A Commonsense Guide to Wearables

Medically reviewed in January 2020

Quick check: How long have you been sitting right now? When was the last time you stood up today? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been anywhere from one to four hours. 

That’s bad news. Recent studies have shown that inactivity (i.e. sitting all day) can lead to increased rates of diabetes, certain cancers and overall heart disease, including heart failure -- even if you exercise. Yes, sitting can literally kill you.

So, what can you do? One of my favorite ways is to simply keep track of how much you move. From basic pedometers to fancy wearable activity trackers, options abound today for tracking your steps. (Aim for about 10,000 steps a day.) Don’t want to buy a device? You can download apps on your smartphone that track your movement. Or, simply commit to walking more throughout the day and log those active minutes (or even hours!) using Sharecare’s free walking tracker.

What can you track? It depends on which gadget you buy. The most basic device will simply count your steps, while more advanced technology -- wearable activity trackers, or wearables, for example -- can track how many miles you ran/walked/hula-hooped, monitor your sleep and even calculate calories burned.  Some go beyond tracking and let you set an alert reminding you to move when you’ve been sitting too long. Most also integrate with an app, so you can see your progress and even enter other data (such as what you ate).

You don’t have to spend a bundle. Of course, you can -- and that’s certainly the trend. The global market for wearables is booming: 112 million wearables are projected to be sold by 2018, according to 2014 research from the International Data Corporation. But just getting up and moving is what matters, so whatever gets you to that goal is what you should use –- from a high-tech bracelet to a free online tracker.

You do have to USE it. Just like a gym membership, simply buying an activity tracker or downloading a fitness app does not help you reach your health goals. You have to incorporate this technology into your daily life. So find a device or use a tracker that works with your preferred activity -- whether that’s swimming, walking, biking or something else.

Finally, keep it fun. Many apps and wearables have social/competitive features -- so you can see how many steps your best friend walked and try to top it. Anything that makes being active fun, easier and more convenient increases the chances that you’ll actually DO it. Because getting in some good old fashioned movement is something that even the best medical inventions cannot replace. 

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