Do Fitness Trackers Really Work? The Badger Herald

For young and old alike, fitness plays a major role in everyday life. As we continue to develop a better understanding of the human body, a multitude of products have been developed to make it even easier to stay on top of our health.

Fitness trackers have become an extremely popular tool that many people use to assess their health. According to, the portable fitness tracker industry grossed over $ 10 billion in 2020 alone. While the devices used to measure workout have been around for decades, it was not until the early 2000s that they have become widely available in commerce for everyday use.

Brands like Fitbit and Garmin sell a variety of products aimed at physical health, and even companies that aren’t generally involved in the fitness industry, like Apple, have released their own versions of fitness trackers. The increasing use of these products has made fitness trackers a multibillion dollar industry.

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One of the main benefits of fitness trackers is their ability to give people a good idea of ​​their current fitness, said Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin, in an interview with The Badger Herald.

“People find it hard to change their behavior if they don’t have a good idea of ​​where they’re starting from, and fitness trackers provide direct feedback that lets people understand how many steps they’re taking or how many calories. they could burn by day, ”Cadmus-Bertram said. “These returns give a more accurate picture of where someone really is, and they’re generally lower than many think they would be.”

Knowing what condition you are in is essential, and a fitness tracker’s ability to provide such information can make the process of starting a workout routine much easier, Cadmus-Bertram said.

Considering the ability of these devices to track metrics like steps taken and calories burned, many wonder how accurate these measurements are. Cadmus-Bertram said that if your goal is to measure precise metrics such as exact calorie expenditure, fitness trackers may not fully meet that goal.

Accurately tracking measurements as precise as calories burned is incredibly difficult, due to the many variables that can affect its result. While general estimates can still be very helpful for fitness, Cadmus-Bertram said the biggest potential problem with fitness trackers is their inability to communicate to their users the extent of uncertainty in these measurements.

“Someone can calculate their calorie deficit by keeping track of what they eat and how many calories they burn per day, which in theory should work,” Cadmus-Bertram said. “When practiced, inaccuracies in the tracker’s measurement can prevent this method from working as intended, which may require them to have to calculate their deficit manually. “

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Because of these inaccuracies, fitness trackers are used much more effectively as a general benchmark for where you are than as a tool for calculating numbers, Cadmus-Bertram said.

Beyond just tracking metrics, the biggest benefit that fitness trackers can offer is their ability to keep people engaged and focused on achieving their goals. UW sophomore Kyle Janiszewski uses a Fitbit for his runs and thinks it is a great motivator to stay committed to a training plan.

“Just being able to easily see how I’m improving each week makes a big difference in my mental attitude towards my races,” said Janiszewski. “Being able to create and follow small goals with each workout makes it easier for me to stay committed to my routine. “

This motivation extends beyond Kyle. Cadmus-Bertram said that being able to easily set and follow defined goals is proven by behavioral science to be an effective way to get people to change their current habits and stick to their new diets.

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One concern with fitness trackers is that they can potentially lead to unhealthy addictions or obsessions, but according to an article on, research has shown that such problems are unlikely to occur in those who are not already subject to addiction.

Over-reliance on fitness trackers while training is another potential problem. From an article on OhioHealth.comIt can become easy for some to want to achieve all the goals that fitness trackers set themselves without keeping in mind that their fitness level may not correspond perfectly to where the tracker predicts it. The article states that paying attention to how your body is feeling is crucial as this will always be the biggest indicator of your overall condition, and ignoring it in favor of following what your fitness tracker may be saying. detrimental to your health.

In addition, according to Cadmus-Bertram, some exercises are more beneficial than others for using a fitness tracker. Exercises like yoga and weight training don’t increase heart rate much or involve movements that are very easy to follow, making it difficult for trackers to collect massive data about your workout.

Even with these potential issues, fitness trackers can still be used as a powerful tool to stay active and record your progress. Maintaining a healthy routine is a big commitment – according to, over 50% of new gym members quit within 6 months of joining.

While it’s important to recognize that fitness trackers aren’t foolproof, the potential benefits provided by adding them to a fitness routine could inspire many people to struggle to get active to finally commit to their goals, because even the smallest motivation can make a world of difference.

Maria D. Ervin