Fitness Trackers are no more a need for just fitness freaks. They have become a common fitness accessory for many. But are fitness trackers effective? Let's have a look!
In the concrete jungle, the physical activity levels are shrinking. It is essential that we make use of technology to track our daily activity. Have you seen people wearing a band on their wrist and are curious to know what that is? It is a fitness tracker, also known as an activity tracker. It has gained a lot of popularity in the west and is slowly making its presence felt in India as well. In this post, we share with you all that you wanted to know about fitness trackers, their effectiveness, and facts & benefits of fitness trackers.
What Is A Fitness Tracker?
A fitness tracker or an activity tracker can be a wearable device or a computer app that tracks the daily physical activity level of a person. It is usually used to monitors fitness-related parameters like
- Number of calories burnt
- Heart rate monitoring
- Quality of sleep etc.
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There are numerous fitness bands in the market today. Two of the most famous fitness trackers are –
- Fitbit Charge 2
- Jawbone UP3
How Does A Fitness Tracker Work?
In simple terms, it can be put that fitness trackers work by measuring motion. Most of the wearable activity trackers come with a 3-axis accelerometer to track movement in every direction. Some of them also have a gyroscope too to measure orientation and rotation. You can also find an altimeter feature in some of the wearable fitness trackers. This helps in tracking your level of activity when working out on a height or if you’ve climbed a fleet of stairs.
The data that is collected is then converted into steps and activity. The next step involves converting this data into calories burnt and quality of sleep. The sensors measure acceleration, duration, frequency, and intensity patterns of your movement.
Some of the characteristic features of the most popular fitness trackers are mentioned below.
- Jawbone UP3
This is one of the most sensor packed trackers. It has a temperature sensor and a bioimpedance sensor along with the regular motion sensors. Bioimpedance sensors are used to check your skin’s resistance to a tiny amount of electric current.
- Fitbit Charge 2
Fitbit Charge 2 uses an optical sensor to shine a light onto the skin and measures the pulse through it. The light illuminates the capillaries, then a sensor measures the rate at which blood is being pumped. The same holds true for sleep tracking using a process called actigraphy. Your tracker translates the wrist movements into sleep patterns.
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The secret of these activity tracking devices lies in the sensors. There are various sensors that make these devices so technologically advanced. Discussed below in detail are the main sensors.
An accelerometer is one of the most common sensors used in most fitness trackers. It is best used to count steps. It measures the orientation and acceleration force, then determines whether the device is vertical or horizontal, moving or still. There are various kinds of accelerometers, thus, each of them varies in sensitivity and axis. You can have digital or analog accelerometers.
The basic ones have two axis, while the three axis sensors can measure their position in 3D.
Global positioning system or GPS is an old technology. But its use in fitness bands is the latest thing. The chips have become more efficient and have started being extensively used in fitness trackers. The system comprises a network of 20 total satellites orbiting the earth. At any position, the person needs to be in the range of four satellites to mark the exact location.
The GPS receiver receives a low-power, high-frequency radio signal from these satellites. The time it takes for the signal to reach your wrist is translated from the distance from the satellite, which is then translated into precise coordinates.
The good thing is that unlike those simple step counters, GPS allows runners and cyclists to map their exercise. They can even get a quick analysis of the exercising terrain.
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3. Optical Heart-Rate Monitors
Optical heart rate monitors track your heart rate using light. A LED shines through the skin and an optical sensor examines the light that bounces back. Since blood absorbs more light, fluctuations in light level are translated to heart rate. This process is called photoplethysmography. As per the latest technology, using an optical heart rate monitor on the wrist isn’t as effective as the one worn on the chest or the fingertip. There are various aspects of photoplethysmography which vary from brand to brand.
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4. Galvanic Skin Response Sensor
Galvanic skin response sensors measure the electrical connectivity of the skin. When any internal or external force causes arousal, skin becomes a better conductor of electricity. Thus, when you start to sweat after working out or due to any other activity, the fitness tracker would be able to detect it.
