If we could just be inspired to utilize activity monitors, we could enhance our health and extend our lives. These are the findings of two new research on the benefits and drawbacks of using fitness trackers to track and direct our movements.
Fitness watche are more accurate than hand-logging your activity in a journal or notebook because we aren’t objective when we’re looking at our progress. Trackers are cold impartial judges — they simply report our activity back to us.
If you set a goal such as increasing your steps by 1000 per day you’ll immediately get feedback on that goal and whether you achieved it. This can motivate you to build on progress and increase your movement and exercise.
∙ Tracking your activities
One of the simplest measures that almost all fitness trackers monitor is daily steps. Just like a simple pedometer the, the tracker will count how many steps you take every day. A general guideline for maintaining healthy behavior is 10000 steps per day the monitors can generally track our steps, pace, stance (sitting or not), distance, energy expenditure, and heart rate, and are predicted to be a popular holiday present again. However, the absolute correctness of these figures is questionable, as previous investigations have discovered flaws in several of the monitors’ data. However, the studies reveal that the mistakes are usually stable, thus the trackers can consistently represent how our motions alter from day today.
The larger issue with activity monitors has been that we haven’t been able to determine whether the data they create is genuinely related to our
health. We have yet to see proof that what most trackers claim to be healthy is indeed healthy.
Consider the notion that we should exercise moderately for 150 minutes per week, for as by walking briskly. Most activity trackers take these principles into account when determining how much exercise people should get.
Those suggestions, however, were based on studies in which respondents were asked how much they remembered moving. Monitors had not been worn by the participants.
Volunteers were used in one of the research, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Almost 4,000 middle-aged men and women wore activity trackers for a week as part of a government-funded study on American health. The researchers compared the tracker data to their self-reports to develop and validate an objective measure of how much
exercise individuals were getting. (Whether they wore the monitors or not, their movement patterns were remarkably comparable.)
Researchers then tracked the participants for up to ten years, comparing their names to those in the National Death Registry to see if fulfilling the 150-minute-per-week guideline had any effect on how long they lived.
Yes, it did. The researchers discovered that men and women who exercised moderately for at least 150 minutes each week, according to their activity trackers, were around 35% less likely to die prematurely than men and women who were less active, in their trackers.
Dr. Timothy Church, a professor of preventive medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., who wrote a commentary to accompany the new study, says that while the findings are unsurprising, they do provide the first scientifically compelling rationale for owning an activity monitor. He points out that when your monitor tells you to walk for 30 minutes most days, it now has concrete proof that doing so may help you live longer.
He also expects that more research will soon be conducted to determine exactly how much and what forms of exercise can reduce our chance of developing various diseases, with findings that could be incorporated into our activity monitors. The devices could then tell us whether today’s
lunchtime walk was enough to reduce our risk of Type 2 diabetes, or if we should go for another walk around the block.
However, the benefits of activity monitors will, in the end, be determined by whether and how we use the equipment. And, according to a study published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, people can be funny when it comes to their fitness trackers.
Scientists in Singapore recruited 800 office workers for the study and gave most of them an activity monitor, however, some were le, ft out as controls. The others were told to utilize the monitors to meet basic fitness targets, with one group winning money and the other earning money for their selected charity if they met those criteria. The last group was told that meeting the goals was beneficial to their health.
People that were given money to exercise exercised the most after six months. Other people who used activity trackers saw a small increase in inactivity.
The monetary incentives stopped after that, but the participants were still encouraged to use their monitors and accomplish their fitness targets. The researchers checked in again six months later. The people who had previously received money to exercise were the ones who were exercising the least by that time, according to the monitor data. The nonprofit group’s activity had also decreased. Surprisingly, participants in the group who were given monitors but not money were exercising more now than they had been at the previous check.
However, because most of the participants had stopped wearing their monitors most of the time, the data for everyone was restricted.
The takeaway from these two studies appears to be that activity trackers have the capacity, and increasingly, the scientific backing, to influence how long and well we live. But they won’t be able to realize their full potential unless we figure out whether and how they genuinely drive us to move.
“CMuchmore research is required,” says Dr. Church.
“Take a look at Pokémon Go,” he adds, referring to the interactive phone game in which users seek for and capture cartoon characters that appear to be in the real world. Players who walk or run a certain distance are rewarded in the game. “That might be the future of activity trackers,” Dr.
Church says, referring to scientifically-based health monitoring that is also entertaining.