Athletic Trainer Says Devices Can Be Used to Make Positive Changes
Fitness trackers seem to be everywhere. I see the different tracker bracelets on high school students wearing them as well as shoppers when I am out in the community. Depending on the type, trackers can count steps or mileage, measure heartbeat and keep track of how much you sleep. People connect them via apps to log a history of their workouts, but do fitness trackers improve their health?
According to the latest research, that answer is no. A study published by the Journal of the American Medicine Association last fall found that people wearing fitness trackers who followed a low-calorie diet plan and exercise plan did not lose as much weight as those study participants following the same diet and exercise plan, but did not wear fitness trackers.
That does not mean you should toss your FitBit, Jawbone or other wearable device. These devices do offer some benefit, but losing a lot of weight is probably not one of them, especially if you are not following an exercise and diet plan.
Since all devices are different, they do not all have the same features. If you have a wearable fitness device or are thinking about buying one, here are tips to get the most benefit from it:
Set a daily goal and aim to beat it. Most health experts recommend people take at least 10,000 steps a day. That is a good goal to begin with. If that goal is beyond what you can handle, set a lower number and look to raise it over time.
Movement tracker: Some devices can detect how long you have been sitting and will vibrate if you have not moved for a certain amount of time. If yours has that option, go ahead and use it. It will serve as a good reminder to get up and get moving.
Track heart rate. Please note these devices do not provide an accurate heart rate reading, but they can provide you with a good idea of how much your workout is raising your heart rate. If you raise your heart rate to 50 percent of your maximum, an estimated 85 percent of your calories burned will come from fat. Exercising at a lower intensity also burns fat, but not as quickly.
Track your sleep. Many trackers can log how much you sleep get each night. For some, this is an eye opener since it turns out they spend more time tossing and turning than actually sleeping. Once you have a clear idea of how much sleep you are getting, you can change your habits so you can sleep more soundly.
Track your routes: Many fitness trackers have built-in GPS so you can use it to easily track your running, walking or cycling routes. It will provide you with an exact distance and your speed. If you do the same route regularly, it will easily allow you to compare different workouts to see if you are getting faster.
Wearing a fitness tracker by itself will not improve your health, but you can use it to keep track of your activities and then use that information to make some positive health changes.
Alyssa Tessaro is a licensed athletic trainer with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care and serves Princeton High School and Green Lake High School.