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Are Fitness Trackers Dangerous?

person checking fitness tracker fitbit smartwatch on run

Facts About Fitness Trackers and Which One is Right for You

By: Morgan Radlinger C.W.P. – Network Health
Originally published on 5/15/2020 at 9:25 a.m.

Wearable fitness trackers provide a great way to help monitor your exercise, heart rate, sleep cycles and more depending on the type of device you have. Many devices also keep you on track by allowing you to compete against others with the same or similar devices, adding a social element that helps you crush your fitness goals.

In this way, wearables – as wearable fitness trackers are sometimes called – help increase health consciousness. An important thing to keep in mind, however, is the more convenient a biometric device, often the greater chance for inaccurate readings. For this reason, wearables should never be used to replace your annual doctor’s visit.

So, are fitness trackers safe?

For as long as they’ve been around, there have been people talking about wearables as being dangerous – even, that they may cause cancer.

Many of these rumors are sourced in the fact that wearable fitness trackers emit amounts of electric and magnetic fields (EMF) radiation. This may sound dangerous, but as far as modern science can tell – it’s no cause for concern.

In fact, when compared to the amount of radiation emitted by a cell phone, wearable fitness trackers pose a significantly reduced threat thanks to their distance from your head – unlike a cell phone. That said, researchers are constantly monitoring the safety of wearables, making sure the item you’re choosing to help with health and wellness isn’t making you less healthy.

Although not dangerous, be aware that some devices may cause skin irritation or uncomfortable rubbing from wearing them consistently. Make sure you are cleaning your device at least once a week in line with the manufacturers’ recommendations to help avoid irritation.

Is turning fitness into a game dangerous?

Fitness watches do come with some hidden concerns which can include the obsession some people get from counting calories, closing “rings” and checking boxes for their amount of activity completed in a day.

These types of devices should be used to improve and never punish yourself.

Wearables also come with distractions because many provide notifications for things like text messages and social media alerts that can be dangerous while driving. Unlike your phone, that’s best left in a center console away from your eyes, a fitness watch may wind up right in your field of vision as you hold the steering wheel. Never take your eyes off the road to check a notification.

There’s an added social danger as well. Just like talking on your cell phone or checking your notification is rude during meetings or while socializing, the same is true for your fitness tracker, so make sure you are following proper etiquette and turn off notifications when appropriate.

Fitness tracker benefits

Proper use of your fitness tracker gives you a powerful tool to help reach your fitness goals. Studies show fitness trackers can help address the challenge of public health and physical inactivity through the following.

  • Fitness trackers help increase awareness of physical activity or sedentary behavior.
  • Most fitness trackers have a mobile app to track and log additional healthy activities, adding a social/accountability element that has been shown to help people achieve fitness goals.
  • Fitness trackers provide individualized goal-setting and tracking, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach that may leave you feeling like a plan doesn’t meet your needs.

In terms of cost, fitness trackers can range from $25 to $300+ depending on quality and features. An inexpensive tracker is likely to include base features such as a pedometer and app for logging meals. More expensive fitness trackers add features like mobile notifications, heartrate monitoring, GPS tracking and even music streaming apps that work independently of your smartphone.

Most wearable fitness trackers start with a common goal of 10,000 steps per day and allow you to adjust the number of minutes spent exercising in line with a fitness program.

Fitbit vs. Garmin vs. the Others: Which Fitness Tracker is Best?

There are many fitness trackers, each with their own unique approaches, specializations and features. Brands such as Fitbit, Garmin and smartphone-based smartwatches are the more popular choices.

Choosing the right option is a matter of selecting the features that are most important to you. Here are some fast facts about the most popular fitness trackers on the market.



Smart Watches

  • Fitbit trackers monitor steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.
  • Many also track heart rates, floors climbed and sleep time.
  • Extra convenience comes courtesy of call and text notifications on many models.
  • Some are water-resistant or waterproof – letting you log your laps.
  • There is a huge range of options that start with the Fitbit Inspire pedometer and go all the way up to the full-featured smartwatch Fitbit Ionic
  • The GPS brand has many trackers that focus on running with built-in location tracking for maximum accuracy.
  • If you’re looking for a traditional watch face, Garmin has models that blend the classic analog watch with notifications and fitness tracking.
  • Like Fitbit trackers, they monitor steps, distance, floors climbed, calories burned and sleep, as well as offering call and text notifications.
  • Many models are also water-resistant or waterproof, letting you hit the pool or get fit rain or shine.
  • Smartphone fitness trackers extend your phone’s apps and features.
  • These trackers offer fitness, workout tracking, heart rate monitoring, fall warnings, GPS location and movement tracking and more.
  • These trackers have call/text notifications and mobile apps.
  • Their expanded feature set often comes at the cost of having a shorter battery life than singularly focused fitness trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and the like.

We conducted a full roundup of popular fitness tracker and smartwatch brands. You can view that by clicking below.

>>> Which Fitness Tracker is Right for Me in 2021? <<<

When deciding what device is best for you, you will want to choose which features are the ones you need to keep you on track. You may also weigh the appearance, color options and functionality against one another.

Once you have narrowed down devices, you can consider price and decide how much you are willing to spend. It is a good idea to start with a more basic model to see how much you use you watch and then upgrade from there. Many companies partner with different wearable fitness device brands, such as Fitbit, to offer trackers at discounted rates. Your health insurance plan may even pitch in to cover some or all the cost. Before purchasing a fitness tracker, check with your insurance plan or employer and see what they may offer.

Fitness Trackers: A 21st Century Way to Approach Your Goals

Safe, effective and convenient, fitness trackers are a great way to keep track of your progress and add social and gamified elements often missing from traditional workout regimens. Experts encourage their use in most circumstances because wearable fitness trackers increase your awareness of your activity level and provide a cut-and-dry framework for working toward your fitness ambitions.

While they can become distracting and should never replace your physician, using them in line with wellness best practices is almost certain to level up your workouts and daily life.

For more information on how a fitness tracker can fit into your wellness goals, contact Network Health’s wellness team today.

>>> Contact Us <<<

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