New Year, New Goals..New Gadgets? Benefits of Activity Trackers

As we welcome another new year, most of us are taking a step back and looking at what we accomplished in 2015 and determining where we can improve ourselves in 2016. It’s that time of year that the fitness and health industry thrives off of our new years resolutions. Most likely these goals will be aimed at losing a few pounds, joining a gym, or running a half marathon; because the honest truth is that most of us over-indulged with one too many cookies over this holiday season!

The big problem with these resolutions is that we don’t always adhere to our goals, we lose motivation and eventually lose track of what we set out on January 1st. So how do we fix this? As a healthcare practitioner, I see this frequently with patients who come into the clinic on day 1 and are highly motivated to do their home exercise programs and improve their condition. The same trend occurs and over a couple of weeks, that same patient will fall behind and not see the results they had once hoped for. They know it’s right for them, but for some reason, life gets too busy and they slowly revert back to their previous habits.

So this year, I decided to try something new…I bought a Polar M400 GPS running watch with a heart rate monitor (HRM) and activity tracker over boxing week. I understand that this is not a new trend, the Fitbit and other activity trackers such as the Garmin Vivofit and Mio fit bands have been on the market for well over a year. I have heard from friends and my patients that using a fit watch or band creates a different level of competitiveness with yourself that makes you more accountable for your activity goals.

My original intent was to have a HRM to use for running and the activity tracking and GPS was an added bonus. Although I have to say, only after a short time of wearing this watch I have done more training in one week than I have in a couple of months. I always thought that treating patients for full day, approximately 9 hrs in clinic; would be more than enough activity. Sometimes I just didn’t have the energy to go for a run or workout after a long day of being on my feet. I decided to wear my watch for a full week (24/7) to conduct my own little experiment and see how much I really did move on an average day. This also included a regular routine of walking my dog for 40 minutes a day and regular workouts. My experiment turned out to be quite a bit more difficult than I originally thought. I was shocked to see that after a day of work, I had only accomplished 30% of my daily goal and approximately 5500 steps. That day I realized that this was much more valuable than I had originally thought. It’s been a serious eye-opener that as a whole, we could be kidding ourselves about how much activity we think we’re doing compared to how much we actually do. That mental exhaustion may be causing us to feel tired when really we have ability to do more.

It has become obvious to me that these new devices could be the future of how we manage our health. Not just for athletes and weekend warriors to monitor their training levels, but for individuals with cardiac conditions, diabetes and other health issues that require life modification and increased daily exercise. Research has proven that “exercise is medicine” and the right prescription is what determines its effectiveness. Studies show that those who exercise more are less likely to develop and improve conditions such as osteoarthritis¹, type 2 diabetes and heart disease². A study by Healy et al. (2015), utilized activity trackers to demonstrate that simply replacing the total amount of daily sitting  time with either standing or walking did demonstrate evidence for improving cardio-metabolic health³. In fact these devices could help us as practitioners provide a more accurate prescription of how much is enough to observe these benefits.

Needless to say, I’m still wearing my M400 on a daily basis. I have begun to plan my day accordingly and utilize the software tracking, so I can achieve between 80-100% of my daily goal. I think Polar has done a great job making a user-friendly product with everything you need to track your training goals at a very reasonable price point. I feel that these devices will continue to grow in popularity and I’d like to see more of them geared towards the average population to help tackle our obesity epidemic and improve the health of Canadians. Obviously, this article is based on my experience in a fairly short time period and I look forward to continuing to track my goals and for further research on exercise adherence to be conducted. Whether it’s a basic pedometer or a high-tech fit watch, I believe that there’s a huge benefit for improving exercise adherence and motivation.


  1. Vincent, H. K., Heywood, K., Connelley, J., & Hurley, R. W. (2012). Weight loss and obesity in the treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis. PM & R : The Journal of Injury, Function, and Rehabilitation4(5 0), S59–S67. 2012.01.005
  2.  Silvio, E. I. et al. (2012). Management of hyperglycemia in Type 2 diabetes: A patient-centered approach: Position statement of the american diabetes association (ADA) and the European association for the study of diabetes (EASD). Diabetes Care. 35:6 1364-1379. #cited-b
  3.  Healy, G. N., Winkler, E. A. H. , Owen, N., Anuradha, S. and Dunstan, D. W. (2015). Replacing sitting time with standing or stepping: associations with cardio-metabolic risk biomarkers. European Heart Journal. 36 (39) 2643-2649; DOI:10.1093/eurheartj/ehv308

Published by katiemitchell08

I'm a Registered Physiotherapist and Certified Athletic Therapist CAT(C) working in the Waterloo Region, with a focus on sport-related concussion, vestibular-ocular conditions, and orthopaedic injuries. I am the Lead Therapist for Sledge Hockey Team Ontario and also have worked with Waterloo County Rugby Football Club, Rugby Canada and as a member of the medical team for the 2015 Parapan Am Games. Currently, I am a PhD candidate in the Kinesiology program at Wilfrid Laurier University with a focus on visual perception and balance control for individuals with sport-related concussion. My goal is to provide evidence for objective measures of dynamic visual acuity and balance control to improve clinical decision-making for return to sport, work, school, and life!

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