Frank Michelin

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Are Fitness Trackers Leading Us Astray?

Are Fitness Trackers Leading Us Astray?lire

Are Fitness Trackers Leading
Us Astray?

Frank Michelin

a EERE
Fitness trackers are a popular way for people to make sure they stay active, but they may actually do more harm than good. Although the goals they set for people are technically “healthy,” they fail to take the big picture into account. A goal-oriented model can help some people with accountability. However, striving to hit a cookie-cutter goal instead of listening to their body’s cues can encourage people to push themselves too far. When going slower or taking a rest day feels best to a person, fitness trackers only register that they have failed to meet a goal. They then attempt to guilt people into pushing themselves, which may be counterproductive to their health.

Another problem with fitness trackers is that they sometimes penalize people for doing the “wrong” exercise. Low-intensity exercise such as walking can register as skipping a workout, so on active recovery days fitness trackers alert people that their fitness levels are decreasing rather than sending positive messages to encourage continued mindful activity. Fitness trackers can also suggest that people are not getting enough exercise if they choose strength training rather than cardio, as they do not register this form of exercise very well. Some trackers, however, have begun to change this model and encourage people to hit weekly activity recommendations instead of daily cardio requirements. These trackers also allow people to personalize their goals sometimes.

Because most fitness trackers use an algorithm for daily goals rather than overarching personal goals, they fail to give people an accurate picture of their fitness levels. They frequently focus on linear goals like increased speed or steps each day instead of long-term goals like consistency. They also place a strong emphasis on calorie burn and VO2 max, both of which they often fail to calculate accurately. As fitness trackers show some people getting less fit the more they exercise, people can become frustrated and may feel more tempted to give up. In addition, positive reinforcements such as celebratory banners and messages, which fitness trackers provide to people who fulfill their arbitrary requirements, can lead people to obsess over meeting the tracker’s goal. These people can then lose sight of their own goals and the enjoyment that exercise can bring.

Originally published to FrankMichelin.net 

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