2018-04-16 / Health & Fitness

Stay FIT: A fitness tracker is helpful, but still a work in progress

ANN MARINA

Fitness trackers are devices that can be programmed with daily goals, such as the number of steps you want to take, how many minutes you wish to be active, or the number of calories you hope to burn. There are numerous brands and styles of trackers. Some are worn on the wrist and others clip to clothing.

Are they just glorified pedometers, or can trackers help you develop and stick with a personal fitness plan?

Nearly a third of owners had stopped using them within six months of purchasing fitness trackers, according to the 2016 Gartner Personal Technologies Study. Developers of the devices need to better engage users with incentives like competition and rewards, the researchers suggested.

In 2017, the National Institutes of Health gave a more positive review, stating that fitness trackers show promise for those who are serious about working on goals. The NIH suggested that developers of the devices collaborate with behavior change experts to help users “determine how, when, where and with whom they can increase their physical activity.”

Naples resident Betty Dick received a Fit Bit Charge tracker as a recent birthday gift. “It knows if I’m out walking or getting some exercise,” she said. “I like how it vibrates afterward, like it’s giving me a pat on the back.”

Dick said her main goal is to take 10,000 steps each day, which is about five miles. “When I haven’t been active for a while, a voice comes on, saying, ‘Are you ready? Let’s go.’”

Most fitness trackers monitor your movements and distance traveled, heart rate, calories burned – based on your gender and weight – and the amount of sleep you get.

As a registered nurse, Dick appreciates knowing her heart rate. “That’s good to know during a cardio workout or any time you want to see how your ticker is doing,” she said.

The wide variety of Fit Bit trackers range from the Flex 2, a $59.95 waterproof wrist band that tracks activities and sleep time, to the Ionic: Adidas Edition, a $ 329.95 watch with on-screen workouts, music storage, guided breathing sessions and health tips.

The Apple Watch Series 3 “smartwatch” with GPS and cellular ability costs $ 399. It provides heart rate and activity sensors and apps for everything from navigation to bill payment. Its battery must be charged every night.

The BodyMedia tracker also senses changes in your skin to calculate how hard you are working. Activity is displayed in the online tracker as “moderate” or “vigorous” movement. BodyMedia devices range in price from $100 to $149.95.

You can find fitness trackers at Target, Best Buy and similar stores, and by searching the internet.

Ann Marina may be reached at marina@swspotlight.com

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