Personal Fitness Trackers Show “What Gets Measured, Gets Done”

A review of wristband fitness trackers in the Dec. 17 Wall Street Journal, “Review: Best Fitness Trackers to Get You Up Off the Couch,” reinforced for me my long-held belief that the best way to improve anything you do is to measure it.

The Journal reviewer, Joanna Stern, seems to agree: “[I]f you let them, fitness bands can improve your life.  They’ve gotten me to take the stairs and subway more, and made me aware that it takes longer to burn off my morning latte than I thought.” 

I can even attest to this – second hand – because when I bought my wife a Fitbit, she went “step crazy” and began walking A LOT more than she had previously, almost getting back to the level she felt she was at before we moved to the DC suburbs and walked everywhere rather than driving.  These devices can even help motivate people through a little friendly competition since you can share your activities online with friends.

Technology Can Assist in Personal Performance Management

Of course, wrist bands like the Fitbit are just the latest in a long line of technological innovations designed to help motivate us to exercise, track our accomplishments, and analyze the results.  It was not too long ago when my RunKeeper iPhone app was the latest and greatest fitness tracking aid.  But nowadays, who wants to lug their brick of a smartphone around with them when they can simply use a plastic wristband?

Personal Performance Management with Fitness Trackers

Regardless of whether you use a fitness tracker on your wrist or an app on your phone, the data these gadgets collect and analyze is actually pretty remarkable.  RunKeeper tracks my daily, weekly, monthly, and annual mileage, calorie burn, and elevation climb; helps me compare the current period with past periods; provides the information in graphical format; and even will share and compare my accomplishments with friends, if I choose to.  And this is just with the free version. 

If I haven’t run in a few days, it will even poke me with an alert during the day to say I usually run at this time, how about today?

Is It a Fad or Cultural Change?

For those of us who don’t mothball these gadgets at the same rate we ditch our New Year’s resolutions, we can really improve our fitness.  However, there are plenty of us who can’t stick to the exercise regimen even with this help.

Funny but it is just like organizations and businesses who are trying to improve their performance.  Implementing an initiative or purchasing some technological tools will certainly help and may get us to do it for a little while, but a real change in attitude (for an individual) or culture (for an organization) is required to keep it going.