Fitness trackers are the latest health trend. In the form of a wearable device or a cell phone app, these exercise tools are everywhere, but do they really work? A study conducted by the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) recently concluded that technological fitness trackers, from old-fashioned web pages to the latest Fitbits, are effective in helping the average person keep up their exercise routine. Though some users feel pressured or stressed by fitness technology, there are ways to adapt it for your benefit.

The JAHA study looked at a wide range of health studies completed between January 1990 and 2013. That time period includes different forms of technology, from basic web pages, digital pedometers, smart phone apps and wearable trackers. Researchers targeted technology’s effect on the personal habits of healthy adults, such as physical activity, diet, alcohol use and smoking. They compared the results with those of non-technological methods, such as printed material or counseling.

Researchers found that while technology did not largely help those struggling with smoking and alcohol use, it is excellent for those who wish to improve their diet and exercise. Study participants reported more activity, exercising for fun and less sitting. They also ate more fruits or vegetables on average and increased their intake by about 2 to 4 servings each day.

The most approachable technology for many people may be smartphone apps, which were particularly successful in the JAHA study. They made it easy for participants to self-monitor, set goals and tailor a fitness plan to individual needs. While pricey Fitbits are the latest thing, Penn Medicine reports that easily available cell phone apps are as accurate as wearable fitness trackers. Researchers tested ten of the bestselling fitness apps, counting participants steps as they walked. The number reported by the app varied little from the manual count.

If you use a fitness tracker, make it a part of your everyday life. If the app pressures you, adjust it so it is more useful for your schedule and fitness level. They key is that you control the technology, not allow it to control you. If you are not comfortable with wearable trackers, use one of the older methods, such as a web page, to watch your goals.

The way older adults use fitness trackers can help younger users feel less pressured. This age group is not in competition with others, but focused on personal goals, which is a less stressful approach to improving your health. According to a New York Times article, older adults may significantly benefit from wearable fitness trackers. This age group especially enjoys the gentle encouragement because a sedentary lifestyle or chronic illness may discourage them. They report feeling motivated to move around and do more.

While fitness trackers, in no matter what form, are largely beneficial, take the time to learn about your chosen method and adapt it to your lifestyle. If you are ill or tired from life circumstances, you shouldn’t worry that your Fitbit is nagging your about your goals. Keep going in the way that is best for you and stay healthy!

Sources:

http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/5/9/e003058.full

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/assessing-the-fitness-of-wearable-tech/?_r=0

http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2015/02/case/