St. Lucy's Priory High School

Wearable fitness devices lack functionality

In 2008, Fitbit released their first product, the Fitbit Tracker, a small device that clipped onto clothing and recorded how many steps the user had taken which were then calculated into distance walked and calories burned.

In May 2013, the first fitness tracking wristband, the Fitbit Flex, was released by Fitbit. Since then, companies such as Apple, Nike, and Samsung have released items similar to the original Fitbit Flex.

In 2015, the wearable fitness device market became a $1 billion industry.

So, what makes these devices so popular?

All of the fitness trackers count steps like a pedometer. The higher quality devices also calculate the number of calories burned in a day, heart rate, blood oxygen level, skin temperature, perspiration, body weight, body mass, and even track and measure sleep. The Apple Watch, for example, has almost all these qualities with the addition of being able to text and make calls from the watch itself.

This new form of technology gives the consumer knowledge that they could not have calculated themselves. They motivate the wearer to reach their 10,000 step goal or sleep an extra hour, in essence, making them healthier. Wearable fitness devices encourage fitness and helps make fitness part of a daily routine.

However, the step counter and sleep monitor are both based off of wrist movements, which does not allow for the most accurate results. The step counter could be altered by any movement that affects the wrist.

One Fitbit owner reported that his steps were being counted as he was sitting in a rocking chair. Additionally, sleep pathologists have announced that it is brain patterns and not wrist movements that accurately depict the state of sleep one is in.

The University of Pittsburgh began a two-year study in 2010 to see how much of an effect wearable activity trackers really had on weight loss. The results were a surprise to many.

The study consisted of almost 500 adults, who were all on a weight loss program; however, only half were given wearable technology halfway through the study.

The research showed that those who wore wearable fitness tracking devices lost less weight in comparison to those who were not wearing them, despite being on the same weight loss program.

“In fact, participants without physical activity trackers showed nearly twice the weight loss benefits at the end of the 24 months. Participants who used wearable devices reported an average weight loss of 7.7 pounds, while those who partook only in health counseling reported an average loss of 13 pounds,” according to the study.

Although these devices do not help the user lose as much weight, they do help motivate the user to exercise and stay active.

The University of Pittsburg’s study:

–Gianna Ceccarelli