Fitness Trackers are The Hottest Trend in The World Today But Can They Really Enhance Your Pilates Practice?
Experts weigh in. by Sharon Liao as a pilates instructor, Julee Jones spends the majority of her day on her feet. “i’m usually in the studio with a student, or teaching barre class,” says Jones, the founder and principal instructor at the pilates place in nashville. But when she bought a fitbit fitness tracker five years ago to log her daily steps, she was shocked at the results. Jones assumed that she easily surpassed the 10,000 steps, or about five miles, recommended by health experts a day. “But i was only averaging 5,000 to 6,000,” she says. “it was a wake-up call! as a culture, we spend so much time sitting in front of a computer and driving from place to place.” Jones began sneaking in walks, such as a quick stroll outside between pilates sessions, into her schedule to help hit her target. “i get a little competitive, and challenge myself to move more than i did the day or week before,” she laughs.
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Today, Jones wears her fitbit two or three days a week to make sure she stays on track. it motivates her to keep as active as possible outside of the studio. “it’s an instrument that helps me make better choices throughout my day,” says Jones, who now averages around 10,000 steps a day. Jones learned that fitness trackers can augment a pilates practice to encourage habits that have a powerful impact on your overall health and well-being.
Trend of The Year although modern-day fitness trackers have only recently hit the consumer market, the concept dates back as early as the 16th century. leonardo da vinci is credited as the inventor of the pedometer, a device that measures each step you take. over the years, these gadgets have clearly become more innovative. today, most fitness trackers come in clip, wristband or watch form with built-in accelerometers. accelerometers, which are also used to rotate smartphone screens and deploy airbags in cars, register back-and-forth and up-and-down movements to log how many steps you take. many sync with an app or use an algorithm to calculate the distance you’ve walked and the calories you’ve burned. some fitness trackers also feature heart-rate monitors, which measure your pulse in your wrist to determine the intensity of your workout and calculate your i calorie burn. I “recently, these trackers have become i even more advanced and offer a variety of features,” says Vichele Olson, Phd, a i professor of kinesiology at auburn University i at montgomery in montgomery, al, and a Pilates instructor.
“Some also allow you to i input what you eat into a food journal.” and i some use the accelerometer to monitor your movements during slumber to create a log of how long you snooze and how much time | you spend in deep, or rem, sleep—a vital element for good health. i thanks to the growing number of features and dropping price points, fitness i trackers have become a booming business. i according to a worldwide survey of exercise professionals conducted by the american College of Sports medicine (ACSV), wearable technology, such as trackers, are the number- one fitness trend for 2016. in fact, consumer- i tech analysts say that fitness trackers are projected to become a $5.4 billion industry by 2019. i wearabie’MOTivawn But are these devices worth it? “in general, i’m in favor of them,” says olson. “they help us visually see how active or inactive we are throughout the day without any judgment. it’s like the gas gauge or odometer on a car—it tells us how much farther we need to go in a day.” while many experts advise aiming for 10,000 steps a day, the acsm sets a higher goal: 12,000 steps, or the amount associated with maintaining a healthy body weight. the reality is that americans average less than half that number of steps—a mere 5,117 a day. that’s where a fitness tracker comes into play.
Simply wearing the device can boost your activity by 30 to 40 percent, according to research from the american council on exercise. in fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that women given a digital fitness tracker increased their physical activity by more than an hour a week compared to those who tracked their steps with a simple pedometer. experts believe that the additional features—the ability to track your pace, distance, intensity.
Tia SChroeder SayS her aPPle watch keePS her motivated to move, and helPS her run her Studio with reminderS and notifiCationS. Four Fitness enough to double as a bracelet, this sleek wristband records your steps, sleep habits and workouts. it also shows the time and sends notifications to remind you to move, answer a telephone call or make an appointment ($129.95; www.fitbit.com). b. UP Move bY JaWbone this clip-on tracker may be small and budget-friendly, but there’s no shortage of features. it tracks your steps and sleep patterns, plus syncs to an app for food journaling, personalized advice and goal¬setting. you can also purchase a wristband for an extra $15 ($23.50; www.amazon.com). C. GarMin vivosMarT this waterproof bracelet style displays the time, along with your steps, distance traveled and calorie burn. it also buzzes with email, calendar and phone alerts, and when it’s time to stand up ($149.99; www.garmin.com). d. apple Watch sport like iphones, this watch features a touch-screen that allows you to answer emails and texts and scroll through music. along with these bells and whistles, it comes equipped with a heart-rate monitor and accelerometer to track your activity, calorie burn and workout intensity. there’s also a goal¬setting function and alerts to remind you to stand up regularly ($349-$399; www.apple.com). and duration, as well as the goal-setting features can give people the nudge they need to become more active. “my tracker provides the motivation i need to get moving,” says tia Schroeder, owner and Pilates manager for love for Pilates in los angeles. “it keeps me accountable. i’ll look at it and ask myself, ‘did i do better today than i did on monday?’
