Can fitness trackers boost fitness and torch fat?
Maybe—but only if you know which one is the best for you.
Gadgets, we all have so many! Even so, new innovations keep popping up. While most additions to the tech explosion aim to eliminate the legwork for menial tasks (GPS) or simply serve as time wasters (Candy Crush Saga), some gadgets and apps are actually designed to make us less lazy. FitBit, Nike Fuelband, and other souped-up activity trackers are getting lots of attention, but it’s not clear which of these products (if any) is the answer to our better body prayers.
While some products are rumored to be better than others, no specific tracker is really far-and-away the best. The details of how each product works differ, but they all have one thing in common: they motivate users to move more, and they all work—at least at first.
According to a 2012 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, pedometers inspire people to up their activity, but the motivation is only temporary. During the first week of the study, volunteers took 1,500 more steps per day, on average, than they did before being monitored. But by the second week, volunteers returned to their more sedentary ways. Why? The novelty of tracking their movements simply wore off.
The good news is that it’s possible to stay engaged with an activity tracker if you know which one is best for you. What motivates you may not be what works for your boss or your best friend, but picking a product with features that fit your personality type will ensure that you keep moving past the first week. Consider your strongest traits, review our guide and get moving!
IF YOU’RE A FIERCE COMPETITOR
Try: Nike Fuelband ($149, store.nike.com) or Endomondo Sports Tracker ($4.99 for Pro, standard version is free, endomondo.com).
Why: Whether you’re competing against yourself or a gym buddy, Nike’s product has tons of competitive features to keep you going. The wristband’s LED display changes from red to yellow to green as you work toward your daily movement goal. It also allows users to compete against friends or professional athletes and compare totals. The Endomondo app tracks time and distance via GPS while users sweat, then uses the data to turn workouts into a race against your personal best or a friend’s.
IF YOU’RE TIME-STRAPPED
Try: BodyMedia Wireless LINK Armband ($149 + $6.95/month for the online activity manager, bodymedia.com) or Jawbone UP ($129, jawbone.com).
Why: These products keep tabs on your calories so you don’t have to worry about taking those extra steps. The BodyMedia Armband, worn by the contestants on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” has sensors that count calories burned. It also has an online tool and app to log food intake. Calories are automatically tallied to let users know how well they are meeting their weight loss goals. The Jawbone Up wristband not only tracks diet, but it also wakes users at the right moment in their sleep cycle, ensuring they feel ready to take on the day. According to a 2013 UC Berkeley study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the better people sleep, the easier it is to fight cravings for high-calorie foods that can lead to weight gain.
IF YOU’RE FRIENDLY AND OUTGOING
Try: FitBit Zip ($60, fitbit.com) or Teemo ($2, goteemo.com).
Why: Both FitBit and Teemo have tons of social features perfect for those motivated by comraderie. FitBit allows users to set fitness goals with friends, cheer each other on, and join groups to get advice from people around the world. You’ll get the most out of FitBit by buying one for your BFF too. The Teemo app is designed to help users find time to workout while also having fun with a team of friends—even when users are apart. Players select a “mission” that appeals to them (like climbing Mt. Everest), invite team members to join and then complete short, guided exercises (demonstrated by personal trainers) to work towards their goal.