They are so trendy now. You know, Apple Watches, Fitbits, GPS tracking watches…there are so many to choose from! Are they beneficial? Are they detrimental? Should you get one?
Honestly, I always kind of wanted a fitness band to track my workouts…I really didn’t care about anything else other than my activity level and calorie burn. I am a runner, and I hated having to carry my phone with me on my runs to track my distance…a watch would be so convenient…
When I graduated the summer of 2017, my parents got me a TomTom GPS watch for my grad gift. I WAS IN LOVE! I could track my distance when I went hiking, biking, swimming, and running. I workout in the gym a lot and do dance fitness classes too, so there is a “gym” feature for that as well. It even keeps up with my daily steps and calorie goals. I could then start setting weekly goals for myself to feel accomplished after a long week.
So that’s it. I love my watch. Everyone should have one…
There are so many benefits to having a fitness watch, but there are a few things I don’t love about them, and these watches may not be for everybody.
For starters, I don’t love how some watch brands cause people to be unhealthily competitive. This brand of watch has the option to “add friends” and then you are able to compete with them daily and weekly on your workouts. There is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition here and there, but I had classmates in college who were obsessed with “beating” the other person in “who could get the most steps in today”. These type of settings can become detrimental if you’re constantly trying to beat the other person for daily steps or daily calorie burn…because guess what? Every BODY is different, and some people naturally burn more calories than others. Or, some people may not be “working out” more but have a more active job therefore they get more steps in. Regardless, these competition applications can convince you to have the mindset of “I am better than you” because I got more steps in today.
Your workout should be for you only. You are your only competition. It does not matter what anyone else is doing, compete with yourself.
Secondly, sometimes these watches may cause negative thoughts. Typically, when you first purchase the watch, you answer a bunch of questions about yourself…your gender, age, height, weight, activity level, and so on. The watch does a pretty good job at calculating calorie needs and burns through the anthropometric data, but there is a component missing from these watches. The watch cannot tell how much muscle mass you have…
I get so caught up on the calorie burn during a workout…my watch has a built in heart rate monitor (which many watches do not have), so it does a pretty accurate depiction on what a 155 lb. woman in her 20’s would burn (though not 100% accurate), however, my watch does not know my muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism is, thus the more calories you burn throughout the day. I try not to get too obsessed with the “calories burned” section of my watch because I know that my body is naturally burning more while resting because I have quite a bit of muscle. However, if I do not meet my calorie goal for a workout, I feel bad about myself and wonder why I haven’t burnt as much…
“Why did I only burn 400 calories doing my dance fitness class today, but yesterday I burnt 550 calories? Did I not go hard enough? I should push myself harder, but I am tired…”
Those are the thoughts that go through my head when I pay attention to those numbers. I think watches can be a good thing, but I think they can cause you to put yourself down, too. The important thing is that you are being active and listening to your body. If you are too tired to keep going, then stop. Your body is telling you to. On the flip-side, if you are kind of tired but could keep going, then keep going until you’ve had enough. The only thing that should indicate whether you are “finished” should be the way your body feels.
Now, should we all go throw away our fitness watches? Of course not. As I said before, I love my watch. My watch works for me and my fitness activities…but I do not have “friends” on my watch to compare myself to, and I listen to my body during a workout. I do not categorize my workout as “good” if I burn a certain number of calories…I base it on how I physically feel afterwards.
Challenge for the week: Try not to focus so much the watch settings during your workout…listen to your body. If your watch becomes an obsession, try going a few days without tracking your calories and steps. Really get back to listening to your body during your workouts.
Until Next Time,
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Follow me on social media!
Facebook: Live Better with Kat Detter