Advanced fitness: step counters, wearable devices

Macey Dieckmann, freshman in open option, checks her step count on her FitBit at Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex on Sep. 22, 2015. (Emily Starkey | The Collegian)

With the growing popularity of technologies that enable people to track their movements, many K-State students are investing their money in step counters and other devices in order to monitor their personal activity on a daily basis.

Wearable devices made by companies such as FitBit, Apple, Garmin, Samsung Gear and more have gained popularity in recent years and will continue to grow through 2018, according to CCS Insight, a company that provides analysis and research on the technology market.

“Sales of wearable devices are expected to grow from 29 million in 2014 to 172 million in 2018,” according to the article “Wearables Market: 2015 is the year that will make or break the Smartwatch” by CCS Insight.

“I think that this technology is going to become more and more popular,” Christian Larson, instructor and adviser in kinesiology, said.

These devices can be used for a number of things, such as counting the amount of steps a user takes in a day, calculating mileage, informing the user of the amount of calories they have burned and more.

“My watch has everything from a step counter to heart monitor,” Tim Gauntt, sophomore in kinesiology and user of the Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch, said. “It is definitely a fitness device, but at the same time it helps me with my everyday life. I’m able to answer calls, read texts, play music, read emails and with a little bit of an extra investment, you can get a camera on the watch and it will automatically send pictures back to your phone.”

Along with a number of technological benefits, users also noted many health and psychological benefits that stem from the use of fitness trackers. Larson said there can be large health advantages if users are actively using their devices to track their movements and are interested in how much they are moving.

“With most things, if you want to do better, you’re going to track it and you will see a change in behavior, and I think this is why fitness devices can be so beneficial,” Larson said.

The devices can inform users of their progress throughout the day, telling them when they have met 50 percent of their daily walking goal, as well as when they have completed their goal for a given day, according to Morgan Higgins, freshman in music education.

“It motivates me,” Higgins said. “I like to get the notification that says, ‘Congratulations! You have reached your goal,’ which happens when I hit 10,000 steps each day. It makes me feel productive.”

According to Gauntt and Higgins, the most motivational aspect of fitness devices are the step counters; however, it can also be the biggest disappointment.

“A big downfall to step counting is that on some days I don’t hit my goal and that makes me feel a little lazy and sometimes sad,” Gauntt said.

Both Gauntt and Higgins said they agreed that for some these fitness devices are just a part of a trend that many are following because they see people using the devices and think they are cool; however Larson said he does not think that this is necessarily a bad thing.

“We’re humans,” Larson said. “People tend to do similar things, and if those things cause a positive health benefit, then that’s great.”

With the growing popularity of these devices, there is an even greater chance for advantages in health technology. Larson said he hopes to see real-time tracking devices, which could have the ability to know what the user has eaten in any given day and calculate their calories more accurately.

“The better the technology gets on diet, sleep and movement, the more popular these devices will become,” Larson said.