Blog Post

The Backlash Against Fitness Trackers

With the holidays upon us, you might be considering purchasing a fitness tracker. Whether it is intended for yourself or for a loved one, you might have mixed feelings due to recent backlash against fitness trackers.

Read ahead as I dissect the why behind the backlash and why I choose to wear a Fitbit (not sponsored). 

Wearable activity trackers were once hailed as the ultimate fitness tool. They were touted as being beneficial to overall health, with an emphasis on on fitness. Consumers were encouraged to buy one in order to be able to reach the ultimate goal of 10,000 steps a day.

Of course, like anything else in the health and fitness industry, there was a lot of fear-mongering intertwined with the various conversations surrounding fitness trackers. Things like “X% of people with less than X minutes of physical activity are X times more likely to suffer a heart attack.”

Besides just scaring people into thinking that getting 10,000 steps was the key to preventing disease, there was also the component of weight included in the dialogue. I personally remember seeing numerous articles with the words fitness tracker and weight loss together, essentially stating that using the former leads to the latter.

Therefore, it is absolutely not surprising that in today’s changing attitudes towards body weight and health, there would be immense backlash against fitness trackers. Just like a few years ago I would see countless articles and think-pieces about the benefits of fitness trackers, these days all I see is how bad they actually are for you. Granted, I have surrounded myself with Health at Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating accounts in my social media bubble. I try not to follow explicitly weight-loss driven accounts. But it is certainly my experience that people are trying to dispel the belief that fitness trackers could have any positive effect on a life.

person operating smartwatch

The primary argument among the current conversations is that there is no absolute way for your fitness tracker to gauge how a workout made you feel. Joyful movement is a term associated with the intuitive eating and HAES movements. It is the encouragement of participating in movement that feels good to you and brings you joy. It is the polar opposite of the workout to lose weight school of thinking. With joyful movement, you respect your body and don’t punish it with exercise. You find a way to move your body, whether others see it as exercise or not, that you enjoy. It is not difficult to understand why proponents of joyful movement recommend against the use of fitness trackers. I see phrases such as “your fitness tracker doesn’t track joy and happiness in movement” and “the number of steps does not determine your worth.”

While I 100% agree that fitness trackers have zero to do with the enjoyment of exercise and that numbers never determine anyone’s worth, I am not against the use of fitness trackers. I love my Fitbit. It helps me track my activity in a manner that is not attached to any morality or personal worth. When I’m walking my dog, it is the primary indicator of whether or not she needs more walking time. If she doesn’t get enough exercise, she gets anxious. My Fitbit has helped me figure out a number of steps that suits my dog’s movement needs. Additionally, my tracker tells me when I’ve been sitting too long and I have the opportunity to get up and move around a few minutes.

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If I don’t feel like getting up, do I feel like the Fitbit is pressuring me into activity when it tells me to get in some steps at the end of an inactive hour? Does it feel forceful and negative? Personally, I have to answer no. I don’t feel like I am being forced into movement. If I am in the middle of something for school or just in the middle of resting, I ignore my tracker. That’s it! I just ignore it when my body does not want movement.

I think the key here is deciding whether you are at a place in your health journey at which you will be safe wearing a fitness tracker. I have not suffered from an eating disorder or obsessive exercising. I feel no judgement from my tracker and I associate no negative emotions with it. I feel it brings positive encouragement to my daily activities.

In conclusion, choosing to wear a fitness tracker is an individual choice. The choice will be unique to your life and health experiences. Always keep in mind that social media does not get to dictate to you whether something is in or out of *health* fashion. If you were once wearing a fitness tracker and stopped just because a lot of influencers said they’re no longer good for you, I encourage you to rethink how you felt when you did wear one and if it is actually safe for you to wear one again. If the warnings of fitness trackers rang true with you, then of course continue to not wear one. There is no one size fits all in health and nutrition. Choose what works best for you.

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