Harvard Health Letter

Start moving with a fitness tracker

fitness tracker, exercise, physical activity
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These tools can help motivate you and tell you if you're exercising at your optimal heart rate.

You've probably seen people wearing digital fitness trackers, small gadgets that come in wearable styles such as wristbands and pendants or handheld versions you can slip into a pocket. Why are they popular? The devices record your workout data, and they track your progress on those measures. "We've seen them make a big difference in people's workouts," says Linda Arslanian, director of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Accuracy, accountability, and motivation

Unlike logs, journals, or standard pedometers, fitness trackers accurately record objective data about your workout, including the pace, distance, intensity, and duration of your exercise. They send the information to a software application on your smartphone or computer, where you can view it in graphs and even compare activity day by day on calendars. And there are benefits to knowing that something is following your every move, namely motivation and compliance. "When you can see what your activity levels are, there's accountability, and you'll want to stick with a workout," explains Arslanian. "It motivates you to keep building on what you've accomplished."

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