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Fitness trackers aren’t enough: 3 surprising reasons they fail

Nicholas Gregory, MA

As technology innovates and saturates the health and wellness market, so follows the wave of fitness trackers. From watches to rings, fitness trackers boast the ability to track every aspect of movement throughout your day with the hopes to motivate you to reach your health and wellness goals. Although well-intentioned, could these trackers be doing more harm than good? Let’s dive into three reasons fitness trackers miss the mark when it comes to being a full weight loss solution!

Fitness trackers are heavy on the data

The core of many of these trackers is data. Step data, sleep data, calorie data, ALL the data. Of course there is nothing wrong with having this data. In fact, data is integral to research and scientific studies (as a scientifically proven weight loss app, we know a thing or two about research). The problem with data from fitness trackers is that nothing is done with it. This personal data often becomes the main focus and measure of success for those tracking. Obsession over specific data can lead to stress and burnout as you work to constantly close that ring or hit that step goal. As the main focus of these trackers, this data does not help strengthen confidence or take into account the natural ebbs and flows of progress, behavior, and activity. Didn’t hit 10,000 steps today? That is OK! Tomorrow is a new day and you should not feel bad for not hitting your goal today.

Fitness trackers: Where’s the behavior change?

At Noom we have proven that behavioral change is not about fancy gadgets — it’s about education, self-awareness, practice, and hard work to overcome psychological barriers and develop healthy habits. It requires individuals be active participants in their journey, and not just letting a widget do the work. Many wearable trackers miss out on the behavioral change component of weight loss, which is only intensified when individuals turn to fitness trackers as their first step in trying to lose weight or live a healthier life. Forcing a specific goal for steps, sleep, or calories burned without taking into account readiness to change, sustainability, and how it relates to long-term goals, sets you up for frustration and stress! The WHY behind the goal is just as important if not more important than the HOW!

Do fitness trackers have a lasting impact?

Now don’t get us wrong. We believe logging steps, calories, and water intake are all a beneficial part of a health and wellness journey. Logging these specifics can give you powerful awareness and help you develop mindfulness around your behaviors. Fitness trackers may provide more awareness around a specific measure or data point, but without context of how this fits into the bigger picture, this awareness can be short lived. A comprehensive approach, focused on creating sustainable habits around nutrition and physical activity is the only way to maintain long-term weight loss. Do fitness trackers fit into this approach? Absolutely, but oftentimes trackers are presented as the complete system for weight loss, which research has shown is not enough.

Fitness trackers should not be the main focus of your weight loss and behavior change. While a useful tool, they only play a small part in the overall education, practice, and perseverance that this journey requires.