Can Wearable Fitness Trackers Make You Healthier?

It’s called fashion… Look it up!

The evolution of smart watches and wearable devices has gone full circle and now aren’t just a fashion accessory.  Many see these devices as an essential purchase to help them with their exercise or physical activity.

Have you been in a scenario where someone has arrived to a workout, looked at their wrist to discover they forgot their watch and mumbled “well this exercise doesn’t even count now”?

I have and have thought it.

The gratitude you feel watching calories tick over or goals hit is like no other. You’ve had a tough day, it’s okay – you’ve just hit your activity goals.

This feeling has turned people scared in forgetting to put their devices on. Without it they know they won’t feel as accomplished that day. This has changed a lot over recent years as before wearable devices were a thing, the “weekend warriors” last worry was how many steps they have done during the day.

This new phenomenon has people obsessed, but in a good way.

We all know and understand exercise is good for us and with the obsession growing, are those without a wearable device limiting themselves when it comes to activity?

Do they work?

We believe so.

Modern fitness trackers, such as smartwatches and phone apps can play a major role in our physical activity, with new research finding that technology leads to an average increase of almost 2000 daily steps!

Inactivity can lead to a number of health and personal issues. Moving around by walking, running or even getting up from your seat helps boost your overall health. There is evidence there that these devices do help prompt a lot of us to move more – But not everyone is convinced.

There is research that suggests wearable devices don’t really play a major role in weight loss or activity due to inaccuracies. Although wearable devices seem to measure heart rate well, their accuracy of burnt calories was way off.

The algorithms used make assumptions that don’t necessarily fit individuals very well.

With that in mind, does inaccuracy become accepted if they make more people move more often?

To put lightly – fitness tracker don’t necessarily work but wear one anyway.

The reality check of your activity level and constant reminder helps motivation levels. It would be hard to argue against the benefits a wearable device has on encouraging more activity.


So, what are the benefits?



A fitness tracker will hold you accountable and be a key motivator. They remind you every day if you’re behind or in front of your goals and you are literally competing against yourself!

It can encourage you to move more, work a little harder and feel better.

Know when you need to move

Sitting has become a MAJOR part of our lives. Even when we meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise our metabolic health. Wearable fitness trackers help remind us this. They let you know when you need to move throughout the day. It’s small but very important for your health.

Track your progress

Tracking your fitness is essential for any progress. A fitness tracker records your activity and make you more consistent with your training. You can track steps, km’s, calories, or active minutes during the day. More advanced options  track their intervals, pace and running.

Tailored goals

YOU determine your daily progress and goal.

Whether your goal is 10,000 steps or 600 calories, setting personalized goals for you to achieve gives you some daily motivation to keep working.

We are all guilty of sneaking some cake with lunch so it’s always nice to know you have at least hit your daily calorie target!

Not just for the “weekend warrior”

There is no limitation to who uses wearable fitness trackers either, as some athletes are seeing some benefits towards their athletic performance.

A study assessed runner’s performance while wearing a wearable device that had inbuilt model predications in training. Wearing a device may be a feasible option for runners to track performance-related indices during training (oxygen consumption, lactate threshold etc.).

While laboratory testing is best for direct insight into athletic performance, it is not accessible to everyone and wearable technology is another option to help track the performance of someone.

How they work:

To simply put, fitness trackers measure motion. Most come with a 3-axis accelerometer to track movement in every direction, and some come with a gyroscope to measure orientation and rotation.

The data is then collected and converted into steps and activity – from there it is turned into calories and sleep quality – throughout this process there is a bit of guesswork involved along the way.

The three main uses most people find advantageous are:

  • Keep track of calories
  • Counts your steps
  • Monitor your sleep


Takeaway Message:

Wearable devices can play a major role in helping someone along in their fitness journey. Although the accuracy of some has been raised, there is no denying the advantages they can play in encouraging people to move, exercise and better themselves.

Here are three tips to think about:

  • Use a wearable device as a baseline of your daily movement and then set a goal higher (2,000 higher than you are achieving).
  • Use it as a motivational tool to encourage movement and a record of your exercise history. If you have a bad day, use the record to reflect on many good days. This helps you from falling off the wagon and giving up.
  • Use the information as a guide and not permission to eat anything you want. Just because you burned 400 calories during a workout, doesn’t give you permission to eat four pieces of cake after dinner.


Want some extra advice?

An Accredited Exercise Physiologist can assist you by guiding you through an individualized, safe and evidence-based exercise program to “bulletproof” your workouts. Get in touch with your local exercise expert today by clicking here.

The Nike Run Club gives you the guidance, inspiration and innovation you need to become a better athlete. Join Nike Run Club to reach your goals and have fun along the way. Download to get started. 


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Written by Exercise Right staff.

We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series.

The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.