Fitness Trackers – Are They a Source of Motivation?

By Jiri Kaloc

It seems like a no-brainer that fitness trackers are a great source of motivation. They show you a lot of interesting data and make every training session feel more important. The problem is that this is not motivating for everyone. Let’s take a look at who is likely to be motivated and who should avoid the overwhelm of data.

The novelty effect

We can all agree that a new fitness tracker is always motivating. When you get a new device, you wear it all the time, you try to beat all of your previous records, and make up extra training sessions just to log something. The problem is that novelty always wears off sooner or later. Researchers call this the novelty factor and it shows that by the end of year one, only about 10% of people are still using their new trackers.

Research shows us that wearable fitness trackers are influenced by a variety of factors when it comes to their accuracy. © Profimedia

Some people get motivated by data

The good news is that for some people, the data that fitness trackers provide can be a source of long-term motivation. There are several types of people and scenarios where this is especially true.

  • Numbers-oriented cyclists. If you love numbers and you have a very analytical approach to healthy lifestyle and training, seeing more numbers is going to fuel your motivation.
  • Cyclists with advanced goals. If completing races is not enough for you and you’re working towards winning in your age groups, then numbers can help you improve training and perform that little bit better on race day.

And there are also people who get motivated by some data but not too much.

  • Cyclists with simpler goals. If you want to look or feel better, get in shape or finish a race you always wanted to, some basic data will help that progress.
  • Cyclists with a positive mindset. Inevitably, your tracker will tell you your sleep sucks or your last ride was too slow. If that doesn’t crush you but instead you think to yourself, ‘interesting, let me try to change something to improve,’ you can benefit from data.

The social aspect of fitness tracking

Most fitness trackers come with the ability to share your stats with friends. Whether it’s native or some third-party platform such as Strava, this social aspect of fitness tracking can be a big motivator. Seeing what your friends are doing can bring out your competitiveness. And similarly, the fact that people see your training sessions brings an element of accountability. Both of these effects are very motivating.

Fitness trackers can demotivate

Unfortunately, not everyone thrives when using a fitness tracker. This happens most often when the tracker comes with preset goals, such as sleeping a certain number of hours, following a pre-set training plan or walking a certain number of steps a day. When someone continually falls short of the goals the tracker sets, they can feel demotivated. This can make them give up on some of these healthy habits as opposed to trying to improve.

But even when you’re not chasing pre-set goals or your friends’ results, the simple act of observing a lot of data can be the issue for some. Especially some of the following cases should think twice before using a fitness tracker.

  • Cyclists that are never happy with their results are unlikely to get motivate by seeing data showing them just how imperfect they are.
  • Cyclists that have an unhealthy obsession with fitness. More data can only fuel this obsession further. It has to be addressed before introducing a fitness tracker.
  • Amateur cyclists that beat themselves up for not having elite performances. You need to have a realistic sense of what to expect when using a fitness tracker to get motivated by it.

If you’re none of these and using fitness trackers is motivating you to live healthier then keep reading next time. We will talk about how to use these trackers most effectively.