“I think fitness trackers can be a really helpful tool, if the mindset around them is supportive of that,” Spada says. She says, for example, that if someone is using a fitness tracker only to track calories and using that number to dictate how much to eat, “it can be really harmful.”
Utilize Well-Rounded Health Features
Jeff Halevy, a fitness coach and cofounder of Altis, an AI-powered fitness trainer, says adequate sleep is one of the most important factors in one’s health.
“If there’s one variable that you are going to track and use as a lever to alter your health outcomes, I would actually put sleep above everything else,” Halevy says. “Yes, nutrition is important. Yes, moving around every day is important. But I would put sleep above everything else.”
Quality sleep can elevate your mood, increase energy, help you reach your fitness goals, and aid in recovering from intense workouts faster. Halevy recommends using a fitness tracker that monitors and analyzes the quantity and quality of your sleep—a sentiment Murdock and Spada support as well.
“I think we undervalue how impactful good sleep is on our health, even without changing anything else,” Spada says.
Murdock says that, beyond sleep-tracking capabilities, other, more basic features available on most fitness trackers can have a meaningful benefit on overall health, by tracking water consumption, offering mindfulness and meditation reminders, and fostering a sense of community.
Murdock says that when she was starting her own fitness journey, she felt isolated and lonely. Not a lot of other people in her life were interested in the same activities as her, and she struggled to find adequate advice or insight. Being able to connect with people, such as old acquaintances or coworkers, on fitness trackers is a good way to find a support network that can give you the positive feedback and encouragement Murdock says she lacked.
“I love that built-in community aspect,” Murdock says of today’s fitness trackers and apps.
Spada says that while studies have found that calorie counts and step counts can be inaccurate, heart rate trackers can be accurate. She says monitoring your heart rate is really helpful to see if the workout you’re doing is improving your cardiovascular health.
Spada works in a hospital as a dietician and also runs her own business, so she finds herself sitting a lot. She says the reminders to stand and move around are helpful.
“I’m just like, Oh my gosh, I was so engrossed in my work. And I realized that it’s been two hours since I’ve moved,” Spada says.
But she warns that it’s important to be aware of whether those reminders are helpful or annoying, or even perpetuating fear and encouraging an obsessive mindset—and turn them off if they are.
Spada says the Mindful Minutes feature on Apple Watch can be helpful for her clients who struggle with anxiety.
“We get caught up in the hustle culture and don’t give ourselves a moment to check in,” Spada says. The mindful breathing exercises give people “a little bit of space to think about ‘Where am I at right now? How am I feeling?’”
Focus on Feeling Good
How your body and mind feel during and after movement should be more of a priority than burning a set number of calories or racking in tens of thousands of steps, Murdock says. So while a fitness tracker can help motivate you to move more, it’s important to find ways to move that are fun and fulfilling for you: walking, swimming, roller skating, or dancing.
Halevy worked with former first lady Michelle Obama on her “Let’s Move!” campaign. As part of the project, he ran a competition among freshmen at five Newark, New Jersey, high schools to encourage physical activity. The premise involved wearable technology—before it was as popular as it is now. Each day, a ring on the students’ devices was red, and when they completed 60 minutes of daily physical activity, their devices glowed green. Halevy says the winner of the competition, Samantha Oliveira, told him she moved so much thanks to Beyoncé.