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Thursday January 24, 2013 9:43 am

Will fitness gadgets actually make us fit?


Fitness Gadgets Fitbit nike bodymedia

Over the past few years, a new category of gadget has emerged with the aim of quantifying our health. You know the ones--Fitbit. Nike FuelBand. JawBone Up. Withings Wi-Fi Scale (and Smart Activity Tracker!). Fitbit Aria Scale. The list goes on. There are trackers and scales from tons of companies that'll sync your details to their servers, share them with services of your choosing, giving you pretty graphs and hopeful motivation from friends and followers to do the right thing as it pertains to diet and exercise. After all, sitting is killing us. Are all of these gadgets actually moving the needle in terms of our fitness levels? Our friend, Dave Taylor, takes a closer look and chimes in with his toughts after the jump.


We eat poorly. We don't exercise. We're surrounded by junk foods that have been genetically altered to maximize shelf life and minimize transport damage, not flavor or nutrition. It's no surprise that the consequence of these changes is that we're getting fat. Not just a few pounds overweight, but substantially more, 30, 40, 50 pounds or more above optimal body weight.

Lecturing people on food quality, nutrition pyramids, organics, and the importance of physical exercise hasn't proven that effective in the overall trends, but there is something that just about all overweight people have in common with the rest of Western culture: a love of technology.

From smart phones to tablets, laptops to HDTV systems, if it can be plugged in or charged, odds are good you and I both have one in our possession.

So it's no surprise that there are a lot of startups in the health and fitness tech area. In fact, there was an entire section at the recent Consumer Electronics Show devoted to these gadgets. And it's clear, some of them are really cool, including scales that can weigh you and analyze the air quality in your house, along with wearable electronics that can even measure and track your skin temperature throughout the day.

But with our zeal for the latest tech gadget, do these things really make us more fit? If we gave everyone in the US a Nike Fuelband or a FitBit or a Bodymedia armband, would everyone really become more healthy?

The answer for most people, sadly, is no.

Withings Smart Activity Tracker

I'm the first to admit that these devices are cool, but gamifying their workout (workout? what's a workout?) and lets them compete for prizes is only works for a small subset of the population, and most of those will immediately start figuring out how to circumvent the system. (My 12yo son, for example, has learned how to game the Wii Fit, recording long runs while moving his hand up and down just a few inches while reading a comic book on the couch.)

It's a complex problem but the primary emphasis on these health tech products is movement and exercise, and I suggest that it's what we're eating that's more of a problem than how much we're moving around and exercising. And so far, the solutions in that space - smartphone apps, primarily - are clunky and too tedious to use for more than a few days.

What we need is food analysis tools so I can take a photo of my plate of food and have calories, fat, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients all instantly calculated and tallied. Couple that with the Fitbits and Withings Wi-Fi body scales of the world and we can maybe accomplish something.

But for now, let me just end by asking: Are you healthier than you were a year ago? Do you have any health tech that's an integral part of your life, and if so, how's that working out for you?

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of everything tech. I just want us to find solutions that can help even those who are barely motivated to make any lifestyle changes reap the benefit of losing weight and gaining improved health. And that's a tough road to travel.

Dave Taylor has been involved with the online world since it involved telephones and modems. He runs the popular tech site AskDaveTaylor.com, along with the single dad blog GoFatherhood.com. You can find him on Twitter as @DaveTaylor.

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Comments:

Lorna Balfour Lorna Balfour 5/20/13 5:11 am

Exercise and hard work is what gets us fit, not gadgets. However, if the gadget can provide the initial motivation/interest then fair enough. But in reality people buy these gadgets looking for motivation but the motivation needs to come from themselves for it to work. Interesting article, thanks for sharing.

I have been using the Nike Fuel Band since it became available (about a year and a half now) and in conjunction with dietary tracking with MyFitnessPal have lost 35 pounds, ended acid reflux, improved my circulatory system, and generally become more fit. Obviously it takes motivation and discipline that many people will never have and won’t get from technology but the tools unquestionably aid in the pursuit of better health and fitness.

Jane Gregory Jane Gregory 6/2/13 6:25 am

The immediate answer that came to my mind when I read the title was “No” but the best way to explain it would be akin to tutor classes you undertake.

Those would definitely aid you provided you too study but if you don’t, then it is of no use. In the same way, technology too can aid you in improving your fitness but if you don’t make your own efforts, then these aren’t of any use.

YOU yourself should be serious of being fit and if that is the case, then these would definitely help you.

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There’s no perfect substitute for patience and hard work when it comes to health and fitness, but modern technology can absolutely help. For example sites like fitday and cronometer make it easy to track calories and look up the best <A href=“http://www.iodinesupplement.org/iodine-rich-foods/”>nutritios foods</a>. Besides the utitlity of such objects, other gadgets can make working out more fun and motivating. If an mp3 player or a mile counter gets you out the door and running, then it’s useful, right?

