The Pros and Cons of Wearing a Fitness Tracker While Competing in Sports

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You can wear an electronic fitness tracker on your wrist, neck, or chest in the form of a bracelet, necklace, or rubber strap. It’s possible that the app on your smartphone serves double duty as a fitness tracker.

Nowadays, many people use fitness trackers during exercise, and one reason is that they have heart rate monitors built right in. But how effective are these procedures, really?

What is the function of the fitness tracker?

The main function of a fitness tracker is to record the wearer’s activity levels and related data, such as calories burned, heart rate, intensity, speed, duration, and distance while exercising, as well as altitude while climbing and sleep patterns at night. By facilitating the highest possible level of exercise, this device contributes to the enhancement of the user’s health and well-being.

To track motion is the primary purpose of a fitness tracker. These measurements are then correlated with the user’s age, gender, height, and weight to provide a precise evaluation. Marketing would have you believe that the more sensors your tracker has, the more trustworthy its data will be.

When it comes to working out, how beneficial is it to use a fitness tracker?

The accuracy of the fitness tracker’s measurements of your exercise habits depends heavily on how well it’s constructed. Dr. Marc Gillinov, a cardiac surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, oversaw a comparison study of various fitness trackers. Thus, a fitness tracker’s reading of your heart rate may not be entirely reliable.

On fitness trackers, wrist-based heart rate monitors are typically more accurate than those on devices worn on the upper arm or carried in a pocket. The heart rate readings from the chest strap fitness tracker were the most reliable of any kind tried.

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Trackers worn on the feet were found to be significantly more effective than those worn on the hips in a separate study conducted in 2013. Research from Iowa State University in 2014 found that fitness trackers are not very accurate at estimating calorie expenditure. The research revealed a spread of erroneous data percentages across eight different tracker models, from 9.1% to 23.5%. Consequently, this may have a major impact on the achievement of health goals.

Dr. Mitesh Patel, a professor in the Penn Medical and Healthcare Management Departments, reportedly told Seconds that the only people who will benefit from using a fitness tracker are those whose primary motivation has always been the maintenance of a healthy body. This allows them to interpret the data and take appropriate action.

But if the tracker is worn more as a gimmick or a fashion accessory than a serious instrument for growth, the data it collects may be useless.

If used correctly, a fitness tracker can save people’s lives

Despite their potential lifesaving value, fitness trackers are often disregarded. According to Patricia Lauder, a 73-year-old retiree from Connecticut, this is exactly what occurred to her. When Lauder’s fitness tracker indicates that his resting heart rate is 140 beats per minute, he starts to worry. Adults 18 and older typically have resting heart rates between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Lauder’s chest pain and shortness of breath had persisted even when he was lying down, but he had never before identified a cause. Lauder consulted his device and learned that his heart rate had risen significantly above the healthy range of 60 to 70 beats per minute, clocking in at well over 100. The sudden realization prompted Lauder to make the quick choice to seek emergency medical attention.

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After analyzing information from Lauder’s fitness tracker and performing a battery of other diagnostic procedures, the hospital concluded that he had a pulmonary embolism. A pulmonary embolism is potentially fatal if it is not treated quickly.

This case involving Patricia Lauder is an outlier, as described above. Gillinov reminds readers that “electronics can still go wrong,” so they shouldn’t panic if their tracker shows an erratic heart rate.

A clinical physiologist at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital, Clinton Brawner, says there is “very little evidence” that recording one’s heart rate every minute has any health benefits when one is not exercising. Trial runs are airing right now.

Which type of fitness tracker do you recommend?

Knowing your heart rate during exercise is a good way to gauge if you’re working out hard enough to reap the health benefits without putting your health at risk (even death from stroke). Sports medicine specialist Dr. James Borchers from Ohio State’s Wexner Hospital made that statement.

For a cardio workout to be effective, you need to raise your heart rate, but only to a certain percentage of your maximum.

If you need to know your heart rate accurately for health and fitness reasons, Gillinov suggests using a fitness tracker with a chest strap and electrodes.

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