Can Fitness Trackers Be Harmful?

As a gym owner and personal trainer I have seen a huge variety of success and failure when it comes to fitness tracking applications.

3 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
Last updated
Lower Body

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  • Something positive for your health? Or a negative metric obsession?

Something positive for your health? Or a negative metric obsession?

For me there are two types of people when it comes to this subject, those which are able to see the tracker for what it is, a rough guide to how much activity you have performed in the day in order to give you a nudge in the right direction whilst you move towards your health and fitness goals.

Whereas other individuals will take it as the be all and end all, obsessing when they are unable to get their step count, or convincing themselves they are too tired to function because they got a low sleep score. The advice I give to clients on fitness wearables will be heavily based on how I think they will respond to them, as a useful tool or as an overbearing task master.

The new technology on the Garmin models is both extremely insightful, but also worrying in the sense how easy it is to get addicted to the metrics. I personal will look at my “stress score” in all manner of different situations, from airplanes to meetings, to see how my heart is responding to different situations. This real time data can be beneficial as a biofeedback mechanism when stressed, but do I really need to see how the meal with my family made my body react in real time? Probably not.

It’s a tough one, because moving more and sleeping well more will almost certainly be beneficial to health, and fitness trackers can nudge people toward these behaviours. However I worry some people are unable to go for a walk because it’s beautiful outside but will ensure that finish their step count for the day is finished.

For my clients I discuss their definition of health a deal, and we usually come to the conclusion that in their definition of health obsessing over metrics isn’t included. In the end, the goal should be to create a healthy lifestyle so that you don’t need a tracker to tell you how healthy you are, you just do the things you find enjoyable and they in-turn make you healthy. This is the gold standard, and if some people need an extra push from a tracker to move towards this then its not the end of the world.

Remember, it’s just a tool giving you data to make informed decisions around your health. Defining your definition of health based on accurate information then moving towards that based on data is the best approach.

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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

Sean Klein


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