How Your Activity Tracker Is Harming You


Fitbits, Activity trackers, Smart Watches, Garmins, and Jawbones are all the rage right now. It’s rare to see someone not wearing that sleek watch looking-device on their wrist that is quietly counting steps, calories burned, calories eaten, exercise completed, and hours slept. We are a nation obsessed with these little machines that supposedly tell us about what our bodies are doing and what our bodies need. However, we are not a machine. We are much more complicated and intricate and no machine can possibly account for the subtle differences that our bodies go through day-by-day. Additionally, these machines, while touted to help you improve your health, can actually hurt you. Here’s how:

1. Your body does not run on a 24 hour clock

An activity tracker works on a 24 hour time frame. So each day you start over with the amount of calories your body burns or the number of steps you need to reach. But our body does not work like this. It’s not like the clock strikes midnight and your body gains or loses weight if you ate more or less than you burned the day before. But a tracker won’t tell you this. For example, if you have a long day of more activity your body probably burned more calories than usual; but sometimes intense exercise will temporarily suppress your appetite so you won’t eat enough to ‘catch up’ that day. Ever feel starving the day AFTER a big workout? That’s your body’s natural response to trying to catch up on its caloric needs from the night before. But an activity tracker won’t tell you this…which is a big problem. You might try to only eat what your tracker tells you which will be less than what you actually need!

2. Exercise is about feeling good and stress reduction

Using an activity tracker can take the fun away from exercise and turn it into a numbers game. Using a fitness tracker makes you think so much about what you’re doing rather than just listening to your body to feel good. Exercise should be about feeling good physically and mentally, not playing a numbers game in your head.

3. They are addicting… in a bad way

People sometimes get addicted to seeing their steps and miles walked each day, calories burned each day, and supposed weight loss that should ensue every day. Yes, this can be motivating to move more, but sometimes our body needs a break from movement. However, your fitbit does not take this into account. It makes you think that you need to always meet or exceed the day’s-before-numbers, or even worse, you compete with your friends and family on your number of steps and always have to be the winner. What happens when you need a day off or you’re simply too busy to get your steps in on a certain day?

4. They make you feel like a failure

As mentioned in #3 above, these machines are addicting in a bad way, and if you can’t get all your steps in, it can very easily make you a Type A perfectionist and feel like a failure. And no one should feel like a failure for getting in 9,000 instead of 10,000 steps in a day! This is simply ludicrous. Enough said.

5. Health is not measured in steps or calories burned

Read this post to see our thoughts about health. Additionally, health is not simply based on how many steps you get in for the day. Health is multi-faceted and involves so many unknown and un-countable measures. How good do you feel about yourself? How are your relationships? Do you like your job and feel worthy about yourself? No machine can tell you the answers to these questions.

I urge you to think twice about that little harmless looking machine on your wrist and ask yourself if you think it’s really helping your physical, mental, and emotional health. And if the answer is no to any of those, get rid of it. After all, people have lived and thrived for thousands of years without any machine ever telling them to move more or eat less.