In an age of ever expanding technology, are fitness trackers and Apps a motivational tool for monitoring our progress or an express ticket to obsession?
This is a question which is difficult to answer and a great cause for debate. Like anyone, I have found myself filled with excitement when downloading calorie counting Apps to my iPhone and I can’t leave the house for my run without setting my Nike Running App first – it is a great motivator! However I feel that, as with everything, it may have been taken too far.
UP by Jawbone, is a new health monitoring bracelet which is with you literally 24 hours a day. Finally! A 24/7 personal trainer! You might think, but as well as motivating you with high fives and encouraging “Amazing”’s and providing you with great accuracy on how long you’ve slept, how long it took you to fall asleep, whether you’ve reached your step goals, to name just a few, UP also has the potential to torment you with guilt, obsession and quite possibly make you lose your mind.
It is quite simple, all you have to do is sync the bracelet with your iPhone a few times a day and you can see your sleep patterns and step count compared with what you have ate and drank and if you like the thrill of the game, you can even monitor your UP friends progress on a Facebook-like feed.
The primary aim of trackers and Apps like this is simple, to improve health and fitness, which I believe is of the upmost importance. Is this healthy though? Where it might have an – at least short term – impact on physical health (anyone being tracked 24 hours a day will surely make a conscious effort to be the best they can be), I seriously doubt it can have any positive impact on mental health, in fact, I’m pretty sure any impact it has on the mind, will be quite the opposite.
UP isn’t the only one of kind by a long way, with $800 million sales of wearable sensors in the US last year, and for the many who aren’t willing or simply can’t afford the prices that bracelets like these cost, there is an ever growing collection of mobile Apps to download which do more or less the same thing, just less accurate and intensified.
Constantly checking what you have eaten, excessive exercise in order to meet goals, comparing your fitness progress with other people’s. These are all things which in the real world are considered unhealthy, obsessive and disordered eating behaviour. Like it or not, the trackers are here to stay and the boundaries or self-tracking are only ever expanding, but if you want my advice, I would tread carefully.