We live in an era of big data. Depending who you ask, it is a blessing (personalized recommendations are cool!) or a curse (Google knows WHAT about me?!). Naturally, this has spilled into health and fitness, and there are gadgets out there that can track our steps, sleep, heart rate, diet, etc. Many also come with an app that can sync with your computer and/or phone. Cool! Considering the holidays just passed, maybe you got one of these nifty device for Christmas. Or you’re thinking about getting one to hit your fitness New Year’s Resolutions. What should you expect from it?
My short answer: Keep your expectations low.
OK, full disclosure time: I own a FitBit. The Force*, to be exact. Got it as a birthday gift in 2013 and I absolutely love it. It has played a big role in helping me reach some of my fitness goals and I never leave home without it. I enjoy talking about it, answering questions about it and showing it off. In an ideal world, I would be a spokesperson for them like Jared for Subway sandwiches and I could make commercials with athletes and celebrities. That would be awesome.
So how can I be so enthused about my “wearable tech”, to use industry jargon, yet be hesitant to recommend it to everyone?
Easy. While my experience is with the FitBit, what I say applies to wearable tech broadly—Jawbone, Nike Fuel Band, Garmin, whatever cool thing Apple is developing. It’s a tool. Not every tool is appropriate for everyone, and if you go in with improper expectations, you’re going to be disappointed.
Now, this isn’t a revolutionary statement. I think most people know they aren’t going to get in great shape just by strapping on a wristband. But I do think wearable tech can give the illusion that reaching fitness goals can be easier than they really are. And the trouble is, once the novelty is gone, the interest may go too—as well as the benefits.
While I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying to improve his or her fitness—I write this blog because I want to help—most people’s solutions aren’t going to be solved by a piece of wearable tech. And, while I am discouraged from using analogies in my professional writing, I am going to use one here because analogies help me conceptualize general ideas, despite their limitations. And this is a blog. And I got disclosures to protect me too. So here it goes.
A piece of wearable tech is a complementary player on a championship team. In basketball, it would be the backup energy player who might throw down a couple of monster dunks or swat a shot into the sidelines to get the crowd going (even though the play itself is stupid—keep the ball in play and get a transition bucket!). But as exciting and cool as wearable tech is, you’re not going to reach your goals because you own it. It complements what you do and perhaps pushes your game up another notch—but you’re going to win a championship because you have a strong foundation already in place
And what comprises that foundation? In my humble opinion, you will reach your goals because you’re disciplined, you replace bad habits with good ones, and you think of your health in the long-term. It’s not the quick and sexy solution, but it’s the proven way to get results. Just like basketball is a 82 game season—you don’t win championships in January—you’re not going to accomplish all your fitness goals because your wearable tech vibrates or you beat your friends in some challenge. Those are fun and they could push you toward being more active than not—taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a good thing—but one day won’t make (or break) you. And though that sounds discouraging, I think it’s actually more reassuring—what’s the rush in being in good shape if you’re in it for the long haul any way? You’ll get there when you get there, and you’ll stay there because you built a strong foundation that won’t crumble easily.
In a future post, I will detail why I love my FitBit and why it worked for me—so stay tuned! Until then, keep pushing the pile my friends!
*The Force was taken off the market because some people reported having an allergic skin reaction to it. I never reacted poorly to it, and since I was getting great results, I didn’t want to stop using it. And I haven’t.