Will you be addicted to your fitness tracker?

In recent years, smart watches and fitness trackers have become popular trends. These handy tools can track your daily steps, heart rate, sleep, etc. They can be a convenient and even fun way to stay motivated, achieve exercise goals, and challenge exercise partners. Although they are designed to encourage a healthy lifestyle, some experts worry that these devices may cause addictive behaviors and even exercise addiction.

Whenever you go out to run errands, do you check your steps? Or do you walk around the house every night to increase your numbers beyond your daily goals? Or, you may find yourself taking more stairs or parking your car further away from your destination so that you can increase your heart rate in the target area.

These behaviors may mean that you are benefiting from a fitness watch. You are increasing your activity level every day in small ways that are good for your health.

Or do you find yourself obsessed with checking your steps and heart rate all day long? Have you set increasingly unrealistic daily goals, including long hours or even multiple exercises every day? If you have these behaviors, it may indicate that you are addicted to fitness trackers.

Signs that you may be addicted

There are some signs that your obsession with fitness trackers may be problematic:

  • You keep increasing the time you exercise because your smart device makes you feel that you need to keep doing more
  • You neglect your friends and responsibilities, so you have more time to exercise
  • When you cannot use fitness equipment, you feel anxious, irritable or restless
  • You feel that you cannot control your behavior; you use the device more than expected or exercise more than you planned
  • Your fitness equipment takes up a lot of time, interferes with other activities, or causes you to quit other things you like
  • Even if these behaviors upset you or you know they are unhealthy, you will continue to overuse your device
  • When you fail to reach your daily activity goals, you will feel very frustrated and even ashamed

The charm of a few steps

There are many reasons why the daily step count (usually 10,000 steps per day) is so attractive.

  • This is a very tangible and specific goal, and wearing a device that tells you how far you have gone and how far you have to go can be very motivating.
  • Setting a daily step goal can give you motivation to move around more during the day, which may help you make better choices, such as parking your car further away from your destination or taking stairs.
  • It can make you feel that you are taking clear action towards your fitness goals. Your smart device will not only tell you how many steps you have taken, but also allow you to review your history and visually draw your daily activity charts. This can be a compelling visual view of your progress.
  • Tracking your steps can also help leverage your competitive nature and work towards healthy goals. Whether you just want to break your own personal record or engage in daily challenges with your exercise partner, some friendly competitions can help you inspire more sports.

Of course, this obsession with steps may also be problematic. Failure to achieve your daily goals can be frustrating. Instead of focusing on your progress, you may be plagued by your own shortcomings.

Another problem is that you may find yourself paying too much attention to arbitrary numbers instead of intuitively focusing on the feelings of your body. Form, effort, and intensity all play an important role in exercise effectiveness and injury prevention-fitness trackers cannot fully capture these. Paying attention to your heart rate may help, but it still does not convey how you really feel. You may find that you are experiencing soreness, pain, or even injury, just to reach your step goal.

Why track fitness

The goal of fitness trackers is not only to provide detailed information about behavior, but also to encourage you to make healthier choices. The goal is to get you “fascinated” with your device so that you can rely on its feedback and use that information to set goals, stay motivated, and stick to your fitness plan.

Many indicators indicate that wearable fitness equipment may not be addictive enough, if any. A 2016 survey found that wearable fitness trackers have a high abandonment rate. About 30% of people abandon their smart watches and fitness trackers because they find them useless or interesting.

Therefore, even if you do track your steps and strive to reach the goal of 10,000 steps per day, wearing your device alone may not be enough to help you keep your steps.

How effective are they

Although fitness tracker addiction has made headlines, most survey results indicate that most people will eventually stop using their wearable devices. The question is also to what extent these fitness trackers actually help people become healthier. Existing research is still insufficient, and to a large extent inconclusive.

Simply providing information about health does not necessarily lead to a change in behavior. Researchers say there is little evidence that wearable devices actually bridge the gap between tracking health information and making better fitness choices.

The one-year study showed disappointing results in terms of effectiveness. The study surveyed 800 adults, who were divided into four groups.

  • The first group wears a clip-on fitness tracker, and if they walk more than 50,000 steps per week, they will receive a cash reward
  • The next group also received a cash prize, but they were asked to donate it to charity
  • The third group wore activity trackers but did not receive cash rewards
  • The last group did not wear a tracker or received a cash prize

As a result, although the participants in the first group did walk more during the first six months of the study, 90% of them stopped wearing their activity trackers a year later. The results show that even when combined with economic incentives, activity trackers have no overall impact on health.

Another study on the impact of fitness trackers on weight loss found that people who wear these devices are not more active than those who don’t. Perhaps even more surprising is that the study found that people who did not wear a tracker actually lost more weight than those who wear a tracker.

Existing research shows that the vast majority of people are not addicted to their fitness trackers, and most people completely abandon their devices in the first year. Although this suggests that the risk of becoming too obsessed with your equipment is small, it does not mean that it is impossible, especially if you tend to focus on fitness or existing exercise addiction.

Next step

If you are truly concerned that you might become addicted to fitness trackers, you should consider the following steps:

  • Set restrictions. If you spend too much time watching your smartwatch or exercising too much every day, try to gradually control it by setting limits. Tell yourself that you will only check your smart device a few times a day. Limit your daily steps to a comfortable level, and not so high that it takes too much time to achieve.
  • Use distractions. Look for other things that don’t involve checking your motion tracker. Engaging in hobbies or socializing with friends can help you focus on other things.
  • Skip wearing your device. Although it is not necessary to give up your fitness tracker completely, not wearing it occasionally can help you avoid focusing too much on your daily steps.
  • Remove the fitness application from the phone. If you find that you are too addicted to the data on your device, please try to delete the corresponding application from your phone, at least temporarily. If you keep getting notifications, it’s difficult to move your attention away from your smart device.

If your obsession with fitness trackers affects your daily life, please consult your doctor. You may have exercise addiction, which is a behavioral addiction that can have a serious impact on your health and well-being.

Make your fitness tracker more effective

If you have trouble adhering to your fitness goals and have given up on smart devices, there are steps you can take to make these devices more attractive and effective.

The researchers pointed out that although fitness trackers and smart watches often contain elements that focus on changing behavior, they may be more useful if they are also dedicated to helping people change their thoughts and attitudes about exercise ability.

Some things that might make your tracker more useful:

  • Develop an action plan. It is not enough to track your daily activities. You need to come up with a detailed plan that shows how you will gradually achieve your goals.
  • From the little things. Don’t focus on reaching the number of steps chosen by others or steps that feel too high for your current fitness level. Choose a number that suits you, do a little every day, and then slowly work towards more ambitious goals.
  • Focus on quality rather than quantity. Don’t indulge in setting ambitious daily step goals. Research shows that shorter, higher-quality exercises are better than longer, lower-quality exercises.

It is also important to find a way to maintain intrinsic motivation. Studies have shown that when people receive external rewards for what they already like to do, it reduces internal motivation. This phenomenon is called the excessive reason effect. Data from fitness trackers can be a form of extrinsic reward, especially when you are confused about reaching your counting goal.

A study found that when people are motivated by internal rewards (such as enjoyment and pride) rather than external rewards, they are more likely to stick to their exercise goals.

You can avoid this by focusing on the things you like during your workout, such as feeling more energetic or being able to enjoy the outdoors.

Very good sentence

If used properly, a fitness tracker can be a useful tool. Your device can provide you with useful feedback on how much you do every day, but it’s important to remember that this is not a quick solution. If you find that you spend too much time thinking about what your fitness monitor is telling you, it may be time to go back to the basics and pay less attention to the information your body tells you.