Wear a tracker and feel better
Research suggests that simply wearing a fitness monitor improves our health. (See a summary of the research here.) The idea is that just carrying a tracker makes us more aware of our bodies and activity which ultimately makes us healthier.
Now does my experience confirm the research? In part I would have to say yes. When I get on my bike I want to know that the miles are being recorded. At the end of the ride I’ll look at the total for the day and sometimes my overall total. Suffering on the rowing machine, I want to know when five minutes are up (I know it is a pathetically short time, but I just can’t get into it) and exactly how many calories I have burnt. At the end of the month I want Google to tell me how far I’ve walked.
When I discovered Google Fit which (not terribly accurately, it must be admitted) measured how far I walked and cycled, and, more importantly, how many calories I burned, initially made me very conscious of what energy I was using. I started to walk more just to increase the number of steps. Instead of sending an email to a colleague I would go and see the person. (By the way, I can no longer get Fit to work. I have no idea why.)
The same thing happened when I was given a pedometer. To start with I looked at it several times a day. I actually tried to walk more. However, I soon fell to checking it just once a day and then once a week. Eventually my walking habits returned to near what they had been.
In a large scale roll out (nothing like a bit of business speak) everyone in the school I worked in was given a pedometer. Initial excitement and enthusiasm for walking was quickly replaced by seeing how quickly you could shake the thing to rack up steps. A month saw only the truly dedicated still counting steps.
During the first lockdown I bought a cheap smartwatch. It links to an app on my phone. I really wanted a way to monitor my heartrate when cycling. Initially, every time I stepped out the door I recorded it. Now I often forget or can’t be bothered unless I’m going for more than an hour. I wonder how long I will keep wearing it.
Whatever the research seems to say, time blunts the edge of novelty. Tracking or monitoring the exercise you take has an effect, but it’s a diminishing one. In the end, only consciously changing our lifestyle so we are more active really makes a difference. Gadgets can help us, but in the long term it’s down to attitudes not technology.