Will wearing a fitness tracker improve my health?

Wearing a fitness tracker on wrist

I'm thinking about getting a fitness tracker to measure my activity - could it help improve my health?

Professor Russ Jago says:

Devices that measure physical activity, such as pedometers, smartphone apps and Fitbits are a great way to track how much physical activity you do. They can help you get more active, as they enable you to monitor the activity you do and how it changes over time.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money – a cheap pedometer is great for measuring walking and running, if that’s all you want to track. If you want to monitor your progress over time, look at something that can be linked to other tracking tools, such as a free smartphone app or a mid-price fitness tracker.

If a medical professional has advised you to keep track of your heart rate, talk to your doctor to make sure you choose a suitable device

Fitbit is the best-known brand of fitness tracker but there are many others. If you want to know how active you are, a device that just measures physical activity is sufficient. Some offer reminders to move if you’ve been inactive for an hour, waterproof casing so you can wear it for swimming, or a heart rate monitor. Shop around for one that meets your needs.

If a medical professional has advised you to keep track of your heart rate, talk to your doctor to make sure you choose a suitable device. Always follow your doctor’s advice about starting new exercise.

If you do get a fitness tracker, start by wearing it for a week or so to see how active you are, before you make lifestyle changes. Think about ways to add activity to your day – focus on small changes that are easier to make, which you can build on. This could be walking to work, an evening stroll, cycling or more formal activities such as team sports, exercise classes or swimming (if your device is waterproof). Use the device to see how your activity pattern increases over time and what works for you.

The key thing to remember is that some days you will not do as much activity as you intended – everyone has days like this. When this happens, just reset your goal and have another go the next day. 

Russ JagoMeet the expert

Russ Jago is Professor of Paediatric Physical Activity & Public Health at the University of Bristol.

 

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