A fitness tracker is an electronic device in the form of a bracelet, a necklace, or a rubber strap wrapped around the chest that you use when exercising. The fitness tracker can also be a digital application downloaded on your smartphone.
A fitness tracker equipped with a heart rate monitor is very popular lately to use when exercising. But is the tool really effective?
What is the fitness tracker function?
The main function of the fitness tracker is to record the wearer's physical activity along with other data related to the level of activity - such as the number of calories burned, heart rate, intensity, speed, duration, and distance traveled when walking or running, height when climbing, to sleep patterns at night. This tool helps the wearer to achieve optimal physical activity for body fitness.
Fitness tracker works by detecting movement. All this information is collected and processed after being compared with personal data such as height, weight, age, and gender of the user, to make the overall reading. The more sensors your tracker has, according to the claim the more accurate the data will be.
Is using a fitness tracker when exercising really effective?
The effectiveness of the fitness tracker to track body fitness during exercise will depend a lot on the type of device you are using, and often the results are vague. A study led by Dr. Marc Gillinov, a heart surgeon from the Cleveland Clinic tried to test various types of sports tracking devices. As a result, the heart rate calculation tracked by the fitness tracker device is not always accurate.
Some heart rate monitors on tracker fitness worn on the wrist are more accurate than those worn on the upper arm or only bagged. The researcher found that the results of reading the heart rate of the chest tracker fitness tracker were the most accurate among all the types studied.
Another study in 2013 found that the trackers attached to shoes were far more efficient than those worn on the hips. A 2014 study at Iowa State University found that fitness trackers were not very accurate for measuring calories burned. The researchers tested eight different tracker models, and showed that the percentage of error data could range from 9 to 23.5 percent. This can have a real impact on achieving health goals.
Reported from Detik, Dr. Mitesh Patel of Medicine and Healthcare Management at the University of Pennsylvania, the benefits of fitness tracker can only be learned by people who from the beginning have active motivation to exercise to maintain body fitness. The reason is that they are better able to understand what the numbers mean and how to follow them correctly.
But if you use a tracker just to be curious, or rather as style, but not treated with real action, that data might not be of much use.
If you know how to use it effectively, fitness tracker can save lives
But who would have thought that even though it was considered not very useful, fitness tracker could save lives. This is what happened to Patricia Lauder, a 73-year-old pensioner from Connecticut. Lauder uses a fitness tracker for his daily life, and suspects that something is wrong when the device displays a number of heart readings at rest that reaches 140 beats per minute. In general, a normal resting heart rate for adults 18 years and over is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Previously, Lauder often complained of gasping for breath and the heart was nervous even when lying down, but didn't know what caused it. Thanks to the data stored by his tracker, Lauder realized that his heart rate continued to increase abnormally, from an average of 60-70 beats per minute to more than 100. Lauder then decided to quickly get emergency medical help.
After examining Lauder's data on fitness tracker data and running a series of medical tests, the hospital found that Lauder had blood clots in both of his lungs, aka pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolism is an emergency medical condition that can be fatal if not treated quickly.
The Patricia Lauder case above is unique. However, Gillinov still recommends tracker users not to panic quickly if they get a heart rate reading that seems too high or too low because "Electronic equipment can still be wrong," he said.
"There is little evidence that can ensure that recording your heart rate every minute when you don't exercise can benefit health," said Clinton Brawner, clinical physiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, reported by Live Science.
What kind of fitness tracker is most effective?
Knowing your heart rate can be useful when you exercise, because this will help you know whether your practice is intense enough to provide health benefits, but not too much so that it can cause health problems (even death from cardiac arrest) , said Dr. James Borchers, a doctor of sports medicine at Wexner Ohio State University Hospital.
This safe heart rate zone is known as the "target zone," that is, your heart rate should at least reach an increase of about 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, so that your cardio work is fruitful.
"If you really need to know your heart rate accurately - whether it's for health or exercise - fitness tracker in the form of a chest strap equipped with electrodes is the best choice," Gillinov said.
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