Can Using Wearables Improve Your Health?
Sarah Lehnert, M.D., C.A.Q., one of Summit Orthopedics’ sports medicine experts, digs into the issue of wearables and their effect on health.
You may have seen advertisements for wearables — Fitbits, Jawbones, and many other devices that you can wear around your wrist or arm to track how many steps you take or what your heart rate is during exercise. You may have considered buying one, or you may already own one. What does a sports medicine expert say about wearables? The answer may surprise you.
Wearables may not be the answer
“I’m not super in favor of wearables — they seem to me to be more of a fad. They can certainly be motivating when people first get them, but the data is showing that they are not as good at helping people stay motivated and sustain behavior change,” said Dr. Lehnert.
Many retrospective studies have shown that nine months or a year later, many people have not sustained the increased activity levels they had when they first started using a wearable.
“Data alone is not enough to motivate people over the long term,” Dr. Lehnert said. For example, the number of steps a person takes in a day does not necessarily have an impact on health. “The number of steps doesn’t matter as much as how hard your heart is working. You need to be exercising, raising your heart rate, in order to improve health,” Dr. Lehnert said.
Without context, the data a wearable provides is of limited value. “Wearables don’t replace coaching, lifestyle changes, and dietary changes,” Dr. Lehnert notes. However, using a wearable in combination with coaching — working with a dietitian, for example — can be helpful.
A simple idea to track health
So if wearables aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be, what can a person do to get in shape? Dr. Lehnert has a simple solution — one that doesn’t cost a penny. It’s the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), a scale that a person can use to make sure they are working hard enough during an exercise session.
“You can find RPE scales with a simple online search. You can use those scales to rate your perceived exertion, and you want to try to maintain a certain RPE rate throughout your exercise,” Dr. Lehnert said. “This is an effective, simple tool — and it’s free.”
With the money you save by not buying a wearable, Dr. Lehnert said, you can have an expert consultation with a dietitian or personal trainer. That’s a recipe for success.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive sports medicine expertise
From Olympians to pro athletes to kids in youth sports and those that just want to be more active—Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.
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