Do you need a fitness tracker to reach your program goals?

Are you part of the fitness-tracker craze?

It’s a booming industry. As reported by Forbes, “CCS Insight has updated its outlook on the future of wearable tech, indicating that 411 million smart wearable devices, worth a staggering $34 billion, will be sold in 2020.”

Apparently, this industry will surpass the $10 billion mark in 2017, with wrist-based devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, continuing to dominate.

Should we join the hype?

Well, first let’s address the main question: do you ‘need’ a fitness tracker to achieve your fitness goals?

My short answer: no.

But then again, I’m approaching this question from an unconventional angle. Fortunately for me, I’m mostly internally-driven, so the appeal of exercising in tune with a sophisticated timepiece doesn’t mean I’ll work out more, or more regularly.

I’m already consistent.

Do I use a fitness tracker?

Yes, because they ‘can’ help you reach your program goals, and to maintain your desired level of fitness.

I use my Polar watch with chest strap 2-3 times a year to check on my training and recovery heart-rates. This helps me gauge my overall cardiovascular condition. I use the Nike+ app on my iPhone for all other regular cardio activity. But I use it merely for the basics: route, average pace and estimated calories burned.

That’s it!

Sure the app offers more. A whole lot. I can integrate music or podcasts, connect with other runners, challenge them, buy shoes, share my feats – and so forth. But in my humble opinion, those features are for the conventional, oftentimes fickle crowd.

Fact is that most exercisers will eventually begin to lose interest in using their trackers, however ‘cool’ they are.

There’s a reason for the saying “the novelty wears off.” It’s called human nature.

And to try and combat this, developers are constantly rolling out updates, ensuring their devices are loaded with as many portals and options as possible. To try and keep us users interested – so we come back for more.

It’s a tough ask for them. How so?

What the research shows

Market research by the NPDGGroup has it that over 40% of once-enthusiastic people stop using their fitness trackers within 6 months, as reported by reports Forbes.

The big issue is adherence.

No tracker – regardless of how sophisticated – is going to afford a consequential change in behaviour. They may provide the means, but not the fuel. That second part is up to you. A 2015 editorial in 'The Journal of the American Medicine Association attests to this.'

Again, my point-of-view is: although not essential, fitness trackers can be hugely effective ‘if’ in fact used.

You still need to put in the effort to actually burn those calories – otherwise you’ve simply invested your money for a nifty piece of technology to tell the time – and to look good on you.

People trying to lose weight need to work more on establishing an integrated lifestyle, which will facilitate the pursuit of health and fitness.

Hoping that a fitness tracker will help you shape up when you have a hectic, disorganized schedule with random priorities – is foolish.

Do Fitness Trackers actually Work?

Absolutely – albeit with some minor occasional glitches or inaccuracies.

But the benefits of using these gadgets and apps, is undisputed. Research shows that self-monitoring can be habit-forming, which in the case of compliance with a healthy program, is a positive outcome.

Fitness trackers alleviate the need to collect and collate physical activity. But findings also show, overwhelmingly, that fitness trackers have not increased overall adherence to weight loss programs.

They remain optional tools.

To reiterate, fitness trackers are highly effective, if you actually use them – and continue to do so.

Am I missing out if I don’t buy a fitness tracker?

They come in countless designs and colors, with endless features.

And, they look amazing. Manufacturers have catered to all tastes. Many trackers in fact do a whole lot more than just track your fitness efforts.

Most of the current models will record all your physical movements, track your sleep quality and patterns – and give you a lifestyle breakdown. They can even suggest certain activities or goals, based on your data and behavior.

But again, the question isn't so much “should I get one”, but rather “why?”

Ask yourself: “Will a fitness tracker help me be more consistent?” Chances are, you already have an ordinary time-telling watch – or two.

So how do you justify the added cost?

Aim for the long game, not for instant gratification

If you’ve made a commitment to yourself to get healthy, then heed the following two important bits of advice:

  • Take full responsibility! To change and stay that way needs a deliberate, consistent and non-negotiable effort on your part. Only you have the power to decide. Not the weather, time-constraints or any other obligation.
  • Never give up.  Accept that you’re human, and that you will occasionally err. What’s more important is that you deal with disruptions and get yourself back on track. Remember, sustainable fitness isn’t about a one-off sprint – it’s the long game. It’s consistency – not perfection!

Bottom line

You’re probably acquainted with If so, you’ll know that my take on health and fitness is unconventional. And ‘The Sensible Way’, which underpins my ethos, is all about simplifying your life to find balance and sustainability in healthy enjoyable living.

That aside, I think fitness trackers provide huge potential. I really do.

There’re some fantastic products on offer from Nike, Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, Jawbone, and more. And there are probably few reviews as comprehensive as the one done by in helping you decide which fitness tracker is best for you.

Take home message
Use technology if it’ll help you become and stay healthy. But remember it's no silver bullet.

Don’t do it if you usually struggle to stick to a fitness program – because you’ll probably just be buying into novelty. It’ll keep you interested for a while, provide lots of conversation-material to share with your social circles or work buddies – but like many – you may ultimately become bored.

Unless of course you like to be ‘in’, and enjoy sporting your slick gadget as a piece of your outfit.

But that would be sad.

I’d be far happier knowing that you’re avidly working on ensuring long-term engagement with your new toy, than just being able to see what time it is.