Tech Takes: The thing about fitness trackers

JANUARY 16 — I have a confession to make: I am a yo-yo dieter. Every so often I will go on a health regimen, drop pounds and once I reach a comfortable weight, I will go back to my routine of having Coke and chips for dinner... in bed.

Another confession: Despite having reviewed many fitness trackers I do not like using them outside of review periods.

If I do keep wearing them, I ignore all the chirpy notifications to stand up or take a walk in favour of having another nap.

Alas, I will now have to glue myself to one of those things as I have somehow managed to gain 7 kilos in the last year.

A doctor once yelled at me for having the cholesterol levels of a 50-something-year-old man and I am sure he would yell at me again.

It’s not the tool, it’s you

Researchers and more curmudgeonly reviewers often go on about how trackers aren’t truly accurate and won’t replace the hard basics of fitness: nutrition, exercise and suffering.

Here’s what they miss. For most people, they get the best results with someone holding their hand.

Hugh Jackman is buff because he has someone telling him what he can eat and a trainer to tell him just what exercises he needs.

Us working stiffs? Few people can afford personal trainer fees. So we do what we can by consulting Dr Google and relying on apps.

What’s even more frustrating is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person doesn’t work for another, because genetics and other factors come into play.

A tracker is basically like having an annoying Jiminy Cricket strapped to your wrist, chirping at you to move already.

That, in reality, is what everyone really needs at heart.

Small, baby steps

It doesn’t matter whether you use a cheap, barebones tracker from the likes of Xiaomi or a tricked-out Apple Watch or Android Wear device.

What matters is how you use it. The real enemy for most people is our sedentary lifestyle.

We sit too much — not budging, fearful of being seen as “not working” if we do not glue our behinds to our seats when our bodies weren’t meant for that.

A study published in Science Advances states that prehistoric women were strong.

Stronger even than current elite women rowers, with bone density and strength unmatched by the current modern woman.

We were not made to be couch potatoes with a Coke and chips diet but it is not so easy to start getting active.

Habits aren’t formed overnight — they need time, persistence and are best ramped up gradually.

So what if 5,000 steps a day isn’t really enough to get fit? It’s all about convincing your mind and body that you can hit 5,000 steps.

Once you pass that psychological barrier, you can start making new goals. Instead of one Coke a day, make it one a week. Then a month. Eventually you’ll find that you don’t really miss that soft drink.

It’ll be hard dropping the 7 kilos, I know. But the thing is, I have done it before and I know I can do it again. It will just be a little harder because I’m older now.

Thanks to technology and trackers, I can track and analyse my fitness habits, set new fitness goals and in the process keep healthy.

So far I’ve been working out 30 minutes a day and though my weight hasn’t budged, I sleep better.

The weird chest pains I started having late last year have stopped and my tracker has stopped sending me panicked notifications that my heart rate has dropped below 50 or spiked past 140.

I wish you luck in your own fitness resolutions. Just remember: it’s not the money you spend on tech but the effort you put it. No matter what the commercials tell you.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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