ARE FITNESS TRACKERS UNHEALTHY?
MY FIRST FITNESS TRACKER
I got my first Apple watch back in 2015, at a time when dedicating my life to a fitness plan, not missing a yoga session and being toned was the highest of priorities. Reading that first sentence it would be easy as an outsider to suggest that a fitness tracker might be a little dangerous and unhealthy on the wrist of someone like me, but we’ll get to that later. Other than a short stint with the Samsung GEAR (which I do think is awesome, just a little too bulky) I’ve always had apple watches. To look at, they are sleek and just look like a smart, chunky watch, which is totally my vibe. I only ever used my watch for fitness. Yes, there are many other wonderful things you can do on the apple watch like use it as a camera controller (so clever!), but for me, it was all about those three activity rings and making sure that at the end of each day they were closed.
I enjoyed it. Having a goal every day was fun and it motivated me at first. That was until I found myself going out for a walk at 10pm, just to close the calorie ring and hit my target. Of course we don’t notice these things straight away. It’s very easy to justify your actions when you don’t want to believe something is unhealthy. Just look at us with our phones now. We’re all addicted in some way, but we’ll always just be checking that one last email, or we’ll just have to quickly reply to that tweet. In reality we know those things can wait, but we’re hooked, so we can’t help ourselves. That was what it was like with the apple watch. I was hooked and then felt sad or guilty if I didn’t have a day full of movement.
I might not have been the most obsessed person out there – I had days when I didn’t train and the loops didn’t complete – but I know it still wasn’t right to be checking it as much as I did. I thought my calorie counting days were long gone, but there I was mid-workout seeing how much energy I’d burnt. And let’s face it, those things aren’t hugely accurate anyway, but that didn’t stop me. I wanted to believe what it was telling me. I thought wanted something to run my life and push me harder. I was wrong.
THE BREAK UP
Are fitness trackers unhealthy? After a good few months of this behaviour and my fitness routine changing a bit, I noticed that there was an issue. Rob and I had been on holiday a couple of months before and I didn’t take my apple watch charger, so had to go without it. I felt free! Free from the pressure of those poxy activity rings, free from the shame and guilt of not working out. As Christmas was approaching I thought it would be a good time to say goodbye to my apple watch, eat as much food as possible, not worry about working out and just enjoy life.
Christmas was easy, I didn’t think about putting the fitness tracker back on, I just enjoyed time with friends and family. And then came January. Damn that “New Year, New You” crap. I won’t lie, not putting the watch on was hard at first, but then it was as if all of the annoying January fitness messaging actually worked in my favour and allowed me to finally believe that I don’t need to be tracking every single step that I take. So basically the opposite of what brands were advertising us all to do.
GETTING BACK TOGETHER
I didn’t wear any kind of fitness tracker for a good few months until one day I was teaching a yoga event and needed to be wearing a watch with a timer. Out came the same apple watch, but I was different. In those few months I’d learned so much about myself, my body, my mind and I was in a place where I could look at the watch as just that. A watch that had some benefits when it came to fitness, but not something that needed to rule my life.
To some it may have seemed like a risky move, knowing how attached I’d got to it in the past, but I could feel the shift within myself, so I was willing to see what happened.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
It’s been all good from there. I wear my apple watch most days (I have the apple watch 3), and have a good relationship with it. Gone are the days of manically checking it. I wouldn’t dream of doing exercise just to get those rings closed and half the time they don’t close because my life isn’t all about going to the gym and working out. I actually really enjoy the days when they don’t close, as I like to celebrate my laziness! Haha.
Here’s what I use it for now, plus a few tips for you if you think you might have an unhealthy relationship with your fitness tracker:
- I use my apple watch for workouts, to time my yoga classes, for running, to answer calls if I’m not near my phone and for meeting reminders on busy days in London.
- I used my Samsung GEAR for tracking my water consumption, which was really useful. I worked with them on a job and this was one of my favourite features.
- I never take it on holiday, or if I do, it’s only to the airport and it then stays in my suitcase.
- When working out, if you have the exercise feature switched on, look to other stats such as heart rate and distance, as they are things that might actually be interesting.
- Turn off all notifications. I know I’m coming to you from an exercise point of view in this blog post, but having constant vibrations of emails and social notifications if only going to add to any anxiety or stress.
- If you are someone that suffers with stress and anxiety, if you have an apple watch, have the ‘Breathe’ feature switched on. It reminds you every hour to take a minute to just breathe. It’s great!
- If you do find yourself attached to it and obsessing over the your fitness achievements each day, it’s time to break up. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it does need to happen.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with fitness trackers, I love mine now and wear it most days, but now it’s more of a general smart watch rather than a tracker. I think we need to be careful about getting into unhealthy habits and trying to notice and be honest with ourselves when they creep in. In summary, my answer to “Are fitness trackers unhealthy?” is yes. But only if on the wrong wrist. They can be healthy and awesome, but we need to be savvy enough to know when it’s the opposite.
Having something that motivates you is awesome, having something that guilt trips you into doing exercise is unhealthy.
What’s your experience with fitness trackers or the apple watch?
What do you think… are fitness trackers unhealthy?
Love, Cat x
All photography courtesy of Rosie Ann Butcher.