I recently read an article about the growing popularity of wearable fitness trackers and their ability to provide key data that some may think their doctors should reference to see where they are health-wise. These days, the average wearable fitness tracker provides data such as the number of steps taken in a day and calories burned. Others provide even more data such as heart rate, sleep patterns, and even strength data. Â Having all this â€œhealthâ€ data at our hands is great, right? Â Instead of waiting until we go to the doctor, take lab and other tests, and get our results back we can now get some of this data from a wearable fitness tracker such as heart rate, for example. But how much does the data fitness trackers provide such as the number of steps taken in a day or daily calorie burn really factor into our overall health? Â And how useful is this data to your doctor? Maybe not quite useful as you think …if at all. Â Sure, taking 10,000 steps a day may be great for you fitness-wise (assuming you do not have any other physical ailments that could make this harmful to you instead). Â But what indication does it provide for any potential underlying health issues you may have? And how reliable is this data to provide a picture of your overall health? Â Maybe youâ€™ve been able to take 10,000 steps a day for the past few days and burn a few more calories than usual. Â But when the weekend came you decided to drink 15 beers in a day (a bit extreme but it happens). Â Now you have this data showing that you reached consistently reached your daily step goal during the week but no evidence of the 15 beers you drank on the weekend to celebrate your milestone. Â And what if you normally drink 10-15 beers in a weekend? In such a case, how accurate of a picture of your overall health is a fitness tracker really providing? Â Not muchâ€¦and this is likely how your doctor sees it. Â I work on the IT side of healthcare and I will tell you that reliable, measurable data typically based on patterns and evidence-based research is essential to physicians. Â Therefore, it is my opinion that the data provided by fitness trackers is not very useful to your doctor in terms of your overall health. Â Valuable to your personal trainer or wellness coach? Likely yes. Â As an avid Fitbit wearer I find my fitness tracker extremely helpful for doing what the name stands forâ€¦tracking my fitness. Â So if Iâ€™ve gained a few pounds in the past couple of weeks then maybe my fitness tracker can show me that I havenâ€™t been burning as many calories or have gotten less sleep. Â Quite helpful. But if I reverse these things and still canâ€™t get rid of the unwanted pounds Iâ€™ve gained…well, there may be some other underlying issue going on. Â And this is where my doctor can helpâ€¦and understandably she will care much less about how many steps Iâ€™ve taken over the past couple of weeks and more about what real, measurable evidence-based data she can pull from her own examination.
So use your fitness tracker for its main purposeâ€¦tracking fitness. You really canâ€™t go wrong with doing that since youâ€™ll likely benefit from it health-wise.