Is a Fitness Tracker Right For You?

Some people love to poo-poo fitness trackers for various reasons — they’re ugly, they can be inaccurate when it comes to calorie burn and distance traveled, people rely too heavily on them, they take the quantified self idea too far, etc. In my experience of using a fitness tracker for 5 years, then ditching it for a year a half, I much prefer tracking to non-tracking, even as a relatively fit person. Here we go!

I got my first FitBit back in 2011 when they were still a relatively novel piece of technology and not nearly as widely adopted as they are today. This was at the start of me getting back to a healthy lifestyle and I consider my old FitBit to have been instrumental in my journey. It was a teeny tiny device that clipped onto a piece of clothing and inspired me to start taking the stairs whenever they were an option, getting out for short walks during the workday, and pushing me to hit 10K steps a day. Sure, it might have gone through the wash a time or two (oops!), but overall I loved that little piece of tech.

FitBit continued to perfect their fitness tracking technology and while lots of other players were coming onto the scene, I continued to be a FitBit devotee for life! I didn’t jump at all the new upgrades, but gradually progressed through a few newer iterations as the years went on. I also picked up the Aria scale which syncs to the FitBit dashboard and was hugely helpful during my own weight loss journey. What gets measured gets managed, and while some people abhor weighing themselves, I think it’s a wonderful tool if you’re able to divorce yourself from the fluctuations in the scale that inevitably occur.

Then, I cheated.

My old company gave us new Apple Watches as gifts and I was legitimately torn about breaking up with my FitBit — we’d been through so much together! But the shiny new Apple Watch was too enticing, so I set my beloved FitBit aside and soldiered on. In the world of smart watches, people seem to want them to do everything their phone does and more, but I shortly realized that I hated the constant emails, texts, and app notifications popping up on my wrist. I also felt like a dingus trying to talk into it to reply to messages. I ended up turning off all notifications and essentially using this gorgeous, top-of-the-line watch for a fancy fitness tracker…but it wasn’t the same. Apple does lots of things well and no doubt their newer versions are vastly improved from the first generation of watches, but I didn’t love the fitness tracking. So I gradually started wearing the watch less and less until I set it aside altogether.

By this point, I had gifted my old FitBit to my mother-in-law who was trying to get more active, so there was no turning back. But I lived in New York! I rode my bike 18 miles round trip nearly every day, strength trained three times a week, and was running with some regularity! Surely I didn’t need the “crutch” of a fitness tracker anymore? So I sold my Apple Watch and soldiered on tracker-less…until moving to Los Angeles.

Having been in New York for 5 years, I took walking for granted. I could hit 10K steps a day with my eyes closed! New Yorkers walk everywhere. I fondly remember one day when I walked from my office in Midtown East to the LES — roughly 3 miles — and then my friend and I decided to walk from where we were, across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn (another ~3 miles), where we lived. Once we got to the other side, I figured, “what the heck, it’s only 3 miles home!”

9 miles just for fun.

I can’t imagine a time when I walk 9 miles in Los Angeles just for fun, except hiking.

Despite getting a dog and walking/running with him, biking around Santa Monica and Venice, and constantly being on the go for work, I’ll periodically check the health app on my phone and find that I’m nowhere near 10K steps a day. I make a concerted effort to walk a lot, but without a little external prodding, it’s difficult to hit my goal regularly.

Enter: FitBit Ionic. I read a pretty thorough review and the main critique was that while it’s an incredibly fitness tracker, it leaves something to be desired in terms of smart watch. BINGO! Ordered.

I love technology, but don’t need a constant stream of alerts buzzing my wrist. I wanted high-quality fitness data without all the extra bells and whistles, and I’m stoked to use this for an extra little push in my health and fitness. Also, I am majorly digging the sleep tracking feature. I’ll cover this portion of it more when I write about the importance of rest and recovery.

So is a fitness tracker right for you? Maybe. I got one for my dad a few years ago and he has been using it daily to develop a consistent walking habit that I know makes his doctor very happy. 8 years ago he had a triple-bypass surgery and walking has been incredible for his cardiac health since then. Did I mention he’s 75? If he can do it, so can you.

No matter where you fall on the fitness spectrum, it’s worth giving it some consideration. If you’re currently sedentary then it can be a phenomenal tool to inspire behavior change, and if you’re a lean, mean, fitness machine then it can be useful to track resting heart rate, sleep quality, and movement throughout the day.



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