Tracking the Fitness Trackers


Dana Lark

Are daily tracking methods paired with tech indicative of a healthy lifestyle?

Probably not.

Technology, a defining characteristic of the millennial generation, continues to be a larger part of our school, work and home life. The lighter, the smaller, the thinner,  the better it seems.

The Apple Watch, Fitbit, and Samsung Smartwatch are snaking around the wrists of people at a growing rate. According to the 2016 Kantar Worldpanel survey, nearly 16 percent of the US consumer population owns a wearable device.

Wearable technology has taken our love for life-hacking gadgets a step further. If you can name it, a smartwatch can probably track it. Among the countless capabilities, users typically track steps, active calories burned, total calories burned, calories consumed and heart rate.

By simply strapping on a smartwatch in the morning, your resting heart rate can be calculated and averaged out for the entire day without your conscious presence in the action. This less intentional configuration of smartwatches has married our persistence in pursuing a healthy lifestyle, regardless of how successful the efforts might be.

Georgia Southern’s Wearable Push

Georgia Southern University’s online fitness walking course is one of many that students can take to meet the KINS credit hour requirement.

Students in this course are required to have a wearable fitness tracker- either a fitness band or a smartwatch. The tracking capabilities through a smartphone alone are prohibited in the course; the device must be worn on the wrist. However, strapping a tracker to your wrist does not guarantee success in the course.

“You have to be ready to make a change in order to make it,” said Julie Kuykendall, instructor in the School of Health and Kinesiology at GS. “The people who tend to do better with it are people who were active to begin with.”

“Where a person fits in on the behavior change model is more indicative of their success with personal health goals,” Kuykendall said.

The behavior change model takes several different forms, but they commonly begin with a precontemplation stage, and includes stages of contemplation, determination, action, relapse and maintenance.

Brittany Keith, senior interdisciplinary studies major, has owned a Fitbit Blaze for two years.

“I typically use my Fitbit to count calories burned,” Keith said. “I enjoy the watch because it helps me keep up with my calories during an intense workout and to see my heart rate.”

While Keith has used the Fitbit app to input food data, she admits to lacking consistency in tracking the information.

Wearable Rundown

A fitness tracker can be a valuable tool in the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle, but reason must be the starting point.

“I don’t know that it results in behavior change unless you are motivated to make that change,” Kuykendall said.

Quantifying your own biological data sounds wonderful. After all, we millenials are obsessed with ourselves. But if the intention is missing, it is really just noise. Intention, and specifically where you might fall on the behavior change model, are more indicative of maintaining a healthy lifestyle than burying yourself in mounds of data.