The appeal of wearables seems self-evident: Megaloads of data readily available at our fingertips, reminders, rewards to help “motivate” the masses, and the addition of automated programs with milestones to help us reach our goals. The downsides, however, are less obvious, but certainly real.
Sure, wearable fitness technology may help motivate us at first, but what happens when the initial hype wears off? Yes, it’s handy to have a device on our wrist that tells us what to do and when to do it, but what does that do to our self-awareness and knowledge of our own bodies? We’re making trade-offs that we’re not even aware of.
One of the issues is that when we introduce technology into the mix, it begins to change the way that we release neurotransmitters. If you’ve ever experienced the so-called “runner’s high” or a more profound sense of euphoria when doing something active, it’s partly because your brain is prompting the release of “happy” hormones. This is one of the reasons that exercise can be habit-forming in a good way- we crave that shot of dopamine and other chemicals that give us the natural high.
In a perfect world, we’d just enjoy fun activities in their purest form and be happy to reap the rewards that they provide, yet, we all too often try to enhance our experiences with an application or a wearable device, without the realization that doing so changes the source of our habit-reward system.
Every time you look down to check your pace, heart-rate, or split-time, your brain gives you a little dopamine hit. The same is true of the information you get by looking at your app, or even checking a text or email on your smartwatch. Before too long, you’ll find yourself looking at your device more and more to get your fix, and the activity itself has lost its meaning and become sedentary. Soon enough, one gets frustrated with the failure of meeting their goals and will be sure to cast aside their device.
And because their motivation was coming from an external source, removing it means that many people struggle to remain active and fall back into their sedentary ways.
An even bigger problem is that by further committing another area of our life to technology, we’re pushing further from really knowing ourselves and interacting in an authentic way and with our natural environment. It’s another layer of the continuous partial attention in our ever-changing world of distraction. As a result, we’re losing our ability to be conscious and aware of what we’re doing, how we’re feeling, and what is really going on around us.
How much of the information we’re collecting about ourselves is truly usable for improving performance and creating health benefits? Are we really becoming better performers, or do we simply just have more information?
Many of these devices have been shown to not accurately record data depending on the activity at hand. On top of that, they also track metrics which, in terms of health and performance, are useless.
If you’ve read my wellness guide or my previous Ranthony post on understanding the calorie myth, then you should already have realized that eating less and moving more doesn’t measure up to the body’s standards of living, nor will “burning calories” equate to burning fat. So why are we still obsessing over the metric of calories? Better yet, what the heck is up with this prescription of ten thousand steps a day? If you’re going to use wearable technology to measure something, it shouldn’t be the number of steps you take. Ten thousand steps a day is among one of the recommended daily guidelines the government puts out, and do we really want to cater to the bare minimums in life? Accumulating ten thousand steps a day might help sedentary people lose weight initially if combined with a better diet and other episodes of physical exertion, but such early progress will quickly level off and these people will need much more resistance training and intense interval work to overcome stagnation.
Despite the broad range of measurements now available and the sexy ways of presenting them, the four major predictors of mortality remain unchanged from over fifty years ago.
They still are:
Lean body mass
Instead of wasting hard earned money on exhaustive tests and technology, there are plenty of labs and gyms that can test the four for relatively cheap. If you find that you’re lacking in one of the four, you can then take this information to a strength and conditioning coach who can help devise a plan and strategy to help you progress and improve upon your health and fitness.
The programming at Richmond Hill CrossFit & Athletics is sure to show performance increases across the board and the above four metrics are sure to come up strong if getting tested. Much of our programming is centered around ensuring those four criteria are met and that you’re maximizing your ability to be more human.
So, while wearables might be beneficial to get some people on the road to better health, for many of us, they’ve worn out their welcome.