- According to new research in the American Journal of Medicine, fitness trackers don’t necessarily improve your health.
- However, the researchers did find that fitness trackers do help boost your motivation to to work out.
Chances are, you probably use some sort of fitness tracker to log your runs, other workouts, and steps throughout your day. The more you use your fitness tracker, the better your overall health is, right? Well, sort of.
According to new research published in the American Journal of Medicine, using your fitness tracker religiously doesn’t necessarily lead to health benefits like lower blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
Researchers from the University of Florida crunched the data from six previous studies and found little evidence that wearing a fitness tracker directly correlated to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, or significant weight loss.
According to Ara Jo, Ph.D., M.S., study coauthor and clinical assistant professor at the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions, “fitness trackers may motivate people to move for [a little while], but it may not be enough to make people exercise [an amount] that is significantly associated with health outcomes.”
However, some functions of fitness trackers—say, like hourly reminders to get your steps in or competitions between friends—may prompt people to move and then reward them for their activity, so this acts as an incentive to exercise, Jo said.
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If this seems like a catch-22, that’s because it kind of is. If fitness trackers are motivating you to move more, wouldn’t that lead to some eventual health benefits? According to Jo, it all depends on how seriously you’re taking that movement
“If fitness trackers help people not only to [just] move, but also to exercise for about 15 to 20 minutes or more, it may benefit health outcomes,” she said. But if you’re only getting a few steps in, you’re probably not getting the recommended amount of physical activity needed to prevent health problems down the line.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes per week of high-intensity aerobic exercise—or a combination of both. Additionally, adults should get moderate- to high-intensity strength training at least two days per week.
If you use your fitness tracker to help motivate you to meet the above criteria, then there’s a good chance you’ll reap the health benefits that come with regular exercise.
Associate Health & Fitness Editor Danielle specializes in interpreting and reporting the latest health research and also writes and edits in-depth service pieces about fitness, training, and nutrition.