Should you use a fitness tracker?

Lots of people wonder: ‘Should I get a fitness tracker?”

The answer: It depends. 

For some people, it can be a really helpful tool. This is especially true if you…

Are numbers-oriented. For instance, maybe you have an engineering, actuarial, or accounting mindset.

Have more advanced goals. Think elite athletes, bodybuilders, models, and other people who get paid based on how they look or perform or if you are on a weight management journey.

See data as information—nothing more. The numbers don’t define you. They aren’t part of your identity. In this case, fitness tracker data can be helpful—because you can view it as just that.

But for others? 

Fitness trackers can leave them feeling like they never do enough. 

Some people tend to see weight, heart rate variability, or sleep quality as a statement of who they are. 

You’re more likely to fall into this category if you…


See the behavior you’ll track as a chore, making comments like, “I have to do this to lose weight.”

Don’t feel you have a choice. You might say, “I don’t want to exercise, but my doctor / coach told me I have to.”

Do the behavior to avoid feeling guilty. In other words, you exercise because you don’t want to feel bad about not exercising. Or you do it to overcompensate for something you ate

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing wrong with experimenting with a fitness tracker to find out if it’s right for you. (Well, besides the expense—if you don’t like it.) 

But they’re also not necessary for success. (People were “optimizing” their health way before Fitbit, Oura, and Apple Watches came along.)

You could find a fitness tracker to be awesome. Or it could be awesome for a while, and then completely unnecessary or even frustrating later. Or it could be a poor fit from the get-go.

If you’re using one, every now and then ask yourself:

“How’s this working for me?” 

Is it helping your motivation—or hurting it? Do you appreciate the data—or ruminate over it? Does it keep you engaged in a healthy way—or leave you feeling guilty and frustrated?

Your answers will give you all the data you need to know what to do next.


Do you really need one ? 

If you're looking to track something as simple as steps to estimate calories towards NEAT ( non-exercise activity thermogenesis) it will help generate data for basic energy balance calculations. Alternatively grab a lanyard for your phone, download a step tracker app and you should be good to go. 


How accurate are they ? 

Most wearables have a 20% error margin so look for trends and assume variabilities.