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Fitness Trackers…The Good & the Not So Good

Posted in: Active Living, Blogs

Am I the only who has noticed the increased rise in popularity of fitness trackers? Probably not. These wearable devices lets users track their steps, activity, calories burned and even sleep patterns every day. At first I thought the reason the majority of adults I spend time with owned one was because they were dedicated to fitness (much like me), however, I have suddenly come to realize this is not the case. With the sudden rise in popularity with adults alike, I have also seen a lot of children and youth having (or begging their parents to have) their own fitness tracker. A question I often get asked is, do children really need fitness trackers in the first place? And can they actually cause more harm than good?

Although I do think fitness trackers can be suitable for some children, age does matter. Children under the age of five years old are too young to be tracking their activity. The purpose of being active in the early years should be play based and fun and not necessarily focused on the amount of activity. I caution parents before they purchase a fitness tracker for their child over the age of five years. Fitness trackers can be a way for them to get engaged, view their progress online and share it with peers and family members. However, any use of these devices should be monitored by parents can help interpret results and offer positive feedback.

I’m all for finding creative ways to encourage children to be more active. By providing positive physical activity experiences and encouraging structured and unstructured play, we are on the right path to developing a healthier child. If using a fitness tracker gets your child excited about being physically active, I’d say that is a win-win. It is important however, that the focus be on being active and having fun, rather than being fixated on hitting 10,000 steps every day.

Like all technology use when it comes to children, it is important to monitor the amount they are spending on devices and ensure they are not engaging in sedentary behaviour more than two hours a day. I long for the days where playgrounds were full of children exploring and making up creative games with their friends. Let’s encourage children to be active and more importantly, let’s be good role models for them.

Sonya Brown is a Health Promotion Coordinator for Alberta Health Services, May 2017

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