3 Reasons Wearable Fitness Trackers Are A Waste Of Time

This is a pretty bold play from me. I’ve never really dipped my toe into a real opinion piece, other than hating treadmills and strawberry protein shakes. Ever since first appearing in the late 2000’s, wearable fitness trackers have slowly but surely established itself as a major player in the fitness industry.

Apparently ‘one in seven UK adults now [own] some sort of wearable tech’[1] and I constantly find myself asking why?

3 Reasons Wearable Fitness Trackers Are A Waste Of Time


I realise that these are all really old versions but I thought the picture was cool.

Reason 1: Lots Of People Buy Then Lots Of People Leave

The wearable fitness tracker market has been growing at a stratospheric rate, fuelled almost exclusively by something I like to call the ‘hype train’. The ‘market for wearable technology expected to reach $31.27 billion by 2020’[2], with fitness-related products leading the charge. This has resulted in every tech-savvy company releasing their own ‘disruptive’ (another Silicon Valley buzz word) device, working to saturate the market before the market has even found its footing.

This past Christmas, no fewer than three people I knew received wearable fitness trackers in one form or another. Two of them are currently sat on my desk “you’ll get more use out of this than me, you’re into fitness!” and the third one is AWOL.


This reminds me of a much simpler time.

It’s estimated that ‘about a third of these trackers get abandoned after six months’[3]. Essentially, they are able to hold your attention for a while before they stop giving you information you already know. How much can you learn from how many steps you’ve taken in a day, really? If we are being honest, these devices are just a very expensive Tamagotchi.

Reason 2: Even Athletes Are Sceptical

When I went to Leisure Industry Week in September of 2015, one thing I noticed everyone talking about was the concept of marginal gains. When you’re a top tier athlete, you can’t really make substantial leaps in progress by cutting out carbs so you have to look for tiny improvements in different areas to increase overall performance.


You’d think wearable fitness trackers would be a dream come true for athletes, right? Well, it is and it isn’t. Although they want ‘to remain at the top of their game and reduce injuries [they remain] concerned over the blurring line between their personal and professional lives’[4].

The risk for athletes is that their coaches and managers become obsessed with the information and statistics, almost like a fictional super villain. All of a sudden, if you’re running 3.8% slower on average than you did last season then maybe your best years are behind you and it’s time to bring in a new model.

This also brings up an important point a lot of people seem to struggle accepting: you are not an elite athlete. As attractive as all the numbers and information might be, are you really going to apply them to your training?

Reason 3: Brands Say One Thing, Evidence Says Another

Before you even think it, for every study which posts their results there will be another which categorically and undeniably disproves it. That just seems to be the way the scientific world works. Does this mean you have to take the results of a recent study by Lancaster University with a pinch of salt?

I don’t think so, no. The aforementioned study found ‘”no empirical evidence” backing up claims from manufacturers that [wearable fitness trackers] have a long-term effect on wellbeing’[5]. Another study found that fitness bands ‘incorrectly estimate number of steps by up to 22.7%’[6].

Here’s the reality. These devices appeal to people who aren’t active because it’s an easy way to keep track of how much exercise you’ve done in a day. Once the novelty wears off, which is inevitable, if there isn’t an underlying desire to keep fit then they’ll just be throw into a drawer and forgotten.


No evidence Sherlock Holmes finds evidence Elementary TV show this works.

I’m not going to deny that for some people in specific situations wearable fitness trackers are a useful bit of kit. I just don’t think that they are deserving of all the hype when all they do is count your steps and monitor your heart rate.

Do you agree that wearable fitness trackers are a waste of time, or have you used them and found them to be extremely useful? Let me know in the comments!

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