Fitness Trackers: Equipped to Stay Fit

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August 28, 2014

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This post is available in: Spanish

You have probably seen them on somebody’s wrist at the gym or in sporting goods stores. They look like sleek watches, wristbands or pendants.

With the idea that knowledge is empowering, these “fitness trackers” monitor physical activity – from steps taken and stairs climbed to calories burned.

Some even track heart rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns and are waterproof. Most come with applications that link to smartphones so the wearer constantly sees goals and progress.

“From a general standpoint, anytime you can quantify something such as exercise, it is a good thing,” said Manuel Torres, M.D., Baptist Health Medical Group primary care physician. “Because the fitness tracker follows a patient’s activity over time, it can provide positive reinforcement as well as motivation.”

The trackers, which range in cost from about $100 to more than $200, use eye-catching charts and graphs to show the data. They offer encouragement with features such as smiley faces.

Some even gently nudge the wearer with a vibration or alarm when they have been inactive too long. Users can share data in an online community and chat with others who have the same fitness habits.

“Fitness trackers do get people thinking about eating healthy and fitness. For those who are interested in the details of their habits and like the technology, they are a convenient way to see the information,” said Alan Seifer, M.D., Baptist Health Medical Group primary care physician.

But he adds, the trackers are not a “must have” to maintain health and wellness. “It really is a simple formula. Follow your mother’s advice: eat healthy and exercise regularly.”

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