Harvard Health Letter

Ask the doctor: Are self-tracking devices effective?

Q. It seems like more and more people are wearing various devices that measure how active they are.
Is this really valuable, or is it just a fad?

A. Being physically active surely is valuable. In fact, there is probably nothing more valuable that we
can do to protect our health. In recent years, small electronic devices to monitor our movement have appeared. Some measure how many steps we take a day (pedometers). Others measure how much we move (accelerometers). Some estimate how many calories we've burned, based on the amount we move.

When I first heard about these devices, I thought they were silly. After all, I know how active I should be and how active I am. But I've been impressed by how many of my patients, and my friends, are using them. One friend told me that having an objective measurement of how physically active he is "keeps me honest" and helps motivate him.

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