George Wachter says technology kept him focused and disciplined, helping him lose 70 pounds over a year. The Waynesboro resident, 61, credits his weight-loss success in part to his Fitbit fitness tracker, which gave him the ability to monitor his activity, exercise, sleep, and yes, his weight, using real-time information.
George joined a healthier lifestyle program from Summit Health — Get Fit NOW! — which connected him with his first Fitbit. He says the program put him on the right track to better health.
A fitness tracker measures your motion in all directions, usually by an accelerometer, a type of sensor. Most trackers have additional sensors for different tasks. Fitbit, for example, can sync your relevant statistics wirelessly and automatically to your computer or phone for viewing and analysis. In Fitbit’s case, charts and graphs display your progress.
George is one of more than 325 million people worldwide who use connected wearable devices that include not only Fitbit, but also those from Garmin, Apple Watch, and Samsung, to name a few. Although researchers agree more detailed analyses need to be done before clear conclusions can be drawn, science is beginning to back the enthusiasm of fitness-tracker fans like George. A 2016 review in Frontiers in Public Health says that the public health implications of using fitness technology to promote behavior change are promising.
First things first
“The first thing I do when I get up is grab my Fitbit,” says George. “It’s an excellent tool, especially to help me count my steps. My goal was 10,000 each day, but now I log 12,000 or 13,000. Using it with the program was a life-changing event.”
A formerly avid karate practitioner and runner, George now supplements his walking with yard work and gardening. “I’m not a ‘gym person,’” he says, “but what I do works for me.” He uses his Fitbit not only to “step it up,” but also to keep accurate tabs on calories and make better food choices overall.
Tracking long-term success
In combination with his fitness tracker, having weekly structure through the “Get Fit NOW!” program was so valuable that George enrolled a second time and encourages others to join. He says the program has taught him about fitness, goal setting, meal planning, cooking, and long-term health success strategies.
“I enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life who were all dealing with different challenges,” says George. “With instruction from Nickie Fickel, a community health coordinator with Summit Health, we talked about those challenges and how to work through them, and gave each other valuable support.”
If you’re confused about product types, reviewers generally recommend a fitness tracker for obtaining information about your overall activity. Remember that your iPhone 5 and above or Android device have a mobile app to count daily steps. Yes, some fitness trackers do report heart rate, but if you have a heart condition, do not use a tracker to substitute for a real diagnostic heart-rate monitor. Have that conversation with your doctor.
The company makes six trackers and two smartwatches. The Fitbit Flex 2 is a great “first” tracker, and the Fitbit Zip clips on. The Fitbit Alta HR has been rated “top of the class.”
Look for a mind-boggling selection of at least 27 trackers and watches. Reviewers cite the Garmin Vivoactive 3 for spot-on fitness tracking and the functionality of a smartwatch.
Apple Watch Series 3
Its built-in GPS records outdoor workout distance, speed, and route. An altimeter tracks elevation.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
Lauded for design and fit, built-in GPS, and an excellent heart-rate sensor, this choice is ideal for Android phone owners.
Prices run the gamut, but in general expect to spend between $50 and $250 for your device.