The Surprising Way Tracking Your Fitness Can Improve Your Health

Tracking your fitness is an easy task in the modern world. But did you know that the concept of tracking health-related metrics — like daily step count — can be traced back to one of the most prolific inventors of all time?

Before the dawn of modern wearable technologies, Leonardo da Vinci, dubbed the "original Renaissance man" by National Geographic, conceptualized the pedometer. Per ScienceDirect, da Vinci designed a gear-and-ratchet-driven device that could be worn on the hip and thigh. It would count the daily amount of steps for the user. Fitness tracking has come a long way since then.

Modern fitness trackers are applications and computerized devices that record data on physical activity and health-related metrics. You may use a fitness tracker to keep tabs on how your bike rides or runs are impacting your health. You can now track any number of metrics, including — but not limited to — daily step count, pulse, heart rate, heart rate variability, and calories burned (via PopSci). But is all of this fitness data actually able to help you improve your health? The answer might surprise you.

Wear your motivation on your wrist

According to the American Heart Association, the average adult needs to do two muscle strengthening exercises twice a week in addition to at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise every week. However, a 2018 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that less than one-quarter (22.9%) of Americans aged 18-64 met those requirements.

The pandemic certainly changed the way we exercise. According to a 2022 study published in the journal of Preventive Medicine Reports, Americans initially exercised less between April 2020 and January 2021, then exercised more between January and July 2021. Why? A 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that many people lacked the motivation to work out during the pandemic.

It turns out that the #1 average fitness trend for the last seven years could help inspire people to be more active (per American College of Sports Medicine). A 2022 study published in The Lancet found that people who wear fitness trackers took an extra 1800 steps per day in addition to walking for 40 more minutes per day. The results of the study show that fitness trackers increased daily activity and even encouraged moderate weight loss. In short, by tracking your fitness, you effectively do more of it.