Can This Gadget Make You Healthy? 

WELLNESS--A few years back, fitness trackers like Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple watch among others swept the United States and the modern world as a must have device if one wanted to stay fit. Data shows that in 2016 alone there were over 125 million wearable devices sold worldwide. There is no question that these gadgets are helping companies get rich, but are they helping people get fit?  The jury is still out on this one.  

There have been studies indicating that close to one third of the people that buy these gadgets stop using them within 6 months, and half of the gadget buyers stop completely a year after making the purchase. In another study done by the JAMA they concluded that these fitness devices may not offer an advantage over a traditional approach to health and weight loss. 

A study done by The Lancet found that cash incentives combined with the fitness tracker worked best to get people to step up their exercise routines, but once those cash incentives disappeared and all that was left was the fitness tracker, most people went back to their old ways. 

This doesn’t mean people with fitness trackers are less healthy than their technology dense counterparts. All it means is that that the gadget alone isn’t enough to get and keep people healthy and well. With any big goal, we need a solid plan with a number of moveable parts. When I have a patient that wants to quit smoking for example, I tell them that Acupuncture needs to be one part of a larger plan. The same holds true for fitness and health.  

For example, if you are thinking of gifting a fitness tracker to a loved one to help them get fit, consider buying yourself one too and making a fitness plan you can both adhere to together. The science behind a workout buddy increasing your level of health and wellness is much stronger than that of a gadget on your wrist. For those people that can afford a trainer, get one because they make a difference. For the rest of us, finding a friend to walk with every day or a gym buddy will make a big difference in our lives and there is no cost at all. Technology has us hoodwinked that we need it more than we need each other. The studies and the science prove the opposite. Stick together and work out with friends or family to stay motivated and don’t get hoodwinked into thinking a fitness tracker alone will change your life. The evidence simply isn’t there.    

With all of that said, fitness trackers can be great ways to track sleep, heart rate, how many steps you take a day among other things. Using them as a device to track our basic habits can be helpful but counting on them to get you in shape is by no means a sure thing.  The other key component to health and wellness is what we eat and how many calories we consume. These devices can’t know what we put in our mouths.  

If you have a fitness tracker and find it helpful and can honestly say that since you have used it it’s changed your health for the better that’s great!  If not, try to find a buddy or sign up for some workout classes at your local gym, yoga, or Pilates studio. One is much more likely to work out if one has a friend or loved one that is counting on them to show up. The same applies for a personal trainer. When we put our money where our mouth is, we show up and work hard. After all, we paid for it!


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR )