Do fitness bands really work?

It was some time in the year 2015 when a friend of mine who lives in Toronto and who last saw me almost an year earlier while we were in school noticed that I had put on quite a bit of weight. It was slightly an embarrassing conversation especially since I was always the one who boasted how active I’m and how she isn’t. But now it seems like I had lot of time at hand when I was at school and hence more active. Anyways, I guess a lot of you like me after college would have just become too busy in life to notice how one can easily put up love handles without much effort or love.

That was the last I heard from her for a while but the impression she left behind about my weight was bothering me quite a bit. I’m assuming this is the case with a lot of people as we seem to always have a friend or two who irritate us with such nagging thoughts. That was when the nerd in me decided to find out if technology can finally do something  useful in life as the last two to three years were the age of wearables and companies like Fitbit and Apple are making a killing out of fancy wristbands called fitness bands or smartwatches. I’m sure a lot of you reading this would have used a fitness band in the last year or at least know someone who got it as it’s the new fad. Is it really a fad or does it actually work?

Well! On its own no fitness band is going to magically decrease your weight. However, if combined with the right app that could help you monitor, manage and understand your calorie intake as most fitness bands are on average good at estimating how many calories you burn, then the results are much more effective.

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The scientific solution for losing weight is to ensure your burn rate is always higher than the intake. The higher the margin, the faster you lose. Sounds simple right! For instance, I was around 86.3 kilos when I started this experiment a year back and within 3 months I have lost approximately 3.5 kilos just by monitoring my calorie (food) intake using fitbit’s app while tracking the calories I burned.

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In some cases, you don’t even need a fitness band as most smartphones are quite accurate in tracking your movement using in-built motion processors. The iPhones from 2014 (iPhone 6 and above) do a bit better than most smartphones as they have a dedicated motion processor and the tracking is that much more accurate. An added advantage to this routine for me was that it pushed me to be more active than I would typically be without one. The best part was when at the end of the day you take a few flight of stairs just to ensure you are within the range of your fitness goal, something the app can help set for you based on your activity levels. I guess gamification takes it a notch higher as seen in the case of Pokemon Go and the craze across the world for being more active outdoors.

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The only challenge of a task like this would be the will power to take it up in the first place and following it up diligently as tracking your food intake is still tedious especially if you are an Indian with a major portion of your diet made up of Indian food. Before you realise you get bored of tracking and ignore the whole exercise. This is where your diet, a companion or the person making your food (self in my case) could play a key role as I was constantly experimenting with new food and this got me going in creating a database of the foods that I like, hate and prefer at different circumstances. Two features I’d have loved to see from the Fitbit app to help get over this ‘New Year Resolution Syndrome’ are rewards for food logging and smart recommendations of food based on my moods and contexts. I think that would be the most natural evolution of a food tracking app/device as the ‘smart’ in smart wearables would be something that could not just help us manage our weight but also how, when and why!!! On a whole, I think fitness bands do work like e-readers, however, only to an extent where they make people take up a new habit. At the end the onus is on us to pursue our goals.

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One thought on “Do fitness bands really work?

  1. Congrats for the weight loss.

    I used to have an Apple Watch and my sole motivation was then health and fitness.

    I found fitness bands are perfect for techies and geeks who can get a lot of data (# of steps, # of floors, weight, hours of sleep, quality of sleep). If you see the numbers, it can be a nice game to improve the numbers.

    I also met quite a few people who met their doctor and were prescribed to exercise and get a fitbit.

    For people who are not impressed by tech or maybe because somebody else got the band for them, motivation can be an issue. I saw a study where they gave people fitbits and then they realized by just giving people fitbits don’t make them exercise more.

    So at the end, fitness bands should be considered tools. Like a good pair of running sneakers or a cookbook 🙂

    Like

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