As the new year approaches, many people are setting resolutions to be more physically active in the year ahead. If you are one of these individuals, you might be considering investing in an activity tracker to help you along the way. But what exactly are the benefits of activity trackers? And do you really need a fancy one with lots of features? Let’s delve into this topic and explore the possibilities.
One of the strongest predictors of being active is monitoring your activity levels. Many individuals have a vague idea of how active they are, but this often turns out to be inaccurate. When people actively start tracking their activity, they often realize that they are less active than they initially thought. This realization can be a powerful motivator to become more active. While it is possible to self-monitor without an activity tracker by simply writing down what you do, this method is difficult to sustain in the long run and often less accurate compared to devices that track your every move 24/7.
The Accuracy of Tracking
By utilizing an activity tracker that measures steps or “activity minutes,” you can effectively determine whether you are meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Additionally, an activity tracker allows you to track your progress towards personal activity goals and view your progress over time. All of these benefits would be challenging to achieve without the assistance of an activity tracker. Research has shown that most popular brands of activity trackers are generally reliable when it comes to tracking basic measures such as steps and activity minutes.
Additional Monitoring Features
Many activity trackers on the market today offer a range of other measures that are promoted as important for monitoring health and fitness. Let’s take a closer look at some of these features and determine their validity.
Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate is the number of heartbeats per minute when you are at rest. A lower resting heart rate is typically a sign of better cardiovascular fitness. While activity trackers are generally accurate in tracking resting heart rate, it is also easy to measure it manually by monitoring your pulse and using a stopwatch.
Heart Rate During Exercise
Activity trackers can measure your heart rate during exercise, which is crucial for professional athletes who have specific training goals. However, if your primary aim is to be more active and promote overall health, you can exercise at a level that feels good to you without worrying about your heart rate during activity. Being active is what matters most. It’s important to note that a dedicated heart rate monitor with a chest strap will provide more accurate heart rate measurements compared to an activity tracker worn on the wrist.
Maximal Heart Rate
Your maximal heart rate is the highest rate at which your heart can beat when you are active, but it is not something you can sustain for long periods. Most activity trackers do not accurately measure maximal heart rate, making this feature less relevant for everyday users.
VO₂max is a measure of your body’s ability to process oxygen during exercise. The higher your VO₂max, the fitter you are and the lower your risk of mortality. While activity trackers estimate VO₂max based on running speed and heart rate, these estimates are not highly accurate as they are based on assumptions. However, if your activity tracker shows a gradual increase in VO₂max over time, it is likely that you are becoming fitter.
When it comes to activity trackers, the most important measurement for everyday users is the number of steps taken per day or the amount of activity minutes achieved. Even a basic activity tracker can provide relatively accurate measurements for these factors. Unless you have specific training goals or are highly dedicated to exercise, there is no real need to pay extra for an activity tracker with additional features. Focus on staying active and enjoying the process rather than getting caught up in the intricacies of fitness tracking.
If you are looking to increase your physical activity in the coming year, an activity tracker can be a valuable tool. By monitoring your activity levels, you can gain a better understanding of your progress and motivate yourself to be more active. While fancy activity trackers with additional features might seem appealing, the truth is that basic trackers can provide you with the key measurements you need. So, set your goals, track your progress, and enjoy the journey towards a more active and healthier lifestyle.