Fitness tracker anxiety

In today’s post, I want to discuss the anxiety that wearing fitness trackers can invoke. Often, I think that these trackers can do more harm than good – and here’s why.

Disclaimer: these are my opinions and are not intended to dictate whether or not you wear a fitness tracker. It’s solely coming from the perspective of someone who has struggled with exercise addiction in the past.


Fitness trackers

First things first,  let’s briefly discuss what fitness trackers are. Some of you will be rolling your eyes at this, but I think it’s wrong to assume that everyone knows what they are. So let me briefly explain; a fitness tracker is a device – usually a watch – that essentially monitors your activity levels. It usually counts your daily steps, regularly encourages you to move, tells you how many calories you’ve burnt, monitors your sleep… There are a lot of features, some of which are specific to watch models and brands. But, for the most part, they calculate your daily steps and calories burnt. Fitbit and Apple watch are probably the most well-known out there.

Problematic?

Naturally, this focus on steps – and more specifically, calories – can be problematic. Especially if you struggle, or have previously struggled, with disordered eating and/ or exercise addiction. These trackers reduce complex metrics to simplistic numbers that, taken out of context, don’t hold much meaning. Unfortunately, these trackers thrive off the fact that humans are obsessed with numerical value systems (follower counts, step counts, they’re all the same really). And you don’t necessarily have to tend towards a type A personality (perfectionism, over-working etc) to fall into the number-game trap.

Guilt

These trackers create and perpetuate feelings of guilt, relying on it to sell their product and keep wearers hooked. You get little “rewards” for meeting your daily step goal (and calorie goal, or any other goals you input). These mini celebrations play to the dopamine loop; you feel pleasure for achieving a goal, you want to seek more pleasure so you set more goals, you achieve them again… and so on. But the flipside of that satisfaction is guilt; if you don’t meet your daily targets, you are made to feel guilty. And to avoid such “failures”, you work harder to meet your goals.

isn’t this a good thing?

Well, as my e-book is titled, it’s when passion becomes obsession that this fitness tracker-induced dopamine loop can be problematic. Everyday, you have to beat your previous day’s count. Everyday, you have to do that little bit extra, go that extra mile, burn that extra calorie. You become wholeheartedly consumed by the number game and, rather than merely motivate you, it rules your life. That is where the issue lies. That is definitely not healthy.

lockdown

The other day, I saw a post on Instagram talking about the negative effects of being sedentary. And it made me really angry! Because, in case they have forgotten, we are currently stuck at home for the majority of the day because of a government-enforced lockdown. We literally have no other choice but to be sedentary right now. Sure, you can go outside once a day for your permitted daily exercise, but the most you’re going to stretch it to is about 2 hours.

And there’s only so much moving about I’m able to do inside my house. These fitness trackers honestly only make a tricky situation worse. Everyday, you get reminded how few steps you have done. Everyday, you get beeped at by your watch to “move!” because you’ve been sat at your desk working for the past two hours. Yes, you can turn that function off, but my point remains. Don’t make yourself feel guilty for something that is literally out of your control.

and finally…

I want to remind you that it is perfectly acceptable to walk 300 steps in one day. You don’t have to walk X amount of steps everyday, you are allowed to rest, you are allowed to veg out on the sofa if that’s what your body and mind need. Equally, if you want to do some sport, then do it! I’m not denying that sport is good for you – because it is. I just don’t want people feeling anxious because their fitness tracker told them they were lazy (in other words).


I hope that post wasn’t too controversial and, as always, seek help if you need it. A family member, a friend, a therapist… a problem shared is a problem halved.

Emma ♥♥