The science behind fitness trackers: long-term and short-term benefits

Getting our steps in during the day is an easy and great way to make sure our health is in check. You may be right in the middle of something important, and then hear that beep signaling it’s time to get up and get moving for a few minutes. A lot of us need that friendly reminder during the day, and that’s why these devices have become so important. However, what are the benefits of using fitness trackers? We’re here to find out officially.

Fitness trackers have taken the world by storm and have been released from nearly all of our favorite brands. As dual-purpose watches, their main goal is to be a lightweight and accessible way to track your fitness by telling you how much you have walked and how many calories you’ve burned that day. Not only is it a stylish accessory you can wear on any occasion, but they’ve also been proven to have a genuine impact on people’s health when worn consistently and taken seriously. We’ve broken down both the short-term and long-term benefits of these special devices so you can get all the facts. 

Short-Term Benefits:

We’ve all heard it before, but it’s actually been proven numerous times that exercising (even if it’s just a walk down the block) everyday genuinely does reap benefits for our overall quality of life. By paying attention to our fitness trackers and making sure we’re active at least for a few minutes a day, this can help ease anxiety, help with sleep cycles, and reduce depression. According to a 2019 study from BMC Psychology, which examined whether fitness trackers caused people to experience more positive or negative thoughts, those wearing the devices reported feeling more motivated and empowered which contributed to an increase in positive thoughts (1). So essentially, a few steps a day may keep your blues at bay! 

Another benefit of personalized fitness trackers is that while they’re tracking your progress, this can create goals for you to achieve each day no matter how big or small. For example, say that you walk a mile a day. By looking at your fitness tracker and seeing what you’ve done this can motivate people to set up personal goals to achieve each day. A 2020 study from JMIR MHealth and UHealth found that people wearing portable fitness trackers steadily kept increasing their goals over time, which actually ended up helping them form long-term habits pertaining to their health (2). Whether it’s pushing that one mile to two, or burning more calories during a spin class, easy and accessible goals can be a great way to make a difference each day without wearing yourself out too much. 

Long-Term Benefits

In many cases, what start off as short-term benefits can actually end up evolving themselves into long-term achievements to be proud of. As the JMIR study stated, wearing fitness trackers helped motivate people to be active each day and start setting goals for themselves to constantly beat. Turns out, this ended up benefiting them in the long run both in terms of health and overall action planning. According to their results, those who were able to achieve these short-term goals ended up developing beneficial long lasting habits. It turns out these habits also reaped other benefits such as creative problem solving and developing a more positive mindset while tackling possible obstacles (2). So, not only did the fitness trackers motivate people to take up a healthy and active lifestyle, but it also helped them in ways that could positively influence their personal and professional lives.

Perhaps the most obvious long-term benefit of wearing a fitness tracker is that it can change people’s perspective on what being active really entails. For far too long the concept of “being active” has been synonymous with hitting the gym or going to a high intensity workout. With a fitness tracker, it can show all of us that being active can simply be a walk around your neighborhood and still have long-term benefits to our health. A 2020 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that wearing a fitness tracker, or using a health app, did actually cause individuals to increase their daily physical activity (3). This ranged from people increasing their number of steps or walking longer than they used to. By changing the perspective of what exercising is, this increased activity can have a great impact on our overall health. 

Whether you’re rocking a fitness tracker to get those steps in, or simply because they go with your outfit of the day, these small devices really do deliver. Always remember, sometimes just one small step is all it takes to make a huge difference.

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