have your goals in mind and stay true to yourself, there’s no way you shouldn’t be successful.”
Royal sees an added benefit to the wearable technology that she wasn’t expecting. “I was trying to get myself more active for my kids,” she says. “Now my kids are motivated, too, and they walk and run with me. It’s motivation for the whole family.”
Nicole D. Crawford is a freelance writer.