• Gemma Pearce

Motivating or disheartening – are we too reliant on our fitness tracker?



Millions of fitness trackers are sold every year. It’s likely that you, your friends and family all have one. Do you find all that data a bit overwhelming, heaping pressure on you to move more, eat differently and sleep better? It has been shown that fitness trackers can increase anxiety about reaching targets and lead to an obsession with checking stats throughout the day.

With our busy lives, it’s inevitable that we won’t always be able to achieve the number of steps or the level of calories we want, so rather than being a great motivator, our fitness tracker becomes a permanent reminder of our failings – a dangerous path for people with mental health problems or compulsive personalities.

If you become ruled by the numbers it can affect your personal and social life – not able to eat out with friends or shunning time with a partner in favour of a run. But used well, fitness trackers are certainly not all bad – they can encourage and motivate us, holding us accountable to achieving our goals and not making excuses.

The statistics shown can be rather crude – and who came up with the magic number of 10,000 steps anyway? Even if you’re only managing 2,000-3,000 steps a day, if you’re developing muscle mass and decreasing in clothing size, you’re doing great! We shouldn’t rely too much on our trackers or expect too much from them – they can’t exercise for us and they can’t encourage us if we don’t have the inner motivation.

Lots of people ask me: is the 10,000 steps target enough or too much? This goal was created by a pedometer company in Japan in the 1960s and was adopted by walking clubs. There was no medical research around this number but it was subsequently found to be a good indicator that you are getting near your daily amount of physical activity and reducing your health risks.

However, it’s not just about the overall number but how brisk/active the steps are, taking you into the golden band of moderate-to-vigorous activity. 10,000 steps can be too challenging for elderly people or those who are starting from a very sedentary lifestyle or people with chronic diseases.

Experts also consider 10,000 steps per day to be too few for children who need 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, twice what is needed by adults.

So if it feels too daunting to reach a goal of 10,000 steps per day, try to work towards getting 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day and reducing how much you’re sitting down.

Our fitness classes at Gemma Pearce Fitness offer more than enough exercise in a fun, motivating and friendly environment. Find a class that suits you at www.gemmapearcefitness.co.uk


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