How beneficial is tracking our health?

We all want to live healthier lives and the rise in apps and wearable devices like smart watches and fitness trackers that help us to monitor various aspects of our wellbeing show that we are taking an interest in our health via data.

In fact, over 350,000 mobile phone applications claim to help with managing a range of personal health issues.i And it’s estimated that 320 million people have taken up wearing mobile devices to track aspects of their health and fitness.ii

So, given how popular these are becoming, how helpful is it to track and measure various aspects of our health, and what metrics are the most beneficial to track?

Getting moving

Most wearable devices have evolved from being simple step-trackers to provide more sophisticated data on a myriad of health parameters.

On that note, one of the key metrics that people have been using as a target for their fitness goals – the 10,000 steps a day – has been found to not be backed by science. It was in fact, a marketing ploy from a Japanese company selling a personal fitness pedometer, with 10,000 steps created as an arbitrary figure for the campaign.

However, even though the magic 10,000 steps may not be the magic bullet for health, tracking your exercise does tend to get us off the couch and has been proven to inspire us to move more.iii

Listening to your heart

Features such as heart-rate monitoring and pulse-oximeter tracking, have become increasingly popular in wearable devices. Tracking your heart rate can be useful to ensure you’re pushing yourself hard enough during bouts of high-intensity exercise and recovering adequately afterwards.

Keeping an eye on your heart rate can also tell you a bit about your cardiovascular health but any data that’s being generated needs to be interpreted cautiously as there are differences in accuracy between devices. It also needs to be noted that tracking your heart rate and heart health is no substitute for medical advice if you have concerns about your heart health.

Watching what we eat

Another aspect of our health that is being monitored using apps is our dietary intake. There has been a move away from simply counting calories to apps that can help us manage unique dietary needs such as cutting back on sugar, drinking more water, lowering fat, increasing protein, eating more vegetables and much more.

You don’t even have to follow a rigid diet via an app to see benefits. According to a recent study, those who simply tracked their diet for eight weeks, ate two or more servings of vegetables a day.iv

Tracking your sleep

Sleep plays an important part in our health and wellbeing and sleep cycle apps can help identify disordered sleep patterns. Many sleep trackers rely on an accelerometer, a device built into most smartphones that senses movement. This then measures how much you move around during the night and the data is then used in an algorithm to estimate sleep time and quality.

The theory is once you know who much (or little!) you are sleeping you can make lifestyle changes to improve the quality and duration of your sleep. The danger is in getting too attached to the metrics as obsessing over your sleep patterns can cause anxiety that impedes a healthy night’s sleep. As with all apps and devices, the data should be taken as an estimate as the accuracy may vary.

A helping hand

When it comes to the use of technology to help you manage your health it’s important to remember that as sophisticated as it is becoming, it is simply a device to assist you to take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. You need to decide what aspects of your health you’d like to be more across and take an active interest in them.

Putting it simply, “What gets measured, gets managed.” There is something powerful about gaining an understanding of the metrics, taking measures to bring about change and seeing a change in the figures – whether that is by noticing your heart rate change as you become fitter or seeing your daily steps increase.





This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.