Can wearable fitness trackers improve your health?

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Do fitness trackers work?

More than one in five Americans owns a wearable fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, and at least one in 10 wears the tracker every day.

But do they work, and can they really help to improve your health?

The short answer is yes — these devices can help you to improve your health because they help you stay focused on your goals and track your progress.

It’s important to remember that fitness is not one-size-fits-all though. Just because your device comes preset with a 10,000 step goal doesn’t mean that goal is right for you. Talk to your doctor and get their help to set reasonable goals that will help you to get — or stay — healthy.

Setting a goal of 10,000 steps per day is a great idea to improve your health if you are not limited by arthritis or another medical condition. Those unable to do 10,000 steps might consider using an exercise bike to achieve the cardiovascular conditioning we need. Talk to your healthcare provider to make a plan that works for you.

Meeting an arbitrary step goal doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy, but those steps can be a piece of a the bigger picture when it comes to getting and staying healthy.

In addition to tracking steps, these wearable trackers monitor your heart rate. Tracking your heart rate is important to ensure you don’t push your heart rate above a healthy number of beats per minute. This number varies with age and other health factors. Your doctor can help you to determine your perfect active heart rate and ensure that you don’t push your limit past what is healthy.

Ultimately, these devices are helpful in tracking the goals you set with your doctor for your health.

For example, if a patient comes in and I can see they’re overweight or that their muscle tone is down, I will advise them on an exercise program. I will go over their personalized program with them, and they can add it into their current daily routine. Whether it’s a certain number of steps or a certain number of steps with a workout regimen a few times a week, it is based on the person and their goals. Following the program is where improvement happens.

If wearing a device helps you keep track of your health and fitness goals and stay on target, then that tracker can absolutely help you improve your health.

About Dr. Paul Rachal

Rachal, Paul B. Paul Rachal, MD, received his medical degree from Louisiana State Medical School in New Orleans. He completed a Family Practice residency at Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge and Ochsner Clinic of Baton Rouge. Dr. Rachal is a preceptor for Tulane University Medical students as well as Our Lady of the Lake College Physician Assistant students. He is a member of the Louisiana Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Dr. Rachal currently practices at Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group New Roads. To schedule an appointment, please call (225) 713-2400.

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