Powered-Up_7-16Fitbit, Apple Watch, Jawbone Up, Moov Now, Pebble, and the list of wearable technology goes on and on. What do they do? Why would I want one? Can they really help me live a better, healthier lifestyle? These are all questions that I hear asked when the topic of smart watches or fit bands come up. I would like to take a moment and share with you why I believe these devices are great tools, and why I think they are here to stay.

Now, it goes without saying that strapping one of these devices to your wrist does not magically turn you into Richard Simmons, or any other highly motivated fitness guru for that matter. I believe this concept is the main reason a lot of people are not inclined to take advantage of this new technology. At first glance, it can be hard to understand how wearing a piece of technology such as a Fitbit can actually help you achieve results. Let’s be honest, how is counting my every step going to motivate me to be more active than I already am.

Data, the key to achieving results, lies in the information that is gathered. I was sharing with someone just the other day about an app I use called Sleep Cycle, which monitors the quality of your sleep. I was explaining that I use the information gathered, such as total steps, calorie and carb intake, standing hours, heart rate, weight, and barometric pressure, to correlate what helps me get a good night’s sleep. Over a period of time, you start to paint a picture of your habits, good and bad, that are contributing to the state of your health.  Most of us that are out of shape already know that, right? Simply knowing you are out of shape usually isn’t enough to motivate you to start changing your habits. When you track the data associated with those bad habits, you now have something to attack. You have a choice and can direct your attention to those areas that will make a difference.

All too often we focus on the results. Getting on the scale every morning and checking your weight doesn’t help you lose weight.  Focusing your attention on exercise, calorie intake, eating the right foods, and getting quality sleep, is what yields results that display on your bathroom scales.

These new wearable accessories are data gathering devices. They allow us to effortlessly collect information on a daily basis that can later be reviewed and compared in order to help us make informed decisions that will impact us the most.

One way to get a holistic view is to choose apps that work together. The Apple Health app, for example, is compatible with many of the popular wearables and the apps associated with them. This is very helpful because you can see all of your data in one app, which makes it easy to correlate trends.

One benefit that is often overlooked is the ability to interact socially with your wearable tech. This has many advantages, but the most notable is accountability. Having others invested in your progress has been shown to help people stick to long term fitness plans. The competitive nature of interacting socially can also make achieving goals more fun!

A fitness tracker is just a tool, not a magic wand, and it’s not a replacement for your desire to improve your health. Just like that weight bench you bought last year, or the treadmill that sits in your basement, if used correctly, can have a positive impact on your health. Wearables in conjunction with tracking apps are intended to motivate you by providing data that helps you make informed decisions and set realistic, personal goals that will produce results.

Dan-GerardHi, my name is Dan Gerard and I have served as IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperative since June of 2014. I previously served in many IT roles such as Information Security Officer, Systems Administrator, and Systems Analyst. With over 16 years of IT experience, I have extensive knowledge in IT process management, server management, PC troubleshooting, networking design, and cyber security. I would like to thank Ed VanHoose for bringing a wealth of knowledge to this column and I look forward to bringing you relevant technical tips, as well as new and emerging technologies.