Once relegated to the domain of professional athletes, fitness bands have become useful tools for tracking physical activity and all sorts of biological metrics so even the average person on the go can view progress towards their fitness goals. Excellent news for wellness in Britain as it encourages all manner of movement to raise our national fitness levels. However, while their popularity has risen enormously over the past few years some are still resisting the temptation to own one. A recent report by finance and research firm Baird stated that 85% of people have no plans to buy one, which shows that the leading brands in this arena still have a long way to go to break through our love/hate relationship with being told what to do by little techie devices.
Nowadays, there’s a fitness band for every type of individual. Devices like the Jawbone UP24 provide simplicity in a compact form, while entry-level fitness bands like the Misfit Flash are affordable yet still packed with functionality. For the more serious user, who’d like everything from monitoring their heart rate to charting their workout, the Basis Peak and Garmin Forerunner 15 are the current top candidates.
The main benefit – and drawback – of fitness bands is the data they produce, which gives you an unprecedented understanding of your daily activities and body. Wearing one motivates you to achieve daily workout goals and introduces an element of fun into keeping track of your exercise routine. However, while it is psychologically rewarding to achieve your daily goal, wearing a fitness band also means you’re beset with a constant reminder if you’re not exercising enough, nagging you to get off the sofa. While a good thing, I think you’ll agree that not everyone likes to be told what to do… even if it is for their own good!
Additionally, fitness bands present a privacy concern because of the sensitivity of the data they monitor. There are, of course, security precautions in place to prevent anyone from having access to your data, but what if these are breached? And what if it becomes normal for anyone from advertisers and health insurance companies, to your employer or the government, to look for ways to encourage you to provide them with your fitness stats? Whether it’s for monetary reasons or to report your health data to the GP, however useful the reason may be, there will be some who will still feel that this is a tad Orwellian.
At present, using a fitness band is equal parts love and hate. We love the power it gives us to know more about our bodies and reinforce good habits, but it won’t make us feel any better about the bad habits we want to change. Rather than feeling guilty about underwhelming stats, though, we should be encouraged by them to find creative ways of elevating them. Does a jog around the park feel too much like a slog to be worth improving your stats? Then perhaps a more social cardio experience at an outdoor gym will suit you. At least there you won’t be the only one with a nagging wristband to satisfy.