Fitness and Activity Trackers: Do You Really Need One?
Learn what fitness trackers are, how fitness trackers work and the benefits of finding the best activity tracker for you.
September 29, 2021
3 min

If fitness and exercise is part of your life, or you’re trying some exercise routines for beginners, you’ve probably asked yourself “do I need a fitness tracker to help me stay fit and motivated?”

Advances in technologies like GPS, smartphones and wearable devices have changed how movers think about their fitness and movement breaks

You can track everything you might need to learn more about how fitness fits in your life.

But whether or not you need a fitness tracker isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. The answer is different depending on your fitness practice, how you relate to it and what keeps you motivated.

Before you can decide what your needs are, you need to know what fitness trackers are, how fitness trackers work and what some of the benefits and challenges are when finding the right fitness tracker for you.

In this fitness tracker guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about fitness trackers and how to find the right one for you and your fitness journey.

What are fitness trackers?

Fitness trackers, sometimes called activity trackers, are any device that measures exercise and activity data like distance, steps, calories burned, heart rate, or reps of exercises like push-ups and squats. 

Many fitness trackers are wearable devices, but the most commonly used fitness trackers are built into most smartphones and used with activity tracker apps.

Do fitness trackers work?

The technology behind fitness trackers has come a long way. 

Tracking and displaying fitness data has never been easier, especially with the sensor technology included in your smartphone.

Unless you’re a fitness scientist looking for the slightest edge of improvement, basic fitness data presented in the right way, through a solid app is more than enough to boost your workouts.

Fitness trackers work to support and grow your exercise routine only if you’re able to find a system that doesn’t make your workout more complex, confusing and time consuming.

Which means finding the right type of fitness tracker is crucial...

Types of fitness trackers

There are a large variety of fitness tracker types, brands, devices and apps out there. 

Some fitness trackers are geared towards specific types of exercise like cycling or running, while others offer tracking of more general exercises like steps, heart rate and calorie burn.

It’s important to remember that no matter what type of fitness tracker you choose, there is usually an app attached to manage your fitness tracker data. 

So finding a tracker with an app design and app features that you enjoy is important for choosing the right activity tracker.

Even though there’s many different types of fitness trackers, the two main types of fitness trackers are:

Wearable fitness trackers

Wearable fitness trackers are dedicated hardware you wear on your body to track your fitness data. 

The most common wearable fitness trackers are worn on your wrist like a watch.

Most wearables can track heart rate, steps, distance, calories burned and even sleep depending on the price and features.

Wearable fitness trackers offer slightly more features than app-based smartphone apps, but they often still rely on apps to record and display your data and can get very expensive very fast.

More data and metrics provided by wearable fitness trackers may seem like a huge benefit. But the truth is, it can be challenging to know what to do with all that data.

Smartphone fitness tracker apps

Believe it or not, your smartphone is an incredibly powerful fitness tracker…. You just need a few fitness tracker apps to unlock the potential.

Most smartphones have sensors including gyroscopes, GPS, and accelerometers built-in. With these sensors your phone can track distance, reps and steps.

Fitness apps are the key to turning your smartphone into a powerful fitness tracker. They work with your phone’s sensors to add a whole new layer to your workouts and include features like automatic rep counting and fitness gamification.

As apps and smartphone technology continue to evolve, wearable fitness trackers don’t provide much more useful data than your phone. However, if you’re looking for all that extra data, a wearable might be the best option for you. 

Try using your phone and a few free fitness apps to see if a fitness tracker is right for you. 

If you need more from your fitness tracking after a few weeks using your phone and a free app, it might be time to get a wearable tracker.

Do you need a fitness tracker?

The truth is, most fitness trackers give you data. And guess what? Data is… kinda boring.

Plus, if you’re looking at all your exercise metrics wrong, fitness trackers that give you too many numbers can actually be misleading. 

For most traditional fitness trackers, and the apps that come with them, your best case scenario is having a whole bunch of data you have to crunch after your workouts. 

Your worst case scenario is chasing the wrong numbers and risking the dreaded workout boredom we all try to avoid.
So the question isn’t “do I need a fitness tracker?” it’s “do I need the right fitness tracker?” and the answer is absolutely yes!

Alternative fitness trackers

Luckily, not all fitness trackers are built the same. Some fitness tracker apps understand the power of data and how it can integrate with your workouts in fun and engaging ways.

For example: Gamified fitness apps like Zombies, Run! and (yours truly) PlayFitt uses your fitness tracker data to gamify your workouts. 

Gamification of your data keeps your workouts fun, and turns your activity tracker into an interesting and unboring way to get your daily exercise in.

Using apps to add new perspectives to your workouts can be the catalyst you need to start a workout practice, and stick to it.

How to choose the right fitness tracker

Keep these questions in mind as you assess whether a fitness tracker is right for you:

Are fitness trackers worth it?

Fitness trackers are worth the time and money if you’re able to find an app or wearable tracker that makes sense for your workout routine.

Exploring what’s out there and testing some different options is important. Start with free fitness tracker apps to discover what works best before you dive into expensive options you might not use.

Remember, when it comes to fitness trackers and fitness tracker apps, you only get what you put in. 

The right fitness tracker can be the key that unlocks motivation and the real results you’re looking for from your workout routine.

On track with fitness trackers

Fitness trackers are everywhere. Some might work for you, and some won’t. But when it comes to personal fitness, anything that helps you stay motivated and happy is a positive.

Take time to try some activity trackers. The right one can unlock motivation and progress that wasn’t there before.

The first step is to try one for yourself. Use your experience to learn about your fitness and empower yourself to make the best decisions for your practice.

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