We often write about research-based tips and trick that work to help improve your wellness. However, it’s also important to highlight the things that don’t work quite as well. Activity trackers are one of those things that don’t work as well. But why? Read on to learn more about why activity trackers may not be the workplace wellness winners that many think they are!
What are Activity Trackers?
An activity or fitness tracker is a wearable device that monitors and tracks your physical activity, fitness, and health. It track things like your steps, heart rate, and amount of time standing. Popular trackers you have probably heard of include Fitbit and the Apple Watch.
People have been using trackers for years now to help them understand their movement and track progress towards fitness goals. Organizations have also taken an interest in leveraging fitness trackers to help promote wellness in their employees. While some have touted the possible benefits, others seem to fear capturing so much data on employees and how it will be used. We can speculate about this all day but, lucky for us, a recent study has provided some clarity into whether organizations should be encouraging the use of fitness trackers.
Research into the physical benefits of activity trackers is limited but does show promising results. We know that when people wear pedometers, they increase their physical activity and reduce their blood pressure. Some early studies in more modern fitness trackers show that they too can help increase physical activity. And we know physical activity has a ton of benefits! Interestingly, activity trackers have also been shown to increase a person’s perceptions of their own health, but only for a short period of time. In other words, wearing and using a tracker can help make you feel more healthy when you first start using it.
So, here’s the good news about these trackers – they can help you be more active. From a personal use perspective, I’m sure many of you are feeling a bit relieved. You didn’t waste $400 on a tool that has no use. On the contrary, it can be a great motivator to keep you moving and healthy throughout the day. Keep on using those trackers if you enjoy them! No shame! But how does this tie into workplace wellness?
Impact on Workplace Wellness
While the physical benefits for fitness trackers exists, the research is not positive for the impact on workplace wellness. Researchers found that while people saw physical benefits from the trackers, they did not see a big impact on things like burnout and vigor. In other words, people still felt exhausted and did not see an increase in energy at work.
The study did look at the impact over time and while, in the long-term, burnout did not decrease, it did decrease in the first month of using a tracker. What does that mean? Initially, adding in a tracker to promote more physical activity does help people feel better. But that impact is quickly lost. We believe the why is critical here. It is important to note that the underlying causes of burnout are not addressed with an activity tracker. If an employee is still asked to work too many hours, does not feel accepted in their work environment, or any number of other issues, that employee will still get worn out and exhausted from their workplace once the novelty and excitement of a new fitness tracker goes away.
So what’s the takeaway from all of this research? As an individual, you do you! If you love your activity tracker, great job! It is probably helping you stay consistent in your goals. If you have fitness goals you want to achieve, maybe consider getting yourself a tracker. For some tips on finding the best tracker for you, check out this helpful guide! However, if you think it will help you feel less exhausted and stressed about work, think again.
For companies and leaders, don’t just provide trackers to employees to help them get healthier. It is a fun perk and might be nice to provide fitness trackers for those who want them. However, it’s not going to fix your problems! If your employees are experiencing a lot of burnout, take a good look at your culture. What can you fix to help the cause of the burnout? Luckily, we have some resources for you! Peruse our articles for some great ways to actually make an impact!