A recent article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) looked at the usefulness of fitness trackers. Two doctors discussed their opinions on the pros and cons of this new era of wearable technology. I have my point of view and it leans to a thumbs down but lets dig in a bit more...
The two opposing views first. Dr Iltifan Hussain from the US argues that it encourages healthy behaviour and makes people more aware of their activities, dietary needs and calorific consumption. Dr Des Spence from Glasgow argues that it creates extreme anxiety and makes us into wrist watching neurotics.
So the watch, plus their accompanying mobile phone apps can help us track steps, distance, heart rate, sleep patterns and have food diary charts to help look at calories and ideal calorie consumption for our BMI. Huh? So as well as putting on my trainers, stretching and making it around the course i now have to lock my brain on to all this? This is my argument. I agree with Dr. Spence, it just adds extra anxiety to what is already something that takes a lot of effort to do.
For the most part people have a struggle enough to get themselves motivated to leave the house. Add to the mix a watch that effectively tells you your failings for the day and it results in anxiety, worrying that you haven’t hit your 10,000 steps for the day. People are like footballers, they need positive reinforcement to keep motivated, a pat on the back to get them up for the cup.
I completely see Dr. Hussain’s point, that the awareness it creates can, on the flip side, motivate people to put down Netflix for 5 mins and get out there running. But again, there in lies another failing of these watches for me. They only track steps. I can guarantee that if you do 1000 jump squats in one spot you’ll have trained harder than you ever have without having moved an inch.
Sticking with the anxiety theme. Sleep patterns. You know how well you’ve slept when your hair has formed a ‘There’s Something About Mary’ Ben Stiller style on the side of your head and you feel rested. If you haven’t slept well you don’t need the watch, one of your charming friends will remind you that you look like death and need an espresso to redeem the situation.
So look, if gadgets are your thing, get one! They look great and have some useful functionality…LIKE THE TIME. If not, do you need to be destroying your posture by looking down at your watch and phone every 100 meters to track your steps. Also it’s lovely having a food diary there in your phone but it won’t put a roadblock in front of your mouth to stop the Domino’s landing. YOU have to make the change.