Weighing in: Are fitness tech gadgets more hype than help?


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I still believe that all you need stay fit is a good pair of sneakers, some comfy clothes and a strong will. Nevertheless, fitness technology is a booming industry, so I must be the minority.

A new study by the Consumer Electronics Association revealed that more than half of us in the United State bought a fitness tech gadget this year while one-third (37%) plan to buy a new exercise device in 2013. Are you one of them?

Eyes off the prize

For me, fitness technology is more of a distraction than a helpful resource when I’m “in the moment.” I used to love my trusty heart-rate monitor, but often found myself stopping for way too long (as my heart rate plummets) fidgeting with my phone or monitor to check my stats. Call me a head case, but this activity usually takes my head out of the workout and I have to re-start my engine. On the flip side, when I’m strapped down to my computer in the office, electronically keeping track of my goals, successes, and anything I put in my mouth, is a great way for me to stay motivated and keep fitness top-of-mind. (That’s why I so badly want the new Jawbone Up.) The only app I love and use is the simple (and free!) My Tracks app by Google. It shows me how far I run, for how long, and even how fast I go. The best part is that I don’t have to look at it mid-run although I hate having a phone wrapped around my arm.

“We continue to see technology play an increasingly important role in health and fitness,” said Kevin Tillmann, senior research analyst, CEA in a release. “Fitness technology is empowering consumers to assess their fitness levels, set achievable goals, track progress and make exercise more rewarding.”

What’s hot, what’s not

The CEA study showed that pedometers remain the most popular health-and-fitness device, but fitness video games saw the most dramatic increase in usage, almost doubling from 9% in 2010, to 16% in 2012. However, heart rate monitors and body mass index scales both saw a 6% decrease in usage from 2010 (I must be in the prehistoric ages).

“Wirelessly connected devices have allowed for major strides within digital health and fitness,” said Tillmann. “Consumers already own devices, such as smartphones, that are capable of being used for exercise and fitness. This year we saw considerable growth in fitness apps. This enables the devices we already own to turn into pedometers, accelerometers and distance trackers.”

Exercise should be our chance to shake off some of the technology we use everyday and focus on our bodies. Maybe the tide will roll back and we will get back to basics: where all we require is the sweat pouring down our faces and the primal beat of our hearts.

I want to know: Where do you stand on fitness technology?