Do we really need fitness trackers?

They're pretty much just fancy bracelets and a subtle way of saying: "Hey people! I'm making an effort to be sexy!"

On Christmas day, after having two bowls of beef bone marrow soup, I finally unboxed some fitness trackers from their mint packaging and fiddled with them in confusion. The overwhelming thought bubble in my head being, how the hell does this work?

I’ve never used a fitness tracker before. I’ve never even been successful enough to integrate a legit fitness regime into my life. But my god, believe me, I have tried. I’m a serial polygamist when it gets to sticking to one (exercise): going from dormant, to Bikram yoga, to Crossfit, to boxing, and then back to square one. But once in a while, I’ll be in a good place. I’ll adopt a fitness routine with my game face on. And this was exactly my mood on Christmas morning.

If you’ve got no one else to rah-rah you to booty camp, your fitness tracker is bound to do that for you.

I tested three brands: Jawbone UP 24 [1], Garmin Vivosmart [2], and the Misfit Shine [3]. First thing I noticed was how nice they looked. Sleek and trendy. The Jawbone UP is the most masculine, just a thick rubber bracelet that wraps around your wrist. The Garmin Vivosmart looks more like a digital watch with an LED screen protruding on the top, lighting up when you prompt it to give you an update. I like most the Misfit Shine, a circular tracking device that lets you choose how you want to wear it, whether you pop it on a rubber band as a bracelet, or a necklace, or a keychain.

In choosing your fitness tracker, you decide based on two things: how it looks as an accessory, and how the application interface looks on your phone. The way the data is designed and disseminated varies. Some apps are easier to digest (I like Misfit’s simple graphs and easy-to-use interface), while others have too much going on.


On that note, I find it odd that these modern-day trackers won’t really let you track anything without a smart phone. While the bracelets do their job in taking note of your movements, you can’t actually see any of these details until you’ve downloaded the app, connect via Bluetooth, and sync the data with your phone. Seems like a lot of steps to get your number of steps. Something which, I have found quite by accident, your regular iPhone can do too.

But one thing the fitness trackers do is get you hooked on numbers. Because this wearable tech can now quantify how much activity (or inactivity) you’ve been doing, you really have no excuse. A quick look at the app before you sleep gives you an idea: “Wow. I only clocked in a pathetic 432 steps today, compared to yesterday’s 1,060 steps.” Pretty shitty. Point is, if you’ve got no one else to rah-rah you to booty camp, your fitness tracker is bound to do that for you. It’s like the more mobile, quieter, non-judgmental, fitter version of yourself. If you need a friendly reminder to get rid of the beer belly, get a fitness tracker. If you need someone to encourage you not be such a slob, get a fitness tracker. If you’ve been on a diet since age 13, get a fitness tracker. Almost everyone is wearing one, it looks decent too. Otherwise, if you’ve actually grown accustomed to a decent fitness routine, you have a good sense of discipline, and you are able to juggle a balanced diet, I really don’t see the need for one. Your iPhone can do the same. It’s just a fancy bracelet and a subtle way of saying: “Hey people! I’m making an effort to be sexy!” Which I guess isn’t such a bad thing either.

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This article originally appeared in our February 2016 issue as "Booty Camp."

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Kara Ortiga
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