Likewise, I really hate fitness trackers, especially those that require you to input what you eat and become a data entry drone. It is tedious and I have better things to do with my time. When I have tried to keep a food journal, for instance, I find myself eating things just so I have more tings to write down. Not exactly the goal.
I can see the appeal in having a tracker that automatically counts your steps or reads your heart rate and lets you know when you are in a cardio zone (of course we probably call it a fat-burning zone). I can see how the fitness tracker might be a great tool of motivation, and I have witnessed the ways in which people nerd out over their shared fitness tracker readings and goals. It's adorable. When I did Hiking Yoga with my mom and my sister ay the Yoga Journal Live! conference, I was able to glean onto their tracking so that I too accumulated those thousands of steps. Ding!
The use of fitness trackers can build on the camaraderie and competition that already exists in the workplace. Co-workers can playfully compete with each other even as they compete with themselves. They can share a common goal, even as the specifics of this goal may differ. More importantly, fitness trackers promote a shared culture of fitness, health, and wellness. Staying active is no longer relegated to the little time we have outside of work. Trackers can change the way we think about exercise from being an extra chore and obligation to being active and finding opportunities to celebrate that activity. (Like when someone's tracker dings to tell them they just reached x number of steps, for instance.) The tracker makes visible all of those "steps" we take, or don't take, throughout our day.
It concerns me that the fitness trackers might cause someone to become frustrated if they are following the guidelines set for them and still aren't seeing the results they expect. We want to still be setting realistic goals and weight loss should not be the ultimate goal or measure. We have to change our expectations. Making that shift to a healthy, active lifestyle means that we have to change our patterns and habits and just generally move more.
But I am more concerned by what the trackers might not be able to measure (though some are starting to). The fitness tracker, for instance, cannot capture all of the many benefits of yoga--in terms of steps and calories, yoga does not measure up. But fitness activities like yoga, relaxation, and meditation are an important part of the bigger picture as are getting more and better sleep and reducing stress. A workplace that recognizes the whole person and mind, body, spirit approach will ultimately be the most successful and fitness trackers can be a tool in this bigger picture.
I prefer to live in that grey area, to listen to my body, to let it tell me what it needs--that I ate too much or too little, that I need more cardio to release some pent up energy, that I need my daily yoga practice to keep my sanity. I can feel the need to move when I sit too long in a meeting or in my car or at my computer. If I miss my work out in the morning, I know it because my body tells me. When I have worked too hard, my body tells me and I take some extra time to rest (with no guilt!). My yoga therapy balls (tennis balls) call out to me when I forget to pay attention to the tension building in my neck and upper back or when I feel myself falling apart.
A fitness tracker can't tell you things like that, but it can remind us to listen to our bodies.