Here’s two recent pieces on the pros and cons of wearable fitness devices.
I tend to agree with Krugman’s pro views in the NYTimes. In a nutshell, Krugman’s view is that having a tracker like a FitBit makes it harder to lie to yourself about your fitness. A FitBit will let you know and help you track when you are active or sedentary, just like a scale will tell you when you are eating too much or too little.
The Mother Jones article has good points, too. FitBits have limits. They aren’t for all kinds or exercise, they may not be precise, and some apps on a smartphone can do just as good a job. That said, their title is a joke and their article is misleading. For example, trackers start at much lower than $100. As well, for people walking or running, carrying a smartphone is not always a good option. FitBits are more accurate than the article let’s on, and the readings that they provide is a reasonably close measure of your activity. The limits to wearable fitness devices are real, but Mother Jones overstate their case.
Do you or I need any of these devices? No. Based on my fitbit, I can walk a mile in about 2000 steps. If I were to sit down with a free service like Google maps, I could easily plot out a 5 mile walking route that, if I walked daily, would mean I would hit at least 10,000 steps a day. (10,000 steps is my daily goal). Or I could just go for an hour walk and not worry about a route at all. (It takes me around that time to walk 5 miles if I walk it at a good pace.) Either way, a map or a watch can easily replace a wearable device. If you can’t afford or don’t want a wearable device, just use a map, a watch, and a log book, and you will get similar benefits.
Why I like my FitBit is that it does the work for me. I can walk anywhere I want, for as long as I want, and it will keep track of all that for me. Plus it keeps a ongoing record I can look up when I want. Finally, like Krugman noted, it prevents me from lying to myself about how active I am.
A wearable device is an aid, and like any aid, it helps you achieve your desired outcome. If you don’t need such an aid, don’t use it. As for me, the fitbit helps me meet my fitness goals and I am glad I have it.