Sure, technology—from heart rate monitors to activity trackers and iPhone apps—has the ability to effectively help improve our performance and assist us in achieving our fitness goals, but there are also some drawbacks to constantly being connected.
At what point do our digital tools stop becoming helpful and start becoming detrimental?
“Technology exists to make life better—it’s intended to supplement and enhance your exercise efforts, but I think too many people rely on the information without questioning how valuable it is,” says Saul Juan Antonio Cuautle, a certified personal trainer and the CEO and Founder of MOS Training Systems. “It’s like tracking the stock price of Tesla Motors on the stock market every day without owning any shares. What’s the point?”
In other words, if you’re constantly tracking and monitoring your efforts but aren’t evaluating the feedback that your devices provide in order to tweak your strategies and approach, the technology that should be helping you, may be holding you back instead.
We talked to a few fitness experts and these are a few of the examples they gave when we asked about how technology can hinder fitness goals.
1. All About the Calories
Keeping track of your energy balance by monitoring your daily caloric intake and expenditure can be a helpful weight loss tool for some, but when the sole focus of every workout is to burn a specific amount of calories, other important aspects, like the health benefits and fitness gains you’re acquiring, become lost and exercise may feel less fulfilling.
Not to mention, a recent study from the American Council on Exercise examined the accuracy of five popular activity trackers and found that when it comes to tracking calories burned, you probably shouldn’t trust your wearable device to provide accurate stats. According to the results, when reporting energy expenditure the trackers were off by anywhere from 13 to 60 percent.
The inaccuracy factor doesn’t only apply to calories.
“My biggest concern with fitness wearables is the technology is still in it’s infancy,” Cuautle said. “There is a huge problem with accuracy that’s not addressed and downplayed. The information they provide, such as number of steps and calories consumed, is at best an estimation and at its worst, it’s wrong. If information is unreliable and inconsistent, it can lead to poor results or no results.”
3. Meaningless Numbers
“Another issue I see is that most wearables measure things that give people the illusion of trying,” Cuautle said. “Most people that get a fitness tracker or count calories are trying to lose body fat. But what does walking 3,113 steps in a day really mean anyway? In addition, multiple studies have shown that calorie-counting does not work for everyday people. So if you’re eating your assigned ‘1,500 calories per day’ and not losing any body fat, what then?”
4. Constantly Connected
Think about it: when was the last time you went to the gym without your phone; without tracking your calories burned or steps taken or heart rate; without texting while on the treadmill or snapping a gym selfie to upload to Instagram?
When was the last time you disconnected?
“What if you could choose to leave behind the rest of the world and the voices of judgment and be fully present in the moment during that one hour?” asks Christopher Harrison, creator of AntiGravity Fitness. “Every time you look into a screen your body and mind disconnect a bit. Every time that you are fully present, focusing on your breath and the exact moment at hand, you reconnect your body and mind. Try some ‘mindful playtime’ versus a mindless workout and notice the difference it makes in your life.”
5. Meeting the bare minimum.
“Another major disadvantage, in my opinion, is not pushing yourself past your limits,” says Nadia Murdock, a certified fitness instructor and author of You Can Have it All. “For many, they may just be doing the bare minimum to reach certain goals for the day when they could be doing so much more. For example, if an app encourages participants to take 1,500 steps for the day when they could have easily achieved 2,000 some may stop after the goal is reached.”