The heaLTh paYOff these little changes can really add up. a growing body of science proves that how often you move throughout the day can reduce your risk of a long list of illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. “you can still live a sedentary lifestyle, even if you hit the gym or studio,” says Olson. in fact, scientists from the national institutes of health showed that people who watched television for seven or more hours a day had a 61 percent greater risk of death during the 8.5-year study than those who sat for an hour or less— even if they exercised seven hours a week. that’s how fitness trackers can complement Pilates: even if you have a regular practice, these A study found that people who wore a fitness tracker while following a slim-down plan dropped twice as many pounds— for a total of 10 percent of their body weight— than those who didn’t. gadgets can motivate you to stay more active throughout the day. “my apple watch has an alert that tells me to stand up every hour,” says alia staples, owner of the pilates loft in arlington, va. “it’s a nice reminder to have throughout the day, especially when i’m doing paperwork or sitting at the computer.” not only can moving more strengthen the heart and stave off disease, but it can also promote behaviors that set the stage for weight loss.
İn a study published in the journal Obesity, researchers from wake forest university found that people who wore a fitness tracker while following a slim-down plan dropped twice as many pounds—for a total of 10 percent of their body weight—than those who didn’t. Pairing it With PilaTes while fitness trackers can encourage activity, they do have limitations. Although accelerometers measure cardio movements like steps, they don’t register most of the movements done in pilates. “if i pump my fist in the air, the tracker will track that,” says schroeder. “But we all know that a plank is a tough strengthening move that can cause you to break a sweat, and a fitness tracker won’t reflect that effort.” so it’s important to keep that in mind, says schroeder. “it’s a great way to monitor daily activity, but it doesn’t reflect the whole picture of fitness.” (certain trackers, however, allow you to manually input other activities, such as pilates, that they don’t measure automatically.) what’s more, research shows that fitness trackers may not be completely accurate when it comes to estimating daily activity. in a 2015 study, researchers from the university of wisconsin—la crosse tested five popular fitness trackers. while all of them measured the number of steps taken while walking and running on a treadmill or elliptical within 90 percent accuracy, they missed the mark in agility exercises, such as basketball free-throw and ladder drills, by as much as 83 percent. when measuring calorie burn, the researchers also found that the fitness tracker’s estimated numbers were 13 to 60 percent higher or lower than the actual amount. “you have to take these fitness trackers with a grain of salt,” says olson. “instead of trying to follow the numbers closely, it’s best to use them as an educational tool to check how active you are compared to other days.”
Although accelerometer-based trackers often don’t register pilates movements, some instructors say that those with heart rate monitors are helpful in the studio. fitness trackers provide instant feedback on pilates moves, which can help make sessions more rigorous. for instance, staples wears her apple watch when crafting workouts for her clients before their sessions. “i’m able to collect data on my heart rate and calorie burn during different exercises,” says staples. “it helps me create workouts targeted to my clients’ fitness goals.” for instance, if one of her students is interested in a calorie-burning routine, staples adjusts the flow to keep the heart rate elevated. “some of my clients will also text me pictures of their calorie burn and heart rate from class, and i’ll make a mental note,” she says. “i might make things a little easier or harder by changing a few exercises.” from a business perspective, schroeder says that her apple watch also helps her run her studios more smoothly. along with the fitness tracker features, it also delivers emails, calls and calendar reminders. “it helps me stay connected without being a distraction,” says schroeder.
Because these messages ping directly to her watch, there’s no need to constantly check a phone or computer. UsinG one The riGhT WaY interested in trying out a fitness tracker? experts agree that it’s important to have the right attitude when using one. “fitness trackers give you instant feedback that encourages you to move more throughout the day,” says olson. But it’s important not to follow them too closely or obsess over the numbers. “they can be inaccurate and, worse, lead to unhealthy behaviors,” she says. instead, she suggests using a tracker as a way to check that you’re moving as much as possible throughout the day. staples says that her fitness tracker has helped her measure her progress and encourage healthy choices. “i might choose to walk instead of drive somewhere based on how much i’ve moved that day,” she says. And at the end of the day, it gives me a sense of accomplishment to see that i’ve met my goals.