Not a big fan of gadgets as they mainly increase the marketers bank account rather than the purchasers fitness. I believe in good old fashioned hard work and sweat - not short cuts!

My iPhone and Rocky Movie Soundtrack this is what helps me while I’m workout smile. Don’t see any gadgets helpfull apart from that. They can’t give you so much motivation and extra power.

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Thanks for the useful post! Exactly the stuff I had to know.

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Losing weight to stay fit depends on individuals. Some like to do it with machines and others the natural way.  Whichever class you fall into, make sure to be focused and consistence. It is never easy. Great post. Keep it up.

John Thomas John Thomas 7/25/13 11:01 pm

Enjoyed your post I agree with you only fitness gadgets are not enough to fit us we must do some hard work to get the desired results very interesting post to read.

Why do we insist on making “healthy” more complicated?

Technology will not make us fit…getting our lazy butts off the couch to turn off the technology will be a step in the right direction.

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This article is very amazing, I was very impressed at all. I hope you keep on posting that is always beneficial. Thank you very much

agree with you, fitness gadget cannot help ourselve to stay fitness unless we’re ready to put comitment in it. i would say a healty diet also play important role to stay fitness,as well as regular exercise

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I use to eat fresh and have a sleep of 6 hrs daily and that’s a best secret to stay healthy. Better sleep also helps to control over weight problems.

Claire@ Healthy Recipes Claire@ Healthy Recipes 8/20/13 5:55 pm

Great article. As for me the jury is still out on whether gadgets can help us be healthier. I would really hope so because that would make my job much easier. We will see!

Suze M. Suze M. 8/20/13 5:59 pm

I really enjoy reading your article. There are apps now a days to help us loose weight and be more fit. Just check to app store.

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Interested article.

I think its cool how technology now a days can help people stay active. All the apps, games, and other types of gadgets to help us keep track of our fitness. But nothing beats the old fashion outdoors.

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It makes me lough for this article, yet some people buy this gadget to make them fit, I think this gadget can help you to make it active your body into fit, But you need to do some hard exercise with a combination of diet then you will see that you are losing weight.

Berita Gadget Berita Gadget 9/16/13 10:32 pm

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Peter Williams Peter Williams 10/2/13 8:08 pm

At the end of the day it’s not the Gadgets that will make you fit it is the will and determination of the person to apply themselves to the regimen. Of course the Gadget would facilitate the en-devour by it’s effective use. Guys miss out on half of the utilization of the gadget because we don’t like to read instructions lol.

Personal Trainer Philadelphia Personal Trainer Philadelphia 10/6/13 4:45 am

I’m a personal trainer in Philadelphia and my clients love some of the gadgets. They love apps like runkeeper because they can actively track how much they have run over the past months and then share it with their friends and family on facebook. Usually their friends are really impressed with their results and that motivates them to keep going.
So, having an app or program in itself will not make you fit, but it can be a motivator to get going once you have motivated yourself to start working out in the first place. In my opinion, a personal trainer will get you more results than downloading a bunch of apps, but I’m probably just saying that because I am a personal trainer grin

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These gadget are very helpful when I go to the gym or get jogging outside so I know details how long I have run or workout.

Great article. As for me the jury is still out on whether gadgets can help us be healthier. I would really hope so because that would make my job much easier. We will see

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Fitness gadgets will improve your health just as much as a pair of running shoes. NOTHING, unless you actually use them.

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Brian Fit Brian Fit 11/30/13 5:31 am

Hi Andru

Great article! I can say at least for myself fitness gadgets are an awesome motivator. Having my metrics kept and displayed daily gives me goals to beat and lets me see my progress to keep me going.

Brian

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Bruce Santucci Bruce Santucci 12/7/13 12:35 am

I have to agree with you. Gadgets are fun but are of hardly any use when you’re trying to lose weight.  I like your vision on this: “We eat poorly. We don’t exercise. We’re surrounded by junk foods that have been genetically altered to maximize shelf life and minimize transport damage, not flavor or nutrition. It’s no surprise that the consequence of these changes is that we’re getting fat. Not just a few pounds overweight, but substantially more, 30, 40, 50 pounds or more above optimal body weight.” 

I think you’ve summed it up in a nutshell with that comment.  I believe the best way to lose weight is to move and move and move some more. Fat burning exercises are critical. I also believe one should keep track of what you eat so you’ll be able to control your casual eating impulses.  It’s hard to lose weight fast so it helps to be patient with yourself too. Thanks.

Julie Smith Julie Smith 1/9/14 1:48 am

I agree with your point about fitness gadgets. Actually fitness gadgets and some mobile application help to make us fit.

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Training Mark Training Mark 1/13/14 1:28 pm

Gadgets will not make us fit, there are no shortcuts. You have to change your behavior so that eating clean nutritious food and exercise becomes a habit.

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“What we need is food analysis tools so I can take a photo of my plate of food and have calories, fat, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients all instantly calculated and tallied.” yes true and I admit it . this article is really interesting. thnks

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