Do activity trackers boost fitness motivation?

We all know that staying on track with your gym goals can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle – and that’s before you’ve even got on the step machine.

Building a great music playlist and finding a friend to exercise with can be very helpful. But a particular consumer trend has taken the fitness industry by storm in a bid to get to the next level at the gym.

Wearable technology – and more specifically fitness trackers – are gadgets that monitor metrics such as steps, distance, calories, sleep and even heart rate. Tech innovations mean you can now input your fitness goals and receive daily prompts, but does getting this reminder really give people the boost they need to stick to the gym beyond self-motivation and willpower?

To test whether fitness trackers play a part in working out, Better surveyed 2,000 gymgoers from across the country, half who use them and half who don’t, to discover whether wearable technology impacts fitness motivation.

Our results reveal whether these gadgets affect gym attendance, confidence levels and the amount of effort people put in.

Why do people use fitness trackers?

Activity trackers are becoming increasingly popular with gym-goers. In fact, wearable technology has been named as the number one global consumer trend in the fitness industry for 2020, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

And there are many different reasons why more and more people are jumping on board. Better’s research shows that almost three-quarters of people who wear fitness trackers do so to monitor their progress, while 62% of wearers use them to increase their motivation to exercise. Another 46% want to understand their body better by tracking things like their heart rate, steps taken and calories burned.

Almost a third of users say they wear their activity tracker to give training a competitive edge when measuring results against their friends. This is especially popular in the capital, with over half of Londoners saying that’s why they use one.

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Better spoke to Dr Haider Raad, wearable tech expert and professor at Xavier University in Ohio, USA, to find out why this might be.

“A number of fitness trackers allow the users to compete with friends and share their accomplishments and physical transformation via social media, which could be a great way to get support and staying motivated,” he explains. “In fact, recent studies confirm that using trackers with online community-based support promotes motivation and is highly effective at increasing engagement and adherence to the physical exercise.”

A lot of respondents also disclosed that they wear fitness trackers for non-fitness reasons. London is where this is most likely to happen, with a fifth of wearers saying they don’t use the gadgets for the gym. This drops to one in 10 people across the rest of the UK.

What difference do fitness trackers make to your training?

Do you like to plan your gym sessions ahead of time, or are you more of an improviser? Better’s research discovered there’s a link between people who wear fitness trackers and planning in advance, as 97% of users say they brainstorm their workouts beforehand. This drops to 87% for people who don’t use wearable tech.

“In general, users who wear trackers are more ‘fitness-conscious’, and tend to take workouts more seriously, hence they stick to a workout schedule rather than improvising at the gym,” says Dr Raad.

“Also, when paired with the right companion app many of these trackers allow the user to access personalised workouts and programs tailored to their fitness goals. This may enforce exercise accountability and serve as an incentive to work out more professionally.”

The study also found that men are much more likely to skip a workout, with almost a quarter of men admitting they do this on a frequent basis, compared to only 14% of women.

Where you live in the country has an impact, too, with people in Wales, London and the South West most likely to miss sessions, and gym-goers in the North West, Northern Ireland and Yorkshire and the Humber the most committed to their workouts.

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Do fitness trackers make exercise more enjoyable?

What if there was a simple solution to feeling happier and more confident at the gym? Better’s research shows fitness trackers do just that, with 96% of people who wear them saying they enjoy their time at the gym, compared to one in 10 of those without a gadget.

Using wearable tech also boosts confidence in the gym, with three in four-tracker wearers describing themselves as feeling positive about working out in public spaces. Less than half of those who don’t use trackers feel the same.

And, as well as increasing happiness and confidence at the gym, fitness tech wearers also reported that they felt happier overall with their fitness journey and progress than people who didn’t wear the trackers.

Interestingly, the survey also discovered that enjoyment of the gym steadily increases from 78% to 85% between the ages of 25 and 54, while skipping the gym decreases by almost a third between the ages of 18 and 55. Happiness with personal fitness increased to 85% for the same demographic.

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The long-term impact of wearing a fitness tracker

Whatever your motivations for joining the gym – whether you want to lose weight, tone up or just improve your health – everyone wants to get the best possible results from their workouts.

Since they started using wearable tech, over half of the people Better surveyed noticed they were more motivated with their gym sessions, with a similar number saying they were exercising more frequently and consistently. Meanwhile, 48% said they had started to achieve the workout goals they had set for themselves.

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For people who had recently bought a fitness tracker, over a third said they had joined a gym since then. Those wearing trackers also noticed that they were exercising more frequently and consistently, reaching their goals and feeling more motivated than those who don’t use a gadget.

Only 6% of people who use wearable tech to track their workouts reported no changes or impact on their health and fitness, compared to a quarter of people who don’t use it. “The consistency and motivation experienced by the respondents are attributed to the immediate feedback and useful data available while exercising,” concludes Dr Raad. “The user could instantly get a sense of how their performance metrics are contributing to their fitness goals. The real-time data provided by these trackers about the workout intensity, heart rate, number of calories burnt, kilometres walked, etc. could be highly effective at creating an engaging workout experience.”

Your results say it all

As Better’s study shows, wearing a fitness tracker can have a significant impact on your health and fitness levels, as well as your overall and long-lasting enjoyment of the gym.

So, whether you’re struggling to find the motivation to join a gym, keep skipping your sessions or lack confidence in your workouts, these little wearable gadgets could be the big change you’re looking for in your exercise regime.

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