Fitness Trackers Can Actually Decrease Your Enjoyment In Healthy Activities–Like Walking

January 20, 2016  |  



I’ve had a Fitbit for about a year now, and it definitely played a big part in helping me lose weight last year. With a goal of 10,000 steps a day, I was pushed to walk, dance, step–do everything to the max. But I will be honest in saying that now that most of my family and friends have the fitness tracker and invite me to take part in walking challenges every week since the new year began, I’m a little burned out with all of it. That’s probably because, according to a new study from Duke professor Jordan Etkin, trackers could be decreasing people’s enjoyment in the activities they encourage us to participate in more.

Etkin’s study, “The Hidden Cost of Personal Quantification,” which will appear in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, found that the more information we have about the amount of steps we take, the calories we burn, the minutes we were “active” and more can make engaging in walking, and other activities, feel like a chore. The less fun these things are, the more reason we find to stop doing them. That, of course, is the total opposite of what fitness trackers are supposed to be about.

Etkins said that anything we start quantifying, we are less excited about. The more you measure and track what you do, what you eat, how long you do things and how much you eat, it becomes a pain. The Duke professor told USA Today that she was encouraged to do the study after getting her father a Fitbit and watching him like it less and less.

“He seemed very focused on those quantitive outcomes, and as a result he became much more stressed about how much he walked,” Etkins said. “Even though tracking output can encourage us to do more, it also sucks the fun out of activities we previously enjoyed, which makes us enjoy them less and be less likely to keep doing them in the future.”

How has your fitness tracker impacted your workout habits in a positive or negative way? Do you enjoy keeping up with all that info or has it become a drag?


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