Fitness trackers have been around ever since Thomas Jefferson started tinkering with his watch in order to count his steps.1 Calorie-conscious Founding Fathers aside, wearables like Fitbit and Apple Watch have become common accessories for many exercisers in the last decade. Even if you haven’t yet purchased a dedicated fitness tracker, your phone is probably counting your steps right now.
Considering how ubiquitous wearables have become, let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of fitness trackers and how these handy devices can level up your workout routine.
#1 Maintaining Motivation to Exercise
While some of us are hard-wired workout machines that never miss a day at the gym, many others need that extra bit of accountability to maintain a healthy exercise schedule. A wearable fitness tracker can be like a little coach that you strap to your wrist, reminding you to stick to your fitness goals.
These bits of motivating data include:
- Monitoring your daily steps
- Tallying your calories burned
- Recording your workout performance
Research has shown that motivation and accountability are the most reliable benefits of using a wearable fitness tracker.2
Whether you have a morning or evening workout, finishing any workout is a rewarding experience, but there’s something extra satisfying about getting to the end of a session (whether you’re exercising on your own or joined group exercise classes) and having your fitness tracker tell you that you just beat your previous best pace. Aside from motivation to reach your goal, the fitness tracker also helps answer the question, “How many reps should I do?”
#2 Keeping Track of Heart Rate
But whoa, speedster—slow down there. Sometimes, striving to beat your best can mean pushing yourself beyond what’s healthy. You also need to be mindful of your heart health. One of the other benefits of a fitness tracker is that you can use them as a heart rate monitor. Your tracker will let you know if you’re going too hard—or not hard enough.
Your wearable likely calculates this for you, but as a reminder, your maximum heart rate is determined by subtracting your age from 220.3 So, for example, if you’re 40 years old, your maximum heart rate comes out to 180.
The basic guidelines for a healthy heart rate during exercise are:
- Moderate intensity: 50% – 70% of your maximum heart rate.
- High intensity: 70% – 85% of your maximum heart rate.
As you approach each workout, remember that it’s important to listen to your body. Fitness trackers are a useful tool, but you ultimately have to judge what level of exercise is safe and healthy for your body.
#3 Monitoring Sleep Schedules
Our fitness tracking devices don’t stop working just because we’re done exercising. Wearable fitness trackers can also be used to record our sleep schedules. Most devices do this by measuring various metrics like your heart rate and movement during the night. They can then assess whether or not we’re getting enough sleep—and whether or not that sleep is restful or fitful.
Paying attention to your sleep habits is an often overlooked part of a healthy lifestyle. And if you’re wearing a fitness tracker, it can even hold you accountable when you creep out of bed for that midnight snack…
#4 Calorie Counting and Sticking with a Diet
All wearable fitness trackers—and even most phones—offer calorie-counting programs that detect how many calories you’re burning at any given moment by monitoring your body’s metrics. While it’s good to know how many calories you’re incinerating during exercise, it’s equally useful to know how many calories you’re consuming—especially if one of your fitness goals is to lose weight.
Fitness trackers can help dieters log what they’re eating. Many offer barcode scanners that will input calories into your tracker directly from a package’s health information.
Plus, don’t forget about water! Fitness trackers can also be used to log water consumption, making sure exercisers stay hydrated. Remember, our healthy hydration levels are:4
- Around 92-124 oz per day
#5 Monitoring Medical Conditions
Fitness trackers can be about more than just beating your personal high score or counting calories. In fact, they can have a very real impact on those with medical conditions. Many fitness tracking devices can:
- Send irregular heartbeat alerts to those with heart conditions (useful for people monitoring their RPE vs heartrate)
- Monitor glucose levels (when integrated with another device) for those with diabetes
- Send an alert if you suffer an accident while exercising
- Forbes. Thomas Jefferson Tracked His Steps Long Before The Apple Watch. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theodorecasey/2021/02/25/thomas-jefferson-tracked-his-steps-long-before-the-apple-watch/?sh=4b8b68a332e4
- The American Journal of Medicine. Is There a Benefit to Patients Using Wearable Devices Such as Fitbit or Health Apps on Mobiles? A Systematic Review. https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(19)30553-4/pdf
- Mayo Clinic. Exercise Intensity: How to Measure it. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887
- Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256#