by Kimberly Nguyen
With the popularity of fitness trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, and Nike soaring, it is no surprise that sales have also increased over the recent years. From simple pedometers to now fashion statements, fitness trackers have evolved to effortlessly coincide with our daily lives. Most devices now have the ability to track sleep, heart rate, meals, and connect wirelessly with our smartphones, but how effective are fitness trackers to lose weight?
Awareness: The First Step Towards Weight Loss
After one month of wearing my Jawbone UP2, it has painted a clearer picture of my day-to-day activity patterns. It has confirmed a few things I already knew: I am not getting enough sleep, I spend too much of my day at work sitting, and that I benefit on those days I decide to take a brisk walk on my 15-minute break. But it has also opened my eyes to exactly how little sleep I get and exactly how long I am sedentary for. Fitness trackers provide insight and eye-opening information about your lifestyle.
Dashboard comparison between my Jawbone Up app (left) and Client Coordinator London’s Fitbit app (right).
Get Up and Move
I was surprised to see my inactivity quantified by my fitness tracker on a typical day. Four days of the week, I come home late at night after working 10-12 hour days. Motivation to get up and moving is difficult to come by, but that reminder on my phone telling me that I haven’t reached my daily goal of 10,000 steps provides that extra push I need to get off the couch.
Being able to visually monitor and track your progress can also be motivating. Most fitness trackers translate your steps and activity into eye-catching, informational charts and figures. They can pinpoint when during the day you average to be the most sedentary and send you reminders to stretch those legs and get moving. For example, I set my Jawbone UP2 to vibrate when I have been idle for 2 hours to remind me to do a quick lap around the office and get a glass of water.
I started the week off on a strong start, logging in 9284 steps on June 8. London ended her week strong, burning 1903 calories! Caroline, our Marketing Coordinator, gets a whopping daily average of 13361 steps!
Sleep More, Lose Weight
Lack of sleep can deter weight loss efforts by altering levels of ghrelin and leptin, two hormones responsible for hunger and satiety. When we are sleep-deprived, our body produces higher levels of ghrelin, which induces hunger, and lower levels of leptin, which signals our brains that we are full. Spikes in the stress hormone cortisol are also a consequence of lack of sleep, resulting in the conservation of energy and fat when we are awake.
Various fitness trackers have the ability to monitor sleep. By differentiating between periods of light and sound sleep, these devices can determine not only how many hours of sleep you are receiving but also its quality. Being able to track and monitor your sleep can provide an incentive to slide into bed 30 minutes earlier, a simple adjustment to promote weight loss.
Jawbone’s app dissects your night’s sleep into periods of light and sound sleep, as indicated by the light and dark blue bands respectively (left). Garmin’s app tracks movement during sleep (right).
With prices ranging anywhere between $50-400, a fitness tracker can be a useful gadget for any weight loss program. Mindful eating, moderate exercise, and behavioral changes are all key factors to weight loss, but they cannot be implemented by wearing a fitness tracker alone. While owning a Fitbit or Jawbone device may be the first step toward to lose weight, the next step is ultimately up to us.