Utilizing Fitness Trackers
The digital world of fitness trackers, smart watches, and apps has grown exponentially over the past few years. What started as a simple pedometer clipped to your shorts has become wearable devices that can monitor and provide data for some of our most foundational lifestyle factors. Along with this data, some of these devices can provide us with insights on how to improve our health. While nothing is better than the gold standard of knowing and listening well to your body, these devices can support us in tracking our health goals and making sure we do right by our bodies particularly when special accommodations are needed for chronic health remediation. For example, many of our patients are trying to turn back the effects of chronic stress on the body, as they suffer from cortisol and thyroid dysfunction. They use a fitness tracker to monitor the quantity and quality of their sleep, ensure they don’t over exert themselves during a workout using the heart rate monitor function, and use their daily readiness and stress scores to decide on their activity for the day.
So which device is right for you? Well, what works for one person, may not work for another person with so many factors have to be taken into consideration like cost, size, what it can do, and what information it can provide. Some trackers may also require monthly subscriptions especially for some of the more detailed insights. This article is not designed to compare the trackers, but rather to take a look at some of the common features and how they may support you in your health journey.
Fitness Tracker Features: This is not an exhaustive list, rather these are the features we have personally used or have had patients use to share more detailed health information with us.
- Workout tracking can give insight into:
- What kind of workouts do you do (Are you getting a mix of strength, cardio, and restorative exercises?)
- How many times in a week you are active (Are you over exercising? Not getting enough?)
- How strenuous are your workouts (Are you pushing into your max heart rate in every exercise? Not getting your heart rate high enough?)
- Heart Rate can give you insight into:
- What zone you are in, particularly when working out
- Your resting heart rate (can be an indicator of fitness level and cardiovascular health)
- How much movement do you get in a typical day
- this is not precise as some movement is not registered in steps, like yoga and cycling
- If your day is pretty sedentary, you can use this to help you set a goal and track it
- Some track their sleep by the time they get in bed and the time they wake up to the alarm. However, these devices can give us more detailed information about what kind of sleep you are getting.
- Deep Sleep – needed rebuild and repair our bodies
- REM – needed for memory and mood
- Light sleep – needed for memory processing and metabolism regulation
- Skin Temperature
- Supports with menstrual cycle tracking
- Supports with daily readiness levels as higher temperatures may indicate illness or your body working hard to repair from a strenuous workout
- Blood Oxygen Level
- Indicates the oxygen carrying capacity of your red blood cells
- Daily Readiness
- Some trackers will give you a daily readiness score taking into account multiple factors
- This readiness score can help you align your workout with what your body can handle for the day
- Stress Score
- Some trackers will give you a daily stress score taking into account multiple factors
- This can help you see when prioritizing stress management is critical, as well as seeing what you’re doing for stress management is working.
- Heart Rate Variability
- Gives insight into the time between heart beats, the higher this number, the more resilient the body is set up to be when encountering stressors.