From the Centre: Technology tracks more than simply fitness

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I was curious about these fitness trackers you see more and more people wearing these days so I thought I’d poke around and see what they are about, at least from an outsider’s point of view. In case you are unfamiliar with this new electronic gadget, they are typically worn on the wrist similar to a watch (although you can also get clip-ons) and can monitor all kinds of health related information — useful or otherwise. Prices range from around $50 to $500 and higher and it wasn’t until I started looking that I found out some of the things these puppies can do — especially the further away you drift from the $50 model.

Starting simply, many track steps (remember Community Strides?) and will also monitor your heart rate. Some interact and feed info to your smartphone where you can get more complex monitoring and data manipulation options. The more intricate ones will monitor your sleep patterns and apparently track when you are in light or deep sleep based on motion or through monitoring skin temperature and heart rate can let you know when you are in a REM cycle.

Some can monitor swimming activities, others you can input calorie intake and coffee consumption, and still others can monitor bicycling activity and even pair with accessories like a cadence sensor to determine actual effort going into your pedalling, as well as tell you where you are via built-in GPS. Many pair with apps for your computer or smartphone and let you enter all kinds of data like blood pressure, calories consumed, allergy severity and stress level. Others will also provide a comprehensive account where you can document your weight, glucose readings and all other kinds of health information.

So, do these techno wonders work? Pretty sure they do, but whether you need one is a different question. What is your objective in gathering all this info? Do you have a fitness regime you are following, in which case you have a measurable way of seeing progress, perhaps sooner than your bathroom scale tells you something you don’t want to hear? Like anything with technology, however, it’s garbage in, garbage out — if you don’t enter in all the info accurately, you can’t expect the device to calculate and provide useful information, much like talking to your doctor and omitting pertinent details.

One piece of useful advice I came across is, “Don’t trust the device more than you trust yourself.” In other words, if your body is saying it’s done but your fitness tracker is saying do another 20 minutes, I would opt to listen your body; I don’t believe there is an app yet to tell you how you feel.

Neil Ostafichuk is the recreation supervisor at the Creston and District Community Complex.