Pedometers. Smartwatches. Health monitors. Wearable fitness trackers. They’re all part of the emerging landscape of wearable technology. A landscape which promises to change the way we exercise and communicate with one another about fitness. But do they really help and make a difference in our lives?
Having used some of the more popular ones on the market like the Fitbit, Jawbone, Pebble, Microsoft Band, and now currently the Apple Watch many will keep track of your daily steps, calories burned and pattern of sleeping. Most will connect with your phone, be it Android or Apple and some can track your heart rate in real time and even provide statistics on elevation gained and distance travelled during exercise. While its good that more and more people are wearing these devices and becoming increasingly aware of their daily level of physical activity, and that many devices have built in accountability and online support communities, it looks like experts in this field are saying that there’s a potential dark side to wearable fitness trackers especially when it comes to beginners who have an inactive lifestyle.
Recent studies have dubbed this trend of wearable wristband while tracking your physical activity throughout the day and comparing and competing with your friends online “The Quantified Self Syndrome.” Simply put, quantified self refers to the logging, keeping track, and comparing of personal health data with others, mostly for the purposes of health and self-improvement. And so what some researchers are saying is that for people who pick up a wearable health-monitoring device that are not already active after several months of keeping track and comparing their health data with others many of these inactive beginners begin to feel discouraged if they are unable to keep up with everyone else. Again, this is not the case for everyone, especially people who are already active and want to motivate themselves further.
Therefore, anyone new to the world of wearable fitness trackers and activity should be careful when sharing their data and competing online with others. Some researchers are saying that jumping into a competitive online community with your health data might discourage some people from making appropriate fitness choices and may also discourage beginners to stick with their fitness device.
With that in mind, there might be a solution where everyone could benefit. I’d like to think that the newest generation of wearables combined with some of the new apps and online services are trying to solve that problem by using all of our health-related data to tell a positive story instead of comparing it to others; which could prove to be a powerful move for self-monitoring. Combine a positive story about your health with online services and apps that allow you to track your food intake like MyFitnessPal (www.myfitnesspal.com) and you might see more motivated by a good story with positive online services — especially one where we’re the hero.