The tracker can give vital information based on detecting when the person is sweating. Correlating the level of activity with a different source that just gravity from the accelerometer, allows these programs to function as real-time trainers.
Having even a basic thermometer function is of great importance. Increasing skin temperature may indicate that you are exerting yourself, or if the heart rate isn’t in proportion, it may indicate that you are getting sick.
6. Ambient Light Sensor
Ambient light sensors have become a popular part of our lives. They are used in various devices. When your phone increases the brightness in daylight and dims the light during the night, it is thanks to ambient light sensors.
These sensors are effectively used in activity trackers as well to detect the time of the day. So how does it work? The light spectrum is narrowed to ensure that only forms of light visible to the human eye are detected. This light is then translated into a digital signal and fed in the processor.
7. UV Sensor
UV sensors are primarily used to tell that you are absorbing harmful UV rays of the sun. The data is compared to values recognized by scientists as hazardous and the tracker indicates that you need to get out of the sun if your skin is about to burn.
8. Bioimpedance Sensor
As mentioned above, Jawbone UP3 band uses this sensor. It uses a single bioimpedance sensor to measure three bases – heart rate, galvanic skin response, and respiration rate. According to experts, this technology measures even tiny impedance changes in your body. The same sensor worn around the wrist would give you hydration and respiration levels as well. This is done by looking at the metrics like oxygen in the blood.
Apart from wearable activity trackers, you can also use an app to keep a track of your daily activity. One of the most popular tracking platforms is MotionX, which you can find in Nike’s running app.
Benefits Of Fitness Trackers
Now that you know the basics of an activity tracker and how it works, let’s find out the benefits of fitness trackers.
1. Push Of Motivation
Most fitness trackers are associated with a website application that tracks your activity level, calories burned, hours of sleep, and heart rate. This feedback can be taken positively and you can use it as a motivation to exercise for a healthy mind and body.
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2. Heart-rate Monitoring
Whether you’re doing a mild workout or strength training, it is important to keep a tab on your heart rate. A fitness tracker is the best way to track your heart rate. You can easily find out how high the heart rate goes during vigorous workout sessions. It also indicates the drop in heart rate after the exercise.
Note – Did you know that how fast the heart rate drops in the first minute after vigorous exercise is a good indicator of heart health?
3. The Fitness Vision
A lot of people who wear fitness bands or activity trackers say that it is indeed a great platform for envisioning fitness in the long run. You’ll be able to see the results which will motivate you to keep going. The only person you’re competing with is you. So every day you strive to be a better version of yourself.
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4. Sleep Monitoring
If you’re someone who has problems falling asleep or have an irregular sleep pattern, then a fitness tracker can definitely help you. Getting sound sleep is essential for your overall health. Various activity trackers have the feature of monitoring your sleep pattern. You can also find out how many hours you slept and for how much time were you restless before actually going to sleep.
Once you’ve worn the band for a couple of weeks when going to sleep, it’ll be able to review your data and make appropriate recommendations about the best sleeping time.
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5. Customized Fitness Tracking
For a lot of people going to the gym is an intimidating process. But with a fitness tracker, you can workout anywhere. Whether you decide to go cycling, go for a jog, do an hour long yoga session at home or go swimming, your loyal fitness tracker will provide customized tracking.
6. Behavioral Changes
An increasing number of people have shared that wearing a fitness tracker helps them have improved activity levels. Some other positive behavioral changes that are possible with the feedback of your fitness tracker include improved sleep patterns and healthier eating.
7. Monitoring Weigh Loss
Weight loss isn’t only about workouts. It is a complete process that involves healthy diet, the right amount of exercise, and proper sleeping pattern. A lot of times people complain that they are working out, yet they cannot lose weight. With a fitness tracker, you can keep a complete record of your calories burned, heart rate, and other stats. Thus, it is easier to monitor the weight loss journey.
There are various kinds of fitness trackers available in the market. Make sure you choose the best for yourself. It is advisable to try one before buying it. You can talk to your friends who are using it. Find out about its features, price, and how will it be helpful to you and then finally you can buy it.