Do fitness and nutrition trackers hurt or help?

Have you heard of the term “orthopsomnia”? If you are a connoisseur of words, you may be able to deduce that the term “somnia” may have something to do with our sleep. Ortho means “right or correct”. And it seems that thanks to wearable technology, people have become obsessed with data on the perfect sleep hack.

I’ve always been incredibly suspicious of my sleep measurement. I am very aware of my sleep problems; I don’t need technology to help me remember a restless night. I have all the evidence I need in front of me every morning. Unless this technology can spit out a melatonin pill or automatically turn off all the blue lights in my room at 10 p.m., the data is useless and will only add to my stress.

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But no doubt, many people like to have access to this data. They not only analyze their sleep with joy the next morning; they also use technology to track and log their workouts and nutrition. These tracking features are an ongoing craze for wearable fitness technology, and according to Fortune Business Insightsthe fitness tracker market size was 36.34 billion in 2020, with a staggering growth of 19.5%.

However, cynical people like me ask this question: do we need sleep, nutrition, and fitness monitors to improve our health and wellness goals?

First, let me tell you why relying on fitness trackers can be problematic. Then I will address when and for whom they box actually be beneficial.

The first problem is that the data itself is not particularly important. They’re just numbers that sit there, looking great on a chart until you use them for something meaningful. Let’s look at sleep trackers in particular. Does looking at the sleep data convince you to set your bedtime half an hour earlier that night? Does it remind you to dim the lights, turn off your blue light devices, and calm your parasympathetic nervous system so you can optimize your sleep? Along the same lines, does reviewing your training data inspire you to train more the next day or convince you to take a rest day the next day? The problem with access to data is that it doesn’t always inspire action.

The second concern is whether you can examine the data as objective information or embody it? Perhaps after several nights of observing your poor sleeping habits, you are personalizing the outcome rather than changing your habits. Instead of “I slept badly”, you identify yourself as a “poor sleeper”. Or, “my workouts haven’t been that intense lately” turns into “I’m out of shape.” Data can become less about decision-making and more about you as a person, and overall that’s tragically unfortunate. No technology should dictate who you are as a person. I can tell you, as a coach, that your identity plays into your future success, which I will discuss below.

The third thing is that the data could be wrong. Wearable devices are only as good as the technology and data behind them. For example, distance measurements can be inaccurate – a study titled Accuracy of distance recordings in eight sports watches with positioning reviewed the top brands to find a gap between the average average of 3.2-6.1%. According to Insider, the FDA recognizes a 20% disparity in the calories listed on nutrition labels. If you’re using your data to make informed decisions about your diet or fitness routine, you’re making decisions based on quicksand.

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And finally, according to Mike Powell at Forbes, 42% of people stop wearing their fitness tracker within six months. This statistic corresponds to the drop-out rate of fitness centers. This rapid drop in user numbers shows us that data is starting in an exciting and new way. However, it can quickly be forgotten or become demotivating over time. Tech companies are rapidly trying to gamify their trackers, allowing people to earn badges and participate in challenges to keep usage high. However, statistics show that a tracker is not a long-term solution for most people to stay in shape.

After reading all of this, you can assume that I hate wearable trackers and find them useless for calibrating your lifestyle to your goals. Not at all – there is quite a large population of people who, when using wearable technology correctly, can benefit from it.

People with simple and clear goals regarding their health and well-being can benefit from the general data collected on their devices. For example, if you’re looking to run 5-10km continuously, the data provided by your tracker can be invaluable in tracking your progress. Likewise, looking at your weekly trends is a great way to motivate yourself if you want to manage consistency in your gym.

People who don’t focus too much on numbers and objectively look for general trends do well with data trackers. They don’t get lost in the murky waters of exact numbers; they benefit from the awareness that these numbers provide. They can keep their identity and their feelings out of the equation and focus on the data. For example, they may have started using a calorie tracker and suddenly realized they were overeating at dinner every night. This awareness can lead to an action plan that rebalances their diet.

The decision is ultimately yours. If you find your motivation peaks when looking at the data for your lifestyle decisions and you can stay above the obsession with numbers, use wearable technology or apps to improve your health journey. and well-being. However, if you notice that you’re starting to slip down the downhill slope of becoming obsessed with numbers and affecting how you view yourself, it’s probably best not to waste your money on a tracker.

Jen Thomas is a weight loss coach based in Chennai

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