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Fitness trackers: Are they really necessary? Some say, 'not so much'

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By Deb Matejicka
Calgary bureau reporter
@debmatejicka
Friday, August 1, 2014, 11:25 AM

Digital health – have you heard of it? It's the new health craze, fitness fad, latest technological "thing" to hit the health industry. There's a variety of apps, devices and services offered to those who: 

1.Are already fit and want to track/monitor their fitness levels, 

2.Need a serious kick in the a@# (like me) to get moving and get motivated, 

3.Fall somewhere in between the two previously noted extremes. 

Me? I've got a Fitbit – a wearable fitness tracking device that's housed in a bracelet you wear 24/7. 

I bought it knowing I needed to improve my overall health and fitness and the Fitbit seemed like a great option. It tracks your caloric intake, your sleep patterns, and how many steps you take per day. Perfect! I don't always make healthy choices, sleep can be hit or miss and well, I simply need to be more active. 

Want to lose weight (yes please!!!), well then, the Fitbit can help you reach your weight goals. By tracking the number of calories you can consume per day and based on how active you are and how quickly (or slowly) you want to take off those extra pounds. All this information goes directly to an online profile (there's an app for it too) that allows you to easily track your progress AND lets you build your own online community of supporters (or jeerers) that will help motivate you (especially if you're the competitive type) to keep to your goals or even surpass them. 


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Sounds like perfect health and a fit body are just around the corner, right? Hmmmm, not so fast. 

While the Fitbit does deliver on all the components discussed above, there is one key factor between success and well, leaving it on your nightstand to collect dust. You. 

Without you keying in every morsel of food that goes into your mouth, without you remembering to activate the sleep tracking component, without you remembering to put the bloody thing back on after you get out of the shower, well, it doesn't really do a whole lot for you. 

In the beginning, I was fairly diligent on all fronts but slowly started dropping them one by one. It started with me forgetting to set the sleep tracker and was then quickly followed by getting exasperated by trying to remember exactly everything I had eaten that day – if I didn't put it into the app on my phone, it was usually forgotten. As time wore on, I would eventually forget to even put the damn thing on after showering in the morning. I'm usually out of the house for a minimum of 10-12 hours every day so there's a full day of potential fitness tracking gone. My community of "friends" is supposed to provide continued support and motivation, to "keep on trucking" (as they say) but instead, but instead I ran out of fuel. Not even the "taunting" feature used by my 8-year-old nephew Jack could motivate me to put my bracelet back on and get moving. 


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The thing is, my experience with a fitness tracker really isn't all that rare – I'm more the rule than the exception. A study back in April by Endeavour Partners, revealed that, "while 1 in 10 American adults own some form of activity tracker, half of them no longer use it. Even more to the point, one-third of American consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months." 

You see, I'm not the only sloth out there (well, maybe in Canada, but not in the US where the study was conducted). Really, what I'm trying to say is that this new digital health craze fails to address the key behind the success of any diet, fitness regime, or permanent health adjustment. That is, (again this is borrowed from the Endeavour report), "most of these devices fail to drive long-term sustained engagement for a majority of users." Or as I like to call it, motivation. 

So since the Fitbit hasn't really been working for me (or rather me working for it) I'm seriously considering a personal trainer. I figure if I can't motivate myself to get into better shape, who better than some Drill Sergeant-type to do it for me?!! 

Stay tuned….

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