Your Fitbit or other personal activity tracker could actually be harming your health, not making it better. Wireless electronic devices measure how many steps you take in a day, how you sleep and other data. You can also enter what you eat to keep track of calories.
The company that developed Fitbit had the goal of helping people become more aware of how they moved and what they ate. It’s a good idea and the data wearables gather can be valuable. However, some people become focused on the numbers and develop unhealthy behavior patterns.
You’re surrounded by devices that emit electromagnetic field radiation. There’s concern that type of radiation could cause cancer. When you wear a device that emits that type of radiation 24/7, you’re continually exposed. Exercise is about sweating out the toxins in your body, not adding more.
One of the benefits of working out is you work off stress and feel personal satisfaction about what you’ve accomplished. For some people, a personal activity tracker makes it harder to feel relaxed after a workout.
A U.S. News article talks about a runner who thought a Fitbit would help him take his training to the next level. Instead, he became so focused on the numbers on his wrist, he started to overthink everything he was doing and his performance actually dropped.
Some push to the point of injury because they’re paying attention to the data, not their bodies. A dietician competing with co-workers for the most steps ended up with a hamstring injury.
If you can take the information your fitness tracker gathers and use it to stay within healthy guidelines, it can be a good way to move more and eat healthier. However, if you have a tendency toward an eating or behavioral disorder, one is not recommended.
Some people start tracking calories to lose weight and things spiral quickly out of control. Fitness trackers use one-size-fits-all guidelines for movement and calorie goals. When people start to judge themselves for not meeting a goal, they’re more likely to obsess over calories or throw themselves into excessive physical activity.
Better nutrition is about eating healthy. Fitness trackers make some people more likely to reach for packaged foods, because the calorie calculation is easier. That’s not always the best choice.
The same thing can happen with sleep. When users become too focused on how many hours of sleep they got or the quality of their rest, it actually creates stress and makes healthy sleep less likely.
A Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine studied people who used wearables to track sleep. The study found users were less likely to sleep well because they felt anxiety over what they were doing wrong according to their tracker’s numbers.
You know yourself best. A fitness tracker might be just the tool for reaching your fitness goals. However, if you notice you’re worried about the data you receive and changing your behavior in unhealthy ways, try taking it off for a little while.
We’re curious what our gym members have experienced. Do you think fitness trackers are a good thing or bad? Let us know in the comments.