Does Your Fitness Tracker Make You Healthier?

Do you wear a Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch or other type of fitness tracker to help you get in shape? A study suggests these wearable devices aren’t providing the benefits to your health that you may be expecting.

According to a study published in The American Journal of Medicine, wearable devices don’t correlate with lower cholesterol levels or reduced blood pressure. Plus, out of the six studies examined, only one showed any significant reduction in weight loss.

“There was little indication that wearable devices provide a benefit for health outcomes,” the study published July 11, 2019 stated.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one third of Americans wear a fitness tracker.

Fitness trackers were designed to monitor your every move and to promote healthy habits to decrease the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes — the latter being one of the only positive health outcomes mentioned in the study. Some older patients with type 2 diabetes, who wore and used fitness trackers, lowered their A1C.

“But someone who expects to see significant effects like weight loss or clinical outcome improvements, it won’t be as useful,” lead author of the study Ara Jo, Ph.D. told The Today Show.

Fitness trackers play a role in helping people get motivated and promote physical activity, but the current data from the studies don’t suggest other consistent health benefits.

This doesn’t mean you should ditch your fitness tracker. It just means that the device alone may not be enough to significantly change your health.

Sharing your fitness tracker data with your doctor, nutritionist or trainer can help improve your results. The fitness tracker data can allow for some accountability.

Keeping yourself moving is important to your health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends working out at least 2-and-½ hours spread out over a week with moderate aerobic activity.

The goal should be to reach 30 minutes of physical activity a day; and to perform strength training at least two days a week. If you are feeling ambitious, try High Intensity Interval Training.

It’s okay to start working out slowly and increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes. Remember to make working out sustainable and part of your everyday routine.

Your fitness plan doesn’t have to be complicated.

Going on brisk walks daily can help you maintain a healthy weight and strengthen bones and muscles. As you increase frequency and distance you will begin to see benefits.

This is where your fitness tracker comes in handy – monitoring your progress and helping you stay motivated on your fitness journey.

Image of post author
Article by: Martin Huecker, M.D.

Martin R. Huecker, M.D., is a physician of UofL Physicians – Emergency Medicine. Martin Huecker is an assistant professor and research director in the Department of Emergency Medicine. At the School of Medicine, he is the assistant dean of Student Affairs. Dr. Huecker is a graduate of the UofL Emergency Medicine Residency Program. His research interests include the opioid epidemic, accidental hypothermia, and physician and medical student wellness. He works with medical students to instill behaviors to prevent future physician burnout. He distributes a weekly wellness newsletter called The Practice of Wellness (Instagram: practice_of_wellness). Dr. Huecker loves books and coffee. His wife is an OB/GYN and they have four children with cool names.

All posts by Martin Huecker, M.D.
Calendar icon that indicates scheduling an appointment
Schedule an