The market for fitness trackers and “wearables” is poised to explode. There are so many novel uses for these devices that have the potential to drastically improve user wellness and help clinicians across the country better understand how their patients are doing on a continuous basis. One of the things with fitness trackers is that the user needs to be educated on how to appropriately use the device and further, be trained on best practices to increase their odds of accomplishing their own health goals. Several medical groups and organizations are working on studies which may help practitioners understand what points to stress with their patients for optimal outcomes with wearables.
The American Council of Exercise (ACE) recently released their findings which included an analysis on the accuracy of trackers. Amongst their results are the fact that the ‘steps’ functions of these trackers are still the most accurate- with calories burned and distance not always very accurate. Patients should be encouraged to set their goals based on the number of steps they want to hit for a particular exercise or day. Most devices start off with default goals of 10,000 steps per day, but an individual should be encouraged to look at what their baseline is in the first couple weeks of having a tracker and then set their own realistic goals of improvement based off of those figures. Slower incremental improvements tend to be most effective and lasting over the long run than a huge jump.
The next tip is to make sure users are wearing it on the wrist that is calibrated with the software. The non-dominant wrist is often recommended given there is less non-exercise related movement associated with it. To better improve the distance figures, the stride should also be calibrated. Fitbit and other makers allow for stride adjustment based on just height and gender, but also recommend that for more accurate results you go to a track and actually measure the distance and steps you walk in order to determine a more accurate stride length which can then be input into the device dashboard.
Beyond these tips it may also be helpful to use the tag features to tag different activities so that you can see which exercises produce the best surrogate outcomes (e.g. steps or distance) for you. This may help inform your workout regimen. Overall, these new devices have tremendous potential, but there is a lot of tinkering that can make them even better from the user’s standpoint.
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