1. Health

Fitness devices won't do the work for you but can be helpful

Lavinia Rodriguez
Lavinia Rodriguez
Published Jun. 11, 2015

There are a lot of interesting technological fitness products on the market today. Fitness technology gadgets are readily available in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors at various price points.

Before there were high-tech gadgets there were low-tech gadgets and plenty of self-help diet books with the same purpose: to help you get more fit and healthy. Yet we, as a nation, have continued to develop obesity-related problems at alarming rates.

Now there's more advanced technology, and it's getting "smarter" all the time. But is it working any better to help Americans with their weight and health problems? Is it making a difference for you, or is it just making a select few a lot of money?

Unfortunately, these gadgets (high-tech or not) aren't having an appreciable impact overall.

The technology is being purchased, so we can't say that the lack of significant positive impact on health is because we aren't buying the products. Sales of wearable fitness technology have been estimated to be well over $1.5 billion.

But acquiring such fitness aids doesn't automatically translate into health benefits.

Robin embraced the latest diet products with enthusiasm. While reading the latest diet book she would share excitement about her new-found weight-loss knowledge with everyone she could. But once she finished reading one book she immediately moved on to the next without even trying to apply what she had just read and learned. Fitness gadgets and exercise equipment quickly gathered dust in her house. Robin did spend money on things that could help her lose weight, but that's all she did. She thought that simply reading, or buying or possessing these products, would be enough, as if weight loss would follow magically.

Brad, too, would readily buy the latest "smart" fitness device only to quickly lose interest. When something is new it's easy to feel motivated to use it because of its novelty. But it's just as easy to habituate to any new "toy" when it's no longer as exciting or interesting. Brad had a nice collection of fitness gear but his weight and health didn't seem to keep pace with his growing arsenal of toys.

Fitness technology products aren't magic, and they're not likely to work long term if they are treated as the most important part of your health plan. They're simply tools. They can add to success with weight and fitness, but they have to be used, and they have to be used correctly.

To make today's technology work for you:

Don't be tempted by the flashiness. Fitness products don't have to be high-tech and packed with bells and whistles to work. Simpler is often better. Typically, people don't use all the features their high-tech tools offer anyway, and more often than not, as time goes by they stop using all but the most basic parts.

Consider your personality. If you're a detail-oriented person who loves to track lots of data on a daily basis you may be a good fit for many of the new technologies, which can tell you how many calories you burn, how many times you move in your sleep and more. You may love getting on your computer or smartphone to view the graphs and charts that reflect your daily behavior. If you're not that kind of person, you may be better off looking at a more basic product, one you would be less likely to abandon over time.

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Think it through. Figure out what you need the most and look for the product that best fits that need. Too often people buy fitness products impulsively. Remember, there's no magic here. Only buy something you've critically thought through.

Consider your lifestyle. If you can't fit that new-fangled computerized exercise machine in your house easily, or you have to take it out of the closet each time you're going to use it, it won't be used for long. If you're too busy to charge your fitness device regularly, or even check the readings, what's the point of having it?

The best fitness device would be one you can wear all the time with anything and one that doesn't get in the way. It would alert you when you aren't moving enough, let you see how you're progressing with movement throughout the day and reward you in a simple and immediate way when you've moved enough. Anything else is just bells and whistles that can be fun but aren't necessary for success.

Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Contact her